An effective branch network is critical for the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), the government body that works, manages, develops and invests in sport. It works with athletes at all levels and also administers a national physical fitness programme to children after school. But what key IT systems make this all happen?

Without good WAN links and application availability, the 14 branch offices and 800 staff of the ASC across Australia would have difficulty fulfilling its public sport agenda.

The ASC's WAN infrastructure spans all of Australia and includes Citrix WANScaler for branch access and Citrix Presentation Server to deliver Windows applications to travelling coaches and staff.

"The ASC has an over arching responsibility for sport across the nation," says Paul Stokoe, its CIO. "That's from the thousands of clubs to the elite athlete; and that's why we have the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) - to develop those elite athletes for competition such as the Olympics."

Opened in 1981, the AIS is now an internationally acclaimed national centre of sports excellence for the training and development of elite Australian athletes and teams. Today, it offers scholarships to 700 athletes each year in 35 separate programmes covering 26 sports, employing 75 coaches to help these athletes achieve their goals. The AIS also has scholarship programmes in athletics, skiing and swimming for athletes with disabilities.

Capturing performance data

Although there are about 300 elite athletes in Canberra, the majority are spread across the country. Performance data need to be captured and transmitted to the AIS main campus for analysis by sports scientists.

"The mini-max unit incorporates a GPS chip and tri-axle accelerometers that indicate rowing velocity, force application, stroke rate, a whole host of rowing-based parameters," says Andrew Vogler, Graduate Research Scholar, AIS. "It's just a matter of downloading them to the computer, and we will have ready reports for the coaches a short time later."

Another key activity for ASC is the active after-school communities program, set up to engage traditionally non-active children in structured physical activities and to build pathways with local community organisations, including sporting clubs. The program is targeted specifically at primary school age children and also helps address the national health issue of a sedentary lifestyle, including related issues such as obesity and diabetes.

"Children deserve to have fun, safe experiences and not all children get that," says Wenda Donaldson, general manager, Active After School Communities. "If we can create an environment where kids can get involved in sports outside of school activities, then that's a great success for Australia."

More time with children

Communication in a timely manner is critical for ASC's 200 staff nation-wide, who need to store information into a comprehensive database. Better remote access facilities and WAN speeds means staff are spending more time with the children.

In some places, link speeds are only one megabit. According to Simon Metcalfe, senior systems administrator, ASC, the WAN infrastructure is "not only increases the link speed but optimises those applications that come across that link, effectively making that a five megabit connection."