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Meet The Family

Chris Bates


Talent Director Chris Bates first experienced the opportunity to study and play in the USA when he won a scholarship to Oklahoma State University in 1997.

Studying at Nudgee College, Brisbane and being a keen student of tennis he was approached by Oklahoma State University’s Division 1 tennis program. Chris was fortunate enough to be able to study and compete, visit over 32 States of the US and successfully earn an International Business and Marketing Degree.

As a result of this experience Chris set about spreading the word to as many young Australians as he could. He has been doing this ever since, imparting his passion for this pathway and the ways in which it can provide a pathway for individuals to ensure their most successful life.

Chris’s passion is education. In his extensive roles as a teacher, mentor and coach, Chris understands the critical role that education plays in the development of a young person. This is why he is so passionate about the US College pathway. He knows first-hand the benefits of the holistic approach the US Collegiate system provides its students.

Alexia Bates


Talent Manager, Alexia Bates has experience in the industry exceeding 10 years and specialises in educating and informing student-athletes and their families about the benefits of this once in a lifetime opportunity to study and play in the USA.

Alexia's background is in management, customer service and program implementation.  Having managed large teams Alexia believes that communication is critical to the success of any team.

As a sport tragic herself, Alexia believes in the US College Pathway and is passionate about providing meaningful pathways to young Australian athletes. Her passion for student-athletes finding their right fit is evident in the time and care she takes when liaising with all of the families she works with.  She is well respected by the Colleges, Schools, Sporting Associations and families she works with. Her great joy is in seeing the students grow through the Study and Play scholarship program.  This motivates her to see even more students play their way to a college education!

Leah Gannon


Growing up in Brisbane Australia Leah has always had a passion for sport and an active lifestyle. After graduating from high school, Leah went on to study Bachelor of Creative Arts and Secondary Education at the Queensland University of Technology and began working for a leading Registered Training Organisation.

Working closely with families in helping them achieve the best possible outcomes in their chosen pathway has always been important to Leah. She provides genuine care to all prospective and existing clients of the Study & Play family.

As the wife of a professional athlete Leah understands the struggles a lot of our student athletes and families face and firmly believes that you should not have to choose between going professional and getting a degree.

Marie Hopes


Maria Hopes, a native of Colorado and proud Denver Broncos supporter, earned her undergraduate degree at Colorado State University where she was a member of, and captained, CSU’s dance team, The Golden Poms, for three years and then was named their head-coach for an additional two years. During this time Maria: organized auditions, liaised with both CSU marketing and athletic programs, helped her dancers deal with and get resources for: academic, health, and personal issues, supported students who were new to both the state and college, and took the team to compete on the national level where a top 15 ranking was achieved amongst Division 1 schools.

Maria went on to earn her Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado in Curriculum and Instruction: English Education. As a teaching professional with over 10 years of classroom experience (both in the USA and Australia), Maria has helped countless high-school students on their journey of selecting the right college for them, through helping tutor for SAT/ACT testing, writing letters of recommendation, and being a sounding board after college visits.

While Maria loves teaching English- it is her belief that it is the relationships that are created with students that has the greatest lasting impact. And it is this emphasis that is placed on getting to know the student-athlete, and their families, that will help ensure all parties involved feel supported and personally invested in.

Finally, as the wife of a professional athlete, daughter of a collegiate football player, sister to a collegiate decathlete, Maria and her family truly understand all of the facets that are associated with being a student-athlete…and how important getting an education is while pursing athletic endeavors.