More children are taking an interest in traditional sport thanks to Sporting Schools Australia programs, according to physical education teacher, Laurie Krepp.
The program, partnered with more than 30 national sporting organisations, was launched at up to 70 per cent of primary schools across Australia in July last year.
The $100 million project was established by the Abbott Government in an attempt to increase younger generations’ participation in community sport and create a lifelong interest in sporting throughout Australia.
St Theresa’s Primary School in Albion, Melbourne, launched the AFL pilot program in 2015 to broaden the range of physical education opportunities for students.
Laurie Krepp, physical education teacher at St Theresa’s, said that the Sporting Schools program was fulfilling its role of increasing participation and creating awareness about traditional sports like AFL.
“Kids tend to spend more time looking at screens than they do being outside and keeping active. I think the Sporting Schools program has put some energy into trying to reverse that trend.”
Krepp said that the students did not have the same access to industry professionals before the Sporting Schools program.
“Before Sporting Schools, we didn’t have the range of outside providers coming in with sport-specific skills so that the children had access to a more traditional physical education program,” he said.
St Theresa’s ran soccer and basketball in term 1 and is running an AFL program through Sports Education and Development Australia (SEDA) and providers from the Western Bulldogs.
O’Donohue said each program offered by the AFL, partnered with Sporting Schools, was tailored to meet the needs and wants of individual schools, to maximise the benefit.
“If it’s a school that hasn’t had a strong presence in football we’ll run an introductory program,” he said. “If the school has had a pretty strong involvement, we’d offer them a more advanced program.”
The Coalition has confirmed that the $100 million Sporting Schools project will continue to be rolled out nationwide in 2016-17 to increase sporting participation ahead of the Rio Olympics. Increasing participation in local and community sports is also a policy priority for the Greens and the ALP.
Krepp said he thinks more children are joining clubs as a result of the program. “I think what we’re aiming to do through the Sporting Schools program is expose kids to opportunities in the community,” he said.
“All the providers that come to the school represent community sporting clubs. The kids are certainly expressing an interest in them and wanting the information.”
Play Sports Australia released a participation game plan last year encouraging sporting organisations to change, to keep up with the increasing amount of leisure activities available, especially online.
O’Donohue said that AFL programs are continuing to evolve to appeal to a wider range of age groups, for example the AFL 9s program which is aimed at teenagers aged 15 and above.
The AFL 9s competition is a more social, non-contact version of the game, with fewer players in a smaller field allowing more individual contact with the ball.
Krepp said St Theresa’s would continue to expand the range of Sporting Schools programs on offer and will host rugby and cricket later this year
“I’d like to continue to expand and broaden the childrens’ experience,” he said. “We’d like to run things like gymnastics and other programs that they’re less familiar with in the future.”