Women in Sport: Shona Halson, Associate Professor in School of Behavioural & Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University

Next in our Women in Sport series is Dr. Shona Halson, Associate Professor in the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences at Australian Catholic University. With a career spanning exercise physiology, and over 100 peer reviewed publications in the areas of sleep, recovery, fatigue and travel, Shona is a highly respected figure in the field.

It seems fitting to start with Shona’s recent experience of working with the FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team. 

Like many, Shona comments on the level of professionalism, diligence and willingness to engage in the science of sport. “From the players to the staff and the coaching team, they are easily the most impressive team I have observed.” And Shona is no stranger to teams at the very top level, having been selected as the Director of the Australian Olympic Committee Recovery Centre for the Beijing, London and Rio Olympic Games.

When discussing who has had a major influence on her career, Shona highlights her PhD supervisor Asker Jeukendrup, and colleagues David Martin and Alan Hahn from the Australian Institute of Sport, where she was a Senior Recovery Physiologist for just under 16 years. 

Shona acknowledges the breadth and quality of her colleagues over the years – working hard, and knowing how to work in a team, has been instrumental for her to succeed. “I have been fortunate to work with great people in stimulating learning environments.”

Whilst many of our previous interviewees have indicated gender as a challenge in entering or moving up within the sports industry, the biggest challenge for Shona is finding time to do all the things she wants to do, and simply saying no. 

“Fitting everything in can be very tricky, when there are so many opportunities to work on different aspects of sports science”. 

Growing up, Shona always enjoyed playing and watching sport, and also loved science and being inquisitive, “so combining the two areas seemed like an exciting and interesting career”. Now immersed in a variety of disciplines in exercise science, Shona began her career studying for a PhD looking at overtraining in cyclists. From there, she spent close to 16 years at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), which, as a centralised location for athletes, coaches and scientists, gave a good opportunity to do applied research.

“We were seeing the athletes every day so you can develop relationships and trust.” Early on in her career, Shona helped the AIS research the benefits of water immersion, compression, sleep, and the link between exercise and nutrition.

Now enjoying a high level of success and calibre herself, Shona is empowered by the talent of the future. “I always enjoy seeing the PhD students I have supervised, getting jobs and doing great work in the sports world”. The future, Shona believes “will see a greater focus on psychology, the brain and behaviour change in the areas I work in.”

For someone who commands so much respect within the industry, Shona’s final thoughts are modest; when asked what the one thing she would like to be remembered for in her professional career, she says “that I had a good time and was a good person in the process”.

Read our previous Women in Sport profiles:

Hannah Jowitt, International Pathways Analyst, ECB

Kate Starre, High Performance Manager, Fremantle Dockers AFLW

Tahleya Eggers, Sports Scientist, Parramatta Eels