Kicking goals in life: new research project to explore power of football in the community

Published 4 November 2020
A group of young soccer players standing alongside two adults Rise players with Dr Kyle Bennett (3rd from left) of Southern Cross University and Matt Snell (holding ball) founder of Rise Coffs Harbour.

Not every aspiring footballer will be the next Sam Kerr or Tim Cahill, yet a community outreach football academy is producing youngsters who aim to be ‘best on ground’ in life.

Two men passing a soccer ball to each other outside a Southern Cross University building
Matt Snell (left) of Rise Coffs Harbour with Southern Cross University's Dr Kyle Bennett outside the Health Sciences Building at the Coffs Harbour campus.

A new Southern Cross University research project is investigating how Rise Coffs Harbour’s player development model achieves positive mental health outcomes and life skills for 10- to 18-year-olds on the NSW Mid North Coast.

In just a few short years, Rise Coffs Harbour has taken a crucial step in pointing in the right direction young players from disadvantaged socio-economic, cultural and ethnic groups, who usually do not receive opportunities to contest selection in academy developmental programs.

All players receive a scholarship to cover the cost of taking part, thereby breaking down any barriers to participation, in exchange for their involvement in volunteering and community engagement activities.

“The relationship between Southern Cross University and Rise Coffs Harbour arose in an attempt to challenge the current over-professionalisation of youth sport, where players are often required to pay a premium price to access high-quality coaching and academy developmental programs,” said project lead Dr Kyle Bennett, a lecturer in sport and exercise science based at the University’s Coffs Harbour campus.

“Many football academies (either advertently or inadvertently) favour short-term success over long-term, holistic development, creating an environment where players have to survive rather than prosper.”

The research project will enable more than 60 players and coaching staff from Rise Coffs Harbour to gain access to the Coffs campus facilities along with the expertise of the University’s accredited sports scientists, psychologists, and academic staff.

“We view the collaboration with Southern Cross University as a significant step towards highlighting the paramount importance of producing strong, resilient, and well-rounded young adults instead of just good footballers,” said Matt Snell, president and founder of Rise Coffs Harbour.

“We provide players with enriching and challenging ways to help their local community, develop their life skills, and enhance their future employment potential. For example, our players volunteer as part of our outreach program to help organisations like Wesley Mission, Meals on Wheels, and Surf Lifesaving Australia.”

The partnership between Southern Cross and Rise Coffs Harbour will also provide the University’s undergraduate students in the Sport and Exercise Science degree and the Exercise Science and Psychological Science double degree with valuable ‘hands-on’ experience as part of their professional preparation. The students will work directly with the players to assess and monitor their development, along with designing and implementing training programs.

Want to be make a difference and pursue a career that matters? Explore the range of Sport and Exercise Science degrees available at Southern Cross University.

Media contact: Sharlene King, media officer at Southern Cross University +61 429 661 349 or