Interest, Sport

Within 12 months of its new Board and CEO appointment, Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) has already developed and approved its new SUSF Strategic Plan 2021 – 2026. In summary, over the next five years and beyond, SUSF’s mission is to improve the lives of the University Community by providing a world-leading University sports organisation for participation to high-performance members.

To find out more about SUSF’s new Strategic Plan, Graham Crokes caught up with CEO, Ed Smith, after an early morning ‘old-man basketball scrimmage’ in which he was missing more shots than he hit. 

Mr Smith was quick to point out that, in addition to establishing our mission, SUSF’s Strategic Plan also sets out our organisation’s goals and initiatives across all levels of sports, from sporting infrastructure to the ongoing promotion of what our students, clubs and members are achieving. 

The Strategy puts goals in place across all areas of sport from the more general participation, diversity, and high-performance targets. It also drives the development of some complementary single sports-specific strategies such as the Swimming, Basketball and Tennis programs that have each been developed in parallel with the master strategy. Importantly the Strategy establishes specific initiatives and timelines to help SUSF achieve each of those goals. 

From a promotion’s perspective, Mr Smith said that part of SUSF’s new marketing strategy is to correct a possible misconception of SUSF as an old-fashioned sports club to that of a world-leading sports organisation catering to all the University’s community needs. 

“We also want to develop a greater sense of understanding and appreciation within the University for the role played by SUSF and its clubs,” he said. “There’s a great focus on us to communicate at all levels.” 

“To that end, we want a stronger sense of University engagement and belonging within the student cohort and a wider variety of social sports offerings and spectator/ participant-friendly events. 

We also want an environment that eases the transition from secondary school to campus life to ensure that everyone feels welcome and can participate.” 

Mr Smith said that, to achieve the goals of the Student Participation Strategy, SUSF would revamp and heavily promote interfaculty, intercollegiate, and intramural sporting competitions and institute a reward system to encourage clubs to assist in the roll-out of the mid-week student participation events. 

Another important component of the plan is its Infrastructure and Sustainability Strategy – a particular passion of our CEO. Armed with a background in project development and property law, and having been Operations Manager since 2015, Mr Smith was well-placed for his new role as SUSF’s first CEO when it was incorporated in January 2020, and the long-serving Executive Director, Rob Smithies, stepped down. During the previous nine years, the pair had worked together on the biggest sporting infrastructure program in Sydney University’s history. 

“I started with SUSF as a volunteer and then joined three days a week as a consultant before becoming a full-time employee in Operations and Infrastructure,” he said. “It was a wonderful opportunity for someone who loves sports and loves getting things built. In the next six years, we invested $40 million in sports infrastructure projects.” 

Those projects included the $15 million Sports & Aquatic Centre extension in 2013, the $13.6 million development of the TAG Family Foundation Grandstand and Sydney Uni Football Ground in 2016, the $7.1 million Thyne Reid Boathouse and the $4.2 million Bruce Pryor Hockey Field in 2017.

During that time, the University of Sydney Sports Foundation raised $13 million for sports infrastructure, while the sports scholarship scheme raised another $1.45 million. Naturally, the new Strategic Plan and the future infrastructure goals it establishes will also rely heavily on the Plan’s philanthropy strategy. 

As Mr Smith says, it was part of a golden era for sport on the campus, and that golden era could continue. The new Plan proposes the development of a sports complex at the Cumberland campus, the installation of a synthetic grass field at the Square, working with our University colleges for the possible development of the fields at St Paul’s, St Andrew’s, and St John’s (including a possible athletics track), and the redevelopment of No.1 Oval to allow for more premier events. 

“I believe that we run the best multi-sports club program in the land, and that our members and clubs need first-class facilities,” Mr Smith said.

“Ultimately, we are here to improve the lives of the University community, and we do this through the medium of sport. From teaching them to swim to offering great gyms, group fitness classes and social sports programs, to the running of an Elite Athlete Program, which is the envy of all Australian universities, we want to help our students and members become the best people they can be, whether or not they compete for country or for fun.” 

Having fought its way through the ‘rough referee calls’ of the COVID pandemic, SUSF’s future looks brighter and its offence well-charted with the new Board as our coach and Mr Smith running point