Trailblazing CEO Calls Time on Long Tenure

Jun 6, 2024 | Athlete Story, News

It is the end of an era for the South West Academy of Sport, with its inaugural chief executive leaving after nearly 17 years in the position.

Bernice Butlion departs the organisation this month, concluding a lengthy tenure leading SWAS from its foundation
to become the region’s leading organisation for aspiring professional athletes.

She admitted it felt surreal to be leaving the academy, noting it was the athletes who had kept her in the position
for so long.

“To me, they’re not just athletes, they almost become like your children and when they excel, you excel,” Butlion said.

“I’ve seen kids I know probably won’t go on to be Olympians or top sportspeople, but they come back as regional leaders or they serve in the community.”

“You still see them out there and they talk to you. There’s fond memories you exchange and you think ‘wow, it’s been so rewarding and so worth it’.”

Butlion has encountered her fair share of challenges and changes but she highlighted how the organisation had been able to grow from its humble beginnings.

“I think we have grown in knowledge exponentially in terms of what we want to achieve as a regional academy
and how we support athletes,” Butlion said.

The SWAS stalwart is leaving the organisation to pursue work in the education sector after completing a Master of Teaching.

It is Butlion’s fourth degree and by her own admission, it is the hardest she has done.

“I just thought to myself ‘I didn’t go and study to not actually use this degree’,” she said.

“Now it’s time for me to take that step away from sport because I felt like my cup is full. I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve in high-performance sport. “Now I need to fill that education cup and I just want to see where that can go.”

Among the hundreds of people Butlion has dealt with during her time with SWAS, there are a few that stood out to her for their support — inaugural academy chair and Bunbury MLA Don Punch, SWAS patrons Rolf Stene and Lyn Foreman, The Apprentice and Traineeship Company chief executive Stan Liaros and Forrest MHR Nola Marino.

She also thanked her family for their support over her long tenure.

South West Sports Development Federation chair Rachel Norman has been appointed by SWAS to replace Butlion and will start with the academy in June.

Written by: Sean van Der Wielen

Picture: Teneille Watson