When The Matildas began their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign by hammering 18 goals past Indonesia on the first day, one Western Sydney University PhD student had a keener – and closer – interest than most.
Tim Massard, a Bachelor of Health Science (Sport and Exercise Science) graduate and current PhD student, is the Strength and Conditioning Assistant for the Matildas. Having played football from the age of five, Tim’s love for sport, combined with his interest in science, led him to pursue a Bachelor of Health Science, with a major in Sport and Exercise Science at Western. “It seemed like the natural merge of those two interests,” said Tim who truly relishes his role with the Matildas, further adding, “and it just seemed like a good career to try and work in.”
But Tim’s academic success wasn’t instantaneous. “In high school you have someone constantly demanding work from you,” said Tim, “but then as soon as you’re at university it’s a bit more self-driven and it takes some time to get used to that, you really have to be on top of your own work you don’t really have anyone to chase you up. That was probably the trickiest transition for me.”
The Bachelor of Health Sciences degree starts with core subjects, before students choose a Major and branch off to more specialised learning. On being asked if the core subjects have been relevant to his career, he said, “Looking back on my degree, the way that this profession works, it’s so multidisciplinary and being able to have a better understanding of the fundamentals of other health professions, at least having a grounding in it, is super important.”
Alongside working with the Matildas, Tim is also employed as a strength and conditioning coach at the Westfield Sports High School, a public school at Fairfield in NSW that is a centre for excellence in sport. “My PhD was a placed scholarship at Westfield Sports High,” Tim said. “I was placed there for two years as part of my PhD, and in 2021 I was employed by the School.” Tim has been impressed by the School’s professionalism. “The level of quality at Westfield Sports High is really, really high,” he told us. “The facilities – especially the gym facilities, would be the envy of professional sporting teams.”
It was through Westfield Sports High that Tim’s opportunity with The Matildas presented itself. Westfield’s Head of Physical Performance, Tony Wignell, is also the Head of Strength and Conditioning for The Matildas. “I developed a good working relationship with Tony,” said Tim, “and he would ask for my opinion, we would work away at stuff or he would have certain data and he would talk to me about how best to visualise it or present that. We did that informally for a couple of years, and then The Matildas said they wanted him to hire an assistant and he told them, ‘I have pretty much already got one’!”
Although Tim seems to be a natural for both his current roles, his path wasn’t immediately laid out after he finished his Bachelor’s degree. “I connected with Associate Professor Ric Lovell at Western, and I ended up doing postgraduate degrees with him as my main supervisor,” said Tim. “I was unsure which pathway would be the one that I wanted to pursue, but Ric’s advice was that if I did a masters by research I would get academic experience, but if I was clever about what research question I focused on and how I set up my research it would give me practical experience as well.”
It was a strategy that paid off for Tim. “I worked with state league football teams as their sports scientist, and then when I finished that I was still on the fence about which way I wanted to go, henceforth, I extended the experience and did a PhD program with Western and Westfield Sports High School, so I’m continuing to get experience in both the professional and academic realms.”
Tim was part of the Matildas’ support team for the Tokyo Olympics, an experience that was unforgettable. “It was disappointing to know we could have won a medal; we were so close but at the same time it was one of the first times we’ve really shown in a global tournament that we’re contenders,” said Tim. “In the past Australian footballers have been stereotyped as being really hard working but not being tactically very good. It’s much harder to teach work ethic, and I think now we’re starting to lift the technical and tactical side, and matching it to the level of physical prowess that we have.” Tim believes this bodes well for the Matildas’ chances in the coming years. “The fact that we’re constantly improving technically and tactically and we’ve already had a history of high physical capacity, it’s all starting to combine into hopefully peaking in the 2023 World Cup.”
The Matilda’s began their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign on Friday, 21nd January at 9.00 p.m. AEDT. Click here to have a look at their remaining fixtures. All games will be broadcast in Australia live and free via Network Ten and 10 Play.
Editor’s note: The Matildas’ journey in the AFC concluded with a quarter-final finish after a 0-1 loss to Korea Republic on 30 January, 2021.