27th May, 2021 — Good Sports

Beating a path to the Good Sports door

It’s been 20 years since Wangaratta Rovers Football and Netball Club in Victoria strapped on its boots and signed up to be the first Good Sports club in Australia.

Since those first steps we’ve come a long way. Now, under the leadership of Program Manager Mark Harris, Good Sports staff are helping 10,000 clubs, from Perth to Torres Strait Island, to be the best they can be.

Mark has been working on the program for five years. He and his team of 60 staff are right in the middle of a Good Sports growth spurt that shows no signs of stopping.

When clubs come knocking, it is usually because they want to improve their culture. They might be trying to better connect with their local community, attract more families or become more inclusive and welcoming. Growing membership and attracting sponsors are high on clubs’ list of priorities.

And problems restarting after COVID-19 shutdowns are also sending people knocking on Good Sports’ door. They know the program can help with things like funding, volunteer retention and member retention.

“The clubs know they want to improve a whole range of things,” Mark says.

“They look to us to help guide them through the change process, to be a better club and be as good as they can be.

“At the forefront of their thinking is to provide a really great experience for their players, and members and supporters. So people enjoy going there, and it's a place to connect with their community. Rather than people just rocking up and playing sport and leaving”.

Mark Harris

Enduring contest with a tough opponent

Good Sports knows all about positive change. When the program began, alcohol was flowing freely in sporting clubs around Australia.

“We noticed alcohol was easy to get in sporting clubs, it was cheaper, and there were generally fewer checks and balances on its sale,” Mark says.

“If you have a culture of drinking irresponsibly, having celebrations and just hopping in the car, it can be quite a destructive environment.

“That’s how Good Sports came about. If we can set up some great environments in sporting clubs we can make a massive difference in Australia to preventing and reducing alcohol harm.

“It’s about focusing on the true benefits of sport. It’s about setting up some protective factors to make local sports clubs a great place to be.”

A part of something big

Mark says all the Good Sports staff are enormously proud of the 10,000-strong club milestone, which means they are reaching over 2.85 million people in every corner of Australia.

“To have an opportunity to have an influence with so many different clubs, communities and leaders who are making a difference. We’re super proud of that milestone.”

He says working with Good Sports gives staff an opportunity to have a real impact through sporting clubs and communities all across Australia. Especially as the program is specifically designed for busy clubs and volunteers.

“Our staff really believe in the program. Because people tell us how much they love being part of a sports club, so there’s a sense of achievement there,” Mark says.

“Our staff are leaders as well, so they can help clubs that get stuck. And they can help with expert advice and support when the club needs it.”

Going global into the future

Good Sports might have started small - with just that one club in Victoria. But since 2001 it has expanded to every corner of the continent.

It’s not just the usual suspects. There are nearly 100 different sports involved – everything from football and netball to underwater hockey and quidditch.

The launch of the Good Sports’ online program is making it easier than ever before for clubs of all shapes and sizes to sign up and stay on track with their policies.

As well as reaching even more clubs in Australia, Good Sports is looking overseas, with interest from Ireland and New Zealand.

Within five to 10 years, Marks believes it is possible to increase Australian membership from 10,000 clubs to as many as 15,000.

In the short term, there are opportunities to expand the Good Sports messages throughout the community, perhaps including mentoring through schools, councils, youth groups and church groups.

Mark says this will give Good Sports messaging about staying safe and healthy a broader reach for people across Australia.

“If you’ve got a local club that’s set up a great practice, and has great standards, they can role model throughout the whole community and let people know what they are doing.”

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