This weeks federal and closer to home state announcements have seen some positive news for the sector and more importantly – our grass roots community. It will see local clubs breathe the freshly cut grass in what will start some positive momentum for re-connecting the community. Have our clubs made the most of a bad situation? It’s a time to reflect – initially we re-set, time at home with family and an opportunity to slow down. From there we re-wire, think of how we can do things differently, improve the short comings and plan for the future (strategic planning, committee re-structure, innovate). Finally, clubs who have made good ground can successful re-boot, not with the past in mind but a clear comfort that this is the new norm and things will never return to how they were.
The current situation regarding Covid-19 has had an extraordinary impact on our current industry environment. It has led to many temporary reductions and closures of clubs, facilities and events within the sporting industry. To assist with the reopening of these areas, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) released their ‘Framework for Rebooting Sport’ on the 1st of May for sporting organisations. The Framework comprises of three key progressions to guide a return to sport for the industry: Level A, B and C. This will help to ensure that sport is returned to in a ‘cautious and methodical manner’ by ‘mitigating risk within the wider community’.
We have moved into Level B which allows for expansion of groups to 10 people but while remaining in-line with social distancing rules. These activities can be carried out at facilities but only once they have been evaluated and inspected by risk assessors. Local Government oversee majority of local community venues, will the weight of the community sit with them to cut the padlocks across the thousands of facilities? While equipment should be allowed to be shared in moderation, strict cleaning protocols should be practiced as well as providing sanitiser before, during and after sport/activity.
How will clubs achieve this? Will it help or hinder to have a lifeline based on extremely strict guidelines? I am particularly interested in how clubs and more importantly coaches will use strategies to best deliver a high level program for their players. Trust me, I don’t believe local sport or clubs should be focusing on winning and their finals campaign in 2020, lets as a community and as sport associations focus fully on fun, connection and development for our future generations. Right here, right now we need to put our energy in re-booting engagement and connection with our community clubs. The clubs that do this poorly will really suffer, when I say suffer – players, members, volunteers will stop, leave or even join clubs who have managed this current environment in a positive and innovative way. Where does the buck stop to ensure it’s a level playing field for all…?
Finally, Level C is the resumption of sport as ‘normal’, playing competitive games with full contact and hosting training in groups of any size. In addition, it is suggested that the hygiene measures practiced in Level B carry over and into the foreseeable future to reduce the risk of an outbreak through a sport organisation. These levels seem a practical way to educate the public on the measures taken – are they achievable and how do we ensure local environments adequately keep these standards? We already know that many clubs are volunteer poor, by now adding further barriers (for the benefit of all people) may see ‘some’ just throw in the towel – too hard basket!
Having said all of that, it must be acknowledged that some people will be more susceptible to transmission than others, such as para-athletes and other participants with medical conditions. These people should be in regular contact with their doctor prior to returning and explore potential alternatives such as delaying their return or looking at participating at times when there are less or no other people that might endanger their health. Does this then create a greater divide within our community, will it see segregation take effect over inclusion?
Now is not a time for clubs, associations and sport in general to work like passing ships. Lets come together, lets listen to each other, lets try something different (history is simply that) and lets ensure we protect what is really important. That is, the joy we have got from sport since the very first day we joined an introductory to sport program such as nippers, hot shots, auckick or aussie hoops.
Michael King – Manager, Business Development