Next up in our Women in Sport content series is Tahleya Eggers, Sports Scientist for the Parramatta Eels and one of the best young talents within the National Rugby League (NRL). Tahleya discusses everything from the lack of female role models in sports science to the dramatic evolution of performance technology in rugby league.
Sport, as with a lot of Australians, was a big part of Tahleya’s culture and played a significant role in shaping who she was growing up. Her passion for it stemmed beyond spectating, and even competing, with “the complexity and challenge of what it takes for an athlete to be at their physical best” being a key interest. As a result, Tahleya’s career path seemed set, helping athletes to perform at their peak, and achieve incredible physical feats.
Professionally, the athletic performance department at the Parramatta Eels has left the biggest impression on Tahleya. She appreciates the support that the Eels department has given her, allowing her to understand what is involved in being part of a ‘high performance’ department: ‘It’s led to immense professional and personal growth, especially given this role is my first in an official capacity.’
In an industry like sports science that is fast paced and rapidly progressing, Tahleya states it is critical to be adaptable as well as constantly bringing something new to the table. This is particularly relevant when it comes to innovation within the National Rugby League (NRL).
As with many sports, it has evolved dramatically in recent decades when it comes to the application of performance technology. Tahleya highlights how it is now commonplace to be collecting data for screening and monitoring of athletes on a daily basis, which is embedded across a number of performance roles, to inform key decisions around athlete readiness and fatigue.
“The technology allows us to assess athlete adaptation as well as reflect on the effectiveness of our program,” Tahleya said.
When discussing the future of the NRL’s data-driven industry, Tahleya is conscious of the impact it will have on practitioners.
“The rate of technological growth in the industry is rapid. In turn, the level of data analytics will increase, requiring practitioners to develop a more advanced skill set. As the data and analysis demands of the job advance, the need for interpretation into direct practice is maintained.
“It’s important for the validity and usability of them be properly assessed by high-performance teams before adding more data collection to their practice with potentially no value.”
Despite Tahleya’s clear focus on sports science, the road to her role at the Parramatta Eels wasn’t smooth sailing. Tahleya highlights the lack of exposure to the opportunities existing in the high performance sport industry, as a main barrier early on in her career.
“I didn’t really know the depth there was to elite performance sport. The lack of awareness around the potential in the industry made it difficult to commit to an academic and professional pathway.”
A consistent theme in the industry at the moment in regards to women’s sport is ‘if you can’t see, you can’t be’, which Tahleya believes extends to performance support too. A lack of female mentors or peers within the industry challenged her initially – with no exposure to females holding senior roles within the field, she questioned the possibility in her own future success in pursuing the pathway.
“Day to day, there are nuanced challenges that females face in a male-dominated environment. It’s difficult to find someone to empathise with when faced with these challenges or someone to gain advice from, based on previous experience.”
However, this hasn’t held Tahleya back from achieving her career aspirations. She landed her current role as a sports scientist at the Parramatta Eels in 2018, deciding to apply for it despite not being the favourite candidate on paper.
“Being told by the panel that I had aced the interview was a great feeling and helped me prove to myself, and remind a few other people, that I had what it takes to pursue this career.”
This focussed mindset, along with her talent within the NRL’s sports performance industry, means that she will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.
Read our previous Women in Sport profiles: