ASGA hears: "Movement is simply fundamental"

Chairman of the Australian Sporting Goods Association, Paul Faulkner set the scene when welcoming delegates to the sporting goods and active lifestyle conference last Friday: “Movement is simply fundamental to the health of Australia and to the health of our industry – everyone is moving less and so they will want less of our product.

“The stats show that huge numbers of all Australians are overweight or obese and we cannot stand by – as ASGA or the industry – and let this eventuate,“ he says.Theme of ASGA’s industry conference this year is “encouraging participation” and speakers took to the challenge with gusto. Editor Maggie Coleman reports

Speakers all agreed that boosting participation in sports and active recreation was essential, particularly for children.

They included Federal Minister for Sport Kate Lundy and her Victorian counterpart Hugh Delahunty, both telling delegates of their own sporting backgrounds and the plans and programmes in place to boost school and after school sport for children and to get adults to become more active.

Says Delahunty, “In Victoria, we have underdone facilities for women, we need to maximise our open spaces and outdoor infrastructure for their use too and must also be aware of their role in encouraging their children to participate.

“My portfolio looks after almost 70 sports and we must get kids to be active early in their lives – the impact of sport is enormous on the health of the country.”

• Chief executive of VicSport, Mark McAllion told delegates that family customs are changing “so we have to do something more to introduce kids to sport. There is greater competition between sport and other interests kids have, plus volunteerism is changing too, with fewer parents having the time or inclination to get involved and those who do want the start and end points defined.

He quoted Jimmy Dean, “We can’t change the direction of the wind but we can adjust the direction of the sails.”

“We have to boost collaboration at all levels and with all stakeholders, we have to boost the customer focus, making it a much better experience and boost value for the registration costs.

“The marketplace has changes and sport must change to meet the market, must be united to deliver the necessary results,” McAllion says.

• Jeff Blunden of JBAS Consulting reported the state of the golf market, reporting that golf is losing participants to other sports and is not reaching the wider society as it used to, with 1.1 million registered players.

Reasons include the cost of playing, impact of the weather and the fact that children are not introduced to the game as youngsters. “Golf is much harder to master if you take it up later in life, Blunden told delegates including several golf companies.

Ball sales have dropped by 20 percent, with on-course sales declining but total rounds are up by eight percent, indicating that the type of event players participate in has changed.

• AFL team of Fiona McLarty and Josh Vanderloo told of the success of the Auskick programme and its role in building national participation over more than a decade.

Growth of seven percent over the past year, nationally including the traditional NRL states of NSW and Queensland.

“We need to engage more females, multi-cultural and indigenous kids but this year the programme included 182,000 kids, with 50,000 volunteers, with a national infrastructure and local delivery. to clubs, communities, after school and in school programmes.”

Says the development team, “the member benefits programme in place since 2003 is a significant builder for us and includes backpacks with products such as free tickets to an AFL game, and Steeden balls – 250,000 balls making this the biggest children’s programme in the world.”

• Keynote speaker James Brayshaw was a popular choice and delegates enjoyed his frank and colourful delivery, as he was interviewed by Nike’s George Lawlor. As chairman of North Melbourne football club and Melbourne Renegades, co-host of Channel Nine’s The Footy Show, sports commentator for radio and television and former Sheffield Shield cricketer and top level footballer, Brayshaw had much to say about the value of team sport.

“The high moments of my life have come from being involved with teams, as have my low ones. Sharing the game and the results with mates is a wonderful thing.”

The value of all clubs in mentoring young blokes is very important, he told delegates.

• Federal Minister for Sport Kate Lundy described the many programmes and initiatives in place now , “including new programmes for social inclusion, and to meet multi-cultural needs – sport is a universal language and the sense of belonging it can generate is incredible valuable.

There is great potential in the area of women’s programmes, she says. “Huge numbers drop out in teenage years and to reduce this, we have to build media coverage of women’s sport and the achievements of our female elite teams.

“The industry has a role to play in growing participation, at school levels and out in the community. Programmes such as Net,Set Go in netball, Hot Shots for tennis and Auskick along with AFL9s are vital and affective in building participation.

“We understand the power of sport,” the Minister reported.

• Claire O’Rourke of Essential Media Communications received much attention from ASGA board members when she suggested running a political style-campaign to build community engagement and build participation, a campaign to change community attitudes.

• Changing community attitudes is an essential part of the Football United programme, reports business and strategic development adviser Brad McCarroll.

“We use the world game to engage migrant kids and bring them into the club system, seeing sport as vital for the development of kids and their sense of belonging, with local needs and local values as part of the 30 week tailored programmes in NSW, SA and ACT.

• Australian Sports Technologies Network chairman James Demetriou reported that “sports participation has declined enormously as very often it is seen as for middle-class white people only.

“The rest are enjoying unstructured activities. But sport is only a trigger, he says, most kinds don’t care abut sports stars or event becoming one, they just want to get onto the field and kick a ball about.”

The global sports market is $600 billion, third largest in the world, with equipment valued at $64.9 billion. The US is 40 percent of the market so it makes sense to take new products Australians have developed – such as Pod knee braces and Freedom Design drink bottles – there to launch.

Demetriou says that Generation Y are wired into their technologies and are recreating outside with their mates rather than in organised sports, and what do you do about that?”

• Pictured: ASGA chairman Paul Faulkner and George Lawlor from Nike with keynote speaker James Brayshaw and ASGA executive director Shannon Walker
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