August 6, 2021

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Kids are dropping out of sport and it’s hoped Brisbane 2032 will get them back

Brisbane 2032 will be a catchcry for sporting bosses to get the nation moving again.

Olympic host nations traditionally field strong teams and for Australia to live up to that expectation, it will have to confront two challenges — shifting participation trends and the pandemic.

Statistics from AusPlay, a national population tracking survey, show the number of young people competing in organised sport over the past 18 months has dropped.

Children playing sport outside of school went from 55 per cent to 43 per cent last year. It compounds another statistic: that there’s a 30 per cent drop-out rate from children in organised sport aged between nine and 19.

Sport Australia boss Rob Dalton called the next decade in sport “the golden runway”.

“This is a reset for us … to make Australian stronger through sport.”

A man looks at the camera and smiles.A man looks at the camera and smiles.
Dalton calls the next decade in sport “the golden runway” and says this is a moment to reset.(

Supplied: Sport Australia

)

Four-time Olympian Steve Moneghetti said the next eleven years would be exciting for all sports.

“You can fund things, plan it out, put in infrastructure,” he said.

“We’re talking about the Olympic Games, after all — it doesn’t get any better (for athletes).”

Sport Australia has two aims: to help sports attract future Olympians and increase participation to improve the population’s health. Enhancing school programs will be critical.

“What it does is enables schools who apply to get some funding to run different sports through their school day to get kids participating,” Mr Dalton explained.

“We’re really excited about that. It gives kids the opportunity to be able to participate in different sports and it’s not just ‘my dad plays footy, I play footy’.”

The next step is to help connect school sport with community club sport.

“Once we start to get those two things connected then we start to get more people into the system,” Mr Dalton said.

Table tennis player Melissa Tapper is an example of a child finding sport through school and following it all the way through to the Olympics and Paralympics.

Milly Tapper crouches down at the table tennis table after returning a serve.Milly Tapper crouches down at the table tennis table after returning a serve.
Milly Tapper first tried table tennis at school, she has since represented Australia at the Olympics and Paralympics.(

730: Chris Gillette

)

“It’s a really critical time,” Mr Dalton said.

“We’ve got to find ways to be able to help clubs to make that experience better, to get better coaches, and not just coaches for the game but coaches for life so that there’s more on the line, rather than learning how to kick a football or hit a softball.”

Not all sports are suffering through COVID though. Tennis and golf have prospered between lockdowns.

Sport Australia believes this is because people increasingly want to exercise on their own time, unrestricted by league schedules and travelling to away games.

“Sports have got to be smarter,” Mr Dalton said.

“We’ve got to be able to get that introduced into our sport sector as well, so we’ve got both; we’ve got those that want to play competitively and those that want to play and participate just within their own timeframes.”

Moneghetti said the Brisbane Games would be a “carrot” for junior athletes to stay involved with Olympic sports, instead of moving into professional domestic team sports.

Steve Moneghetti speaks to reporters.Steve Moneghetti speaks to reporters.
Steve Moneghetti was the Chef de Mission of the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.(

Getty Images: Lisa Maree Williams

)

He added that having more teenagers choose athletics over the football codes would enhance Australia’s chances of producing medal winners in Brisbane.

Queenslanders understand the benefits of hosting international sporting carnivals.

The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games brought the community together in celebration and provided a fillip for the Brisbane bid.

Sydney 2000 will also be on the minds of sporting administrators as they plan for 2032.

One of the pitfalls of the successful Sydney Games was the subsequent loss of Australian coaches to rival nations. The United Kingdom poached Aussie mentors with an eye to London 2012.

An aerial graphic depiction of a refurbished Gabba stadium.An aerial graphic depiction of a refurbished Gabba stadium.
A graphic showing the refurbished Gabba venue, which is proposed as the main stadium for Brisbane 2032.(

Supplied: Queensland Government

)

Mr Dalton hopes it won’t happen again.

“In the build-up (to Sydney), we probably focused on 2000 and we didn’t think about beyond 2000. And that is certainly going to be something that we’re going to do.

“In fact, at Sport Australia we’re going to build a plan for every sport across that period of time but it won’t be just leading to 2032, it will be beyond 2032.”

As usual, public money will become available to prepare sports for another Australian-hosted Olympics.

The debate over the best way to spend that money – gold medal ambitions versus mass sporting participation – is likely to continue when future budgets are drawn up.

“You can’t do it cheaply,” Mr Dalton said.

“We’re really excited by the prospect of being able to get some additional funding to put into participation and make those changes. And it’s not just about getting more people to play but it’s getting them more excited to play.”

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