Friday, July 1, 2022

Is rural sport on death’s door?

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Kendall JenningsThe Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

Unfortunately, my mind always takes a wander; I tend to overthink things and get stuck in my head. Hello, mental illness. One thing that has been on my mind recently is the decline in participation in community sport.

Photo: The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

Sport is great for the mind; you meet new people, catch up with friends and build communication skills. Participating builds a habit, a work ethic, responsibility, hand eye coordination, and resilience.

Over the past 12 months, I have realised that local football is not like it was 20 years ago. For one, umpires don’t wear white. And, the local football umpiring situation has distressed me. I have asked around to understand the reason behind low umpire numbers. The most logical response I’ve received is from a seasoned umpire who believes kids don’t boundary umpire because they are bullied at school for being an umpire. If this is the case, we are in a world of hurt as we can’t have a sport without umpires. There is nothing wrong with being an umpire, you are paid to keep fit, and there are pathways for umpiring at a high level, just like a player wanting to play at a national level.

Where is our sport heading when sides have to forfeit due to low numbers? Playing sport was a rite of passage. I am saddened when I hear a grade of sport can’t be played as the other side doesn’t have a team. This is dangerous for the future of our sports when junior grades are not filled. Once a club loses the junior growth, it is a recipe leading to a club folding. These days, clubs come across as micro-businesses; a club has to pay for a franchise, insurance, maintenance costs, rosters, and scoring matches. Volunteers usually hold these positions.

Volunteering is also in decline. Volunteering is working without pressure, building confidence, punctuality and building self worth. Self respect is the most important trait anyone can have, and if that is gone, the most dangerous person in the world is someone who has nothing to lose.

Let’s work together to keep our local sport. If you know the game and can’t play, learn to be an umpire. Do something for your local club. It is always the same people doing the same thing week in and week out. Step up and prevent that type of person from burning out, as when they leave, they take the knowledge with them before passing that knowledge on.

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 9 June 2022

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 9 June 2022.

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