For our latest Women in Sport interview, we speak to Alivia del Basso at the AFLW’s West Coast Eagles. Alivia discusses her glittering career as an athlete, the topical subject of athlete buy-in, and the speed at which sports science has developed.
Like many practitioners working in performance, Alivia was an athlete herself. In fact, she was one of Australia’s brightest female ice hockey stars and the first Australian woman to play in a NCAA Division 1 tournament. She attended the Pursuit of Excellence Academy in Canada, and was the highest goal scorer on the Australian team at the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championships.
At first, the male-dominated industry proved to be intimidating: “Initially I didn’t want to pursue this career as I believed it would be unrealistic as a young female”. However, Alivia decided to put all her energy into working in the strength and conditioning space, and has not looked back.
Alivia believes if you are a female practitioner working mainly with female athletes, this proves to be a major advantage. Alivia still acknowledges the work to be done to level the industry. “There are still gender barriers within the industry, but I have been really lucky to have great male mentors who believe in my ability to work with any athlete”.
Because of the seasonal nature of soccer in Australia, Alivia highlights that the biggest challenge in the industry is finding year-long round work. “It’s hard sometimes to watch your friends in different industries leave university and get full-time work straight away”.
From challenges to victories, it is hard for Alivia to pinpoint just one big success story in her professional career. ‘“I get the biggest kick out of finding out I made an impression on an athlete”. In terms of the colleague or athlete that has had the biggest impact on Alivia, she names Glenn Stewart, now High Performance Manager at the West Coast Eagles (AFL), as well as renowned strength coach Michael Boyle, who Alivia completed her internship under.
The subject of athlete buy-in within sports science, particularly around the use of wearable technology, has been prominent in the media recently. To achieve that buy-in, knowing the sport inside out and having the ability to communicate on a deep level with the athletes and coaches are key requirements. For Alivia, it is one of her key focuses. When asked what she would like to be remembered for in her career, she states “the ability to get athlete buy-in.”
Alivia highlights the speed in which the industry has evolved over the last 10 years. “The evolution of science and technology has been crazy. I think you would be silly not to use it if you have the opportunity.”
Supporting and qualifying opinions with data is hugely important for Alivia, and is essential to her role, as it is for any sports scientist. “It became increasingly evident that was key whilst working within the W-League last season with Perth Glory.”
Alivia is excited to see how the industry will progress over the next few years, but despite the unknowns, one thing is for sure–she will be right there in the thick of the evolution, and waving the flag for women’s sport.
Read our previous Women in Sport profiles: