When community sport came to a halt amongst the chaos of COVID-19 earlier this year it became evident just how important local clubs and associations were to the health and wellbeing of Victorian individuals.

The junior netballers were missing playing with their friends, coaches were forced to re-work their training sessions and the local volunteers longed for the opportunity to come together again. While many were tested throughout the winter pandemic, many clubs and teams found motivation and comfort from one another through online platforms.

Local netball club, the Pakenham Lions, were exploring options for their community to engage with one another and looked no further than WorkSafe’s Club Re-Connect program delivered by Sport and Life Training (SALT). With over 45 free programs available, it became the perfect tool to unite their club together and to speak about the challenges of 2020 openly and honestly.

Pakenham Lions Head Coach, Karen Meredith, said the program assisted them to identify the needs of their people and to create better systems of support.

“The WorkSafe Club Re-Connect session was really valuable, it provided us a real insight into how our players were actually feeling,” Meredith said.

“While we put a lot of sessions out on zoom for fitness and strength and conditioning, we weren’t really interacting with our players and communicating with them directly”.

“To have them on the screen with SALT facilitating this workshop it gave us a great insight to anyone who needed extra assistance.”

The WorkSafe Club Re-Connect Program is an interactive, online presentation that digs deep into how your club community is traveling and equips you to support one another through this current period of uncertainty and into the future.

From discussing issues surrounding loneliness and anger to focusing on financial hardship and the value of a genuine conversation, the sessions cover a diverse range of topics and those that are often overlooked off the court.

Vice President of the Pakenham Lions, Ann Molino, highlighted the club took a proactive approach to ensure they catered for the needs of all involved in their community.

“When COVID-19 started, we as a club made a commitment to stay connected with everyone, because everyone is an important member of our netball family,” Molino said.

“Off the court the committee and coaches came together to organise weekly zoom sessions and we had a program in place offering strength, yoga, and weekly challenges to keep people interested and connected.”

“Our major catchcry along the way has been “here if you need” if someone needs to chat.”

Through a newly developed and highly informative live quiz, the SALT presenter establishes what the main issues are for each group and will flexibly respond, teach, and connect.

While many found it hard to open up in front of others, the online forum made individual interaction less invasive with breakout rooms.

“My favourite part of the WorkSafe Club Re-Connect session was breaking off into the little chat rooms, as some people who weren’t game enough to speak up when there were 50 people on the screen were a little more comfortable to express themselves in that smaller environment,” Meredith said.

Northern Pride Netball Association (NPNA) were also quick to get involved with the Re-Connect program to help re-engage their teams throughout the postponed period.

President of Northern Pride, Adam Wharton, was unsure what to expect, but was impressed with the result and the Associations capacity to reach out and care for their members.

“I knew what we were after and that was a way for our committee, rep squad and clubs to have something different in front of them, and to encourage each person to have a voice and be supported from our netball community. We at NPNA got that and more, and we’ve been engaged and focused more than ever,” Wharton said.

“The SALT organisation has a number of sessions on offer and I’ve seen a couple firsthand, and how they operate, and it’s first class.

“They listen and communicate with the Association and members involved within the program very well. SALT talk with the other club organisers prior to get a feel for what your group needs, and they then target them appropriately.”

Both the Pakenham Lions and Northern Pride Netball Association were rewarded for their informative club sessions and won an online meet and greet with recently retired Melbourne Vixens player Caitlin Thwaites. Participants were able to hear the setbacks Caitlin faced along her playing pathway, how she overcame challenges and how important it is to remain connected with your teammates.

Opportunities such as the WorkSafe Club Re-Connect program have assisted athletes and their wider netball community to band together in what has been a challenging time. If your club is looking for a platform to reunite your club and discuss broader topics beyond netball, find more information here.

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