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Exclusive: Grassroots CEO On Local Sport Engagement During COVID-19

W
ith the constant challenges of COVID-19, there has been continuous pressure in generating grassroots sports engagement throughout the last year.

Speaking to Ministry of Sport, Manly Warringah Football Association, CEO, David Mason, explained how COVID-19 has impacted grassroots engagement, the importance of community sport, and keeping the spirit alive through grassroots activations.

“COVID-19 has presented significant problems for grassroots sports as the social interaction in and around local football is part of the fabric that keeps communities together and strong,” Mason told Ministry of Sport.

“While it is the game and training that provide a great release for our 20,000 players and an avenue to stay physically fit and mentally balanced, the social interactions in and around the game are just as important.

“Community sport is our weekly release, a way to get together with people in our communities and that has been very difficult to replace.

“One huge positive that has come out of the lockdowns and COVID-19 disruptions has been the reinforcement that community sport is more about enjoyment and participation.

“Of course we keep score and everyone enjoys winning, but it is the simple pleasure of playing sport with your friends on a weekend that has been missed the most.

“The COVID disruptions have also given us the ability to sit back and thank the volunteers for the countless hours they put into organising sport and the way they hold clubs together so 20,000 people can play football on a weekend,” he said.

Mason also explained how the bond of community sport has strengthened throughout the last two years.

“Community spirit has kept football clubs together over the last two years,” Mason said.

“There is no doubt that it has put a strain on those running community sports and community clubs, but the people who take up those roles are passionate about helping and sticking by each other, going above to keep that spirit alive.

“Even though we missed a great deal of the 2020 season, we had an enormous increase in registered players in 2021, from 18,300 up to 19,800.

“I think that showed the way our football community has rallied together and the bonds that have been formed through these tough times.

“Our challenge now is sticking together a second time to make sure we come out bigger and stronger in 2022,” he said.

With the impact of COVID-19 on the community, Mason said: “There is no doubt that recognition of community heroes has been an important part of keeping the fabric of community sport together during the COVID disruption.”

“Whether it is through activities like the Community Sports Dad of the Year or simple recognition of volunteers through social media platforms, these heroes should be appreciated and acknowledged for their selfless contribution to lifting morale and team spirit in their local sporting community,” Mason said.

In its eighth year, the annual Community Sports Dad of the Year is designed to reward the contributions and positive impact Australian dads make to their families and community both on and off the sporting field.

Community Sports Dad of the Year founder, Paul Masluk, said it is more important now than ever before to recognise local dads who have spent countless hours boosting morale and keeping team spirit alive.

“It’s been a difficult couple of years with the community sport placed temporarily on hold throughout the pandemic, sometimes affecting the whole season,” Masluk said.

“This has impacted thousands of local sporting clubs and millions of kids dedicated to playing their chosen sport, so it’s never been more important to recognise the resilient efforts of our sporting dads who’ve kept their team alive with spirit,” he said.