Sport & Community: we will bounce back – Opinion Piece
Via the Courier Click here to download the Newspaper Article
Opinion: Peter Eddy
Melanie Whelan’s feature article, “Heavy blow, fatigue: we need team spirit” (Courier, Saturday August 8th) was a timely reminder to all those managing sport in our region to remain positive and ready to make sure we can again offer sport and recreation for all those in our community when we are able to do so. We all have a real responsibility to make this happen.
The article correctly identifies that there is a real sense of deflation amongst sports administrators, both volunteer and professional, in the second round of restrictions which have caused some sports to be cancelled without starting and other sports who managed to re-launch, to once again abandon their programs.
There have been countless articles written in recent times highlighting the value of community sport and recreation on our physical and mental wellbeing.
A recent 2020 survey by the Australian Sports Foundation on the impact of COVID- 19 on community sport recognised that the shutdown of community sport has had a profoundly negative social impact. The report stated that, “Community sport is one of the most efficient ways of delivering wellbeing outcomes for the population. It provides physical activity, social connection, meaning and purpose – key protective factors for physical and mental health.”
A 2018 KPMG Report for the Australian Sports Commission recognised that, “In addition to generating and supporting economic and health benefits, community sport infrastructure can enable social benefits both for participants and users of the facilities and to the wider community”.
Our firsthand closedown experience since April showed that the many online programs and offerings attracted strong support in the first instance but then interest dropped off after the first month.
The excitement across our basketball and netball communities in July as we geared up to re-open under Basketball Victoria Orange 50 Competition rules was palpable and the obvious excitement on the faces of junior players and their parents when they came back to play was all the motivation that staff and club officials needed to know it was all worthwhile.
Peak sports bodies along with club level administrators should be encouraged by the high return rates for indoor sports in recent weeks. The experiences gained for managing the new “COVID normal” environment from these few weeks of operation should incentivise us to be ready to re-launch and engage with our members as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
Much of the planning work for the new “COVID normal” era has been done and the experiences of those first few weeks of competitions will allow all sports to fine tune their procedures and educational messages. This will further enhance the experience when our participants are able to return.
The Courier article added that we should be proud of our sporting culture and that we should fight to preserve it.
Despite the frustrations and anxiousness that we feel in the current crisis, all sports administrators are acutely aware that the permanent loss of community sport would have a terrible and lasting impact on our physical health, mental wellbeing and social cohesion.
Our city is resilient and caring and I am sure all those involved with sport will once again step forward to make sure that we rebuild and re-establish our programs as soon as we can.