The secretary’s strategy: Driving sports club alcohol culture change at the grass-roots level
Laree Bastin is the proud secretary of the Ascot Cricket Club in Western Australia. Lately, Laree’s also a woman on a mission – dedicated to changing her club for the better. She’s leading the charge to implement practical smoking, alcohol management and safe transport strategies at her club.
Managing the Ascot cricket club and its members is truly a family affair. Laree’s husband Kelvyn is the club president, and together with their son (who is also on the committee), are driven by a love of cricket and the members to work hard for their club.
“Everyone’s involved”, Laree says. And for a membership who loves to celebrate wins the ‘old-fashioned way’, Laree says this is “something the club’s never done before” and has been quite the journey.
Time to declare the need for alcohol management change at Ascot Cricket Club
“I think our policies date back to 1999”, laughs Laree when asked about what instigated the change. Steps towards real change started with Laree, who is in her second year as a committee member. Laree evaluated the alcohol management policies in place and determined they really needed review. “Things sort of sit there and don’t get looked at” Laree concedes. Laree’s efforts to formally change the club’s policies came about when she was contacted by the WACA earlier in the year about the Good Sports accreditation. “That’s what prompted it all”, says Laree. “If I hadn’t been contacted by Good Sports, I don’t think I’d have looked as deeply into things as what I have”.
Laree proudly explains that the policies ACC now have in place are “a lot more specific”. “We need to recognise that times have changed”, Laree says. She explains that there was a lack of understanding at the club regarding alcohol management policies in the past, with some members viewing such adopting measures as part of a “nanny state” mentality. Members worried it was a push to get rid of alcohol at the club altogether. Laree discussed the new policies being introduced with the club openly and with a collaborative spirit. Members also have 14 days to have their say, and so far Laree has heard no concerns from club members regarding the new policies.
Ridesharing strategies and iTunes cards – small initiatives, big results
One of the strategies Laree has implemented is a club account with ridesharing app Ola (similar to Uber). This initiative came about after driving club members home herself – an ambitious but understandably unsustainable plan. “I spent most nights driving all over the community!”, Laree laughs. Laree admits introducing the Ola club account having predominately older members (many aged between 40 and 60) has definitely been a challenge. “They’re not tech savvy, and many don’t have smartphones”. Laree displayed signs around the club that say “if you need a ride, ask at the bar”. Members can ‘ask for a ride’ from one of the committee members at the club canteen. The committee member on duty, aka “the Ola guy”, organises transport on their behalf. Club members’ families overwhelmingly welcomed this new initiative, many of whom tend to socialise at the club after matches and practice sessions.
Another change has been to the ‘Player of the Match’ prize, awarded at the end of each match. “We used to just give away a $20 bar voucher”, Laree admits. As part of a new Good Sports policy to offer non-alcohol prizes such as vouchers for ball fees, and gift cards for everywhere from Coles Myer stores to iTunes. Not as a replacement to the bar tab prize, but as an option.
The club response to this change has been surprising, Laree says. “The entire season so far…no one has selected the $20 bar voucher.” Player of the Match winners aged under 18 were previously only able to be awarded $20 worth of soft drinks at the bar. Understandably, Laree felt this was neither appealing nor appropriate as a prize for the younger players. “So they’re loving the movie vouchers” which are now available, says Laree.
Laree, the leader of a cricket club’s proud and healthy new era
Laree is says the members are largely on board with the new strategies. Some of the more practical changes, including free meals being provided at the bar, have been rather popular. “Before, they were sitting there after the game, drinking, dehydrated, but now they get to have a meal”, Laree says. Laree has noticed membership numbers have gone up, while alcohol consumption has actually gone down at the bar since this change was introduced.
Implementing change is always a challenge, Laree concedes. Most importantly, there was a need to raise the club’s general awareness about the nature and purpose of the new strategies. Laree says the new policies will reduce excessive alcohol consumption, and assist “most importantly getting people home safe”. “We can still have alcohol at the club, it’s just up to us to manage it properly”.