Coaching and Officiating - Lauren Burns
Introduction [00:00:00] This episode contains references to issues that some athletes and people in high performance sport may find troubling. If you need support, reach out to confidential services such as AIS Be Heard and the AIS Mental Health Referral Network. Details can be found on the AIS website ais.gov.au
Cam Tradell [00:00:21] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and i am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. We're pleased to have Lauren Burns join us today. Lauren won an Olympic gold medal in taekwondo when the sport made its debut in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Lauren is currently working with the AIS Gold Medal Ready program, assisting athletes preparing for Tokyo and Paris. She is currently completing her PhD in lifestyle practises and mindset of elite athletes, and has published papers of her work in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Welcome, Lauren. It's great to have you on the line.
Lauren Burns [00:01:18] Thanks so much for having me.
Cam Tradell [00:01:21] Interesting journey for you, and I know from winning a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics to where you are today and publishing research papers. I'd be really keen to understand. But what are your research papers? You know, what are they really about? And what was the motivation to actually duck diving down into your subject area?
Lauren Burns [00:01:40] Well, it's funny you ask what the motivation was, because I think with research, it never really well, you don't always go where you first set off to to go. So I my background is I'm also a naturopath and nutritionist, and I was actually looking at doing a clinical trial on organic food and how that impacted athletes. So basically, whether, you know, eating pesticides could impact cognitive function, reaction time, performance, that sort of thing. So that was where we started that we ended up not getting the funding for that trial, and I don't know, I think one day maybe I'll do that. So as part of looking at at food, we were also looking at lifestyle. And that was kind of the umbrella to sort of when you look at the research with athletes, there's a lot out there and a lot of it is sort of broken down into different areas. And they sort of, you know, they silos and, you know, you might have all the sports psychology research and then you got all the biomechanics or the physiology and the nutrition. You know, they're huge. That fit a lifestyle as a holistic framework is not really looked at. So I guess to start with, I decided to go to the top and I chose, you know, Olympic and Paralympic gold, medal winning athletes or world championships, depending on the benchmark of their sport. So, you know, some some sports don't have Olympics like surfing, for example. I has people like Layne Beachley, Ian Thorpe, Russel Mark, Kerri Pottharst, Jackie Cooper, like these incredible athletes. And I purposely sampled them so I had a real cross-section of individual athletes, team sports, in a small team or a team as a big team, so I have Chole Dalton from Rugby Sevens. Combat Sports. I had Carmen Marton who's the world champion in taekwondo. So I had this real cross-section. And really we were just, you know, Cathy Freeman asking what, you know, what do you do with your life? How what did you think? What did you attribute your success? What did you think impacted your performance? Negatively, positively? There were very open ended questions and we didn't really know where we were going to go from that. So it was it was actually fabulous. And I think when I first retired myself from elite competition, I didn't really want anything to do with high performance sport. I didn't think I certainly didn't think I'd be doing research. But coming full circle. I've just you know, I really enjoyed this process and especially seeing some of the results that have come come from it. And then we did a larger study, a survey which we surveyed Australian athletes from podium to emerging athlete. But that was also another they all kind of actually supported the findings that were in our initial study.
Cam Tradell [00:04:27] That's interesting. You sort of started to talk about, you know, some of the positives and some of the negatives. Were there common traits coming through with regards to absolute imperatives at the at the development years of athletes that came through is just being key and core to their success?
Lauren Burns [00:04:44] Well, I think, you know, intrinsic motivation, unstructured play a really big markers in development. We didn't really ask a lot about there wasn't a lot about upbringing necessarily. Someone more like, you know, obviously naturally gifted. I mean, Russell Mark talks about like to throw anything in the air and he can shoot it. Like he was just sort of born with that ability and others sort of had to work a lot more. But that intrinsic motivation was certainly something that was cultivated and developed in all those athletes. It was really apparent. So psychological attributes were just outstanding. So that realistic optimism, resilience, that ability to be knowledge seekers, going out, finding anything, leaving no stone unturned, being really resourceful. That intrinsic motivation by all of those attributes were really strong. And then there were these other elements. So it was really this those psychological attributes, the performance strategies, which obviously we're talking once you talk to athletes at that level, they sort of you know, it's not about their skill necessarily or their talent. I mean, those things are a given. They've worked so hard to get to that point that that's really well established. Then the lifestyle practises, which is something, again, that I as I mentioned, it wasn't really where I thought I was going to go, but that was quite, quite fascinating. And then I think the thing that really stood out to me was the importance of interpersonal relationships and how that can attenuate stress and how intrinsic that is to to performance and those four elements of psychology, performance, relationships and lifestyle, it's like there's a there's this it's like a dynamic interplay. So those elements are like a tilt of where the athlete needs to lean into those areas more. And that's something that's about and is very, very apparent with that mastery level athlete, because it's about their ability to self regulate and to be able to lean into that, like to be able to get those psychological skills to draw on their knowledge in that space and or do they need to go and catch up with a friend and have a laugh or, you know, talk to the coach or hang out with, you know, go to their parents for dinner and, you know, like those. So that's something that those athletes that are at that top level have really they know themselves so well that they're able to do that without really thinking. And that's sort of where, you know, you want to get to in that space is being able to move between those elements.
Cam Tradell [00:07:23] That's really interesting. Did anything come out in your research that talks about, you know, where people do go when they want to get that help and support?
Lauren Burns [00:07:30] In terms of a positive way to motivate people, is this level of challenge and support and I haven't written about that a lot in my papers, but I certainly wrote quite extensively on it in my thesis. And its that level of being able to to challenge someone you want people to stretch. And we're talking about, you know, if you're going to the Olympic Games or you're going for a gold medal, you need to rise to that occasion so that the athletes want be challenged, the coach wants to challenge them. And so you want people to grow and you want them to stretch that they need to do that and have the need to have that respectful environment, and to be able to, you know, have the support backing there as well and to feel like they were supported and I know with me, my coach, my club coach, like he always pushed me and challenged me, especially mentally in ways that I never thought that I could grow. But I always knew he had my back. And he was he had my best interests at heart. And I could say to him, this is too much. Or, you know, I always felt like there was a really open dialogue. But, you know, I think there's also there's just human decency as well, like just being a good person, you know, just and being, you know, getting the best out of someone is not, you know, putting them down or making them feel less than or, yeah about, you know, specific body characteristics or anything like that. So that that can be quite damaging for life, and one of the things that when I was writing up the paper about the I wrote an editorial piece about interpersonal relationships specifically that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. So I can give that to you. I can give it to you and you can share it with your listeners. But one of the things that we that I highlighted in that paper is that unfortunately, and this is in the world, but certainly in Australia as well as athletes, progress along their journey, as the higher they get in the performance pathway, the higher chance there is of bullying, ostracism, violence, sexual assault, all kinds of abuse, harassment, coercion. Now, that's really unfortunate. So it is topical. And, you know, this is great. We're having these kinds of conversations at the moment because those things shouldn't be happening. And, you know, you think about our kids and we, you know, have great community involvement, that kids go up and play sport and they get involved in teams. And if they want to progress, they go further and, you know, and then they get into this little hamster wheel of a elite sport and you don't want them to have all of those things happen. So I guess part of putting that in the editorial is that we need to speak about this and to, you know, keep talking about it until it's not there anymore. And there's a lot of things that we can put in place to to educate our coaches and support staff and people that are around the athletes, because that's one of the things that we found was highly important. And the athletes, you know, said that they often valued some of the support staff more than they did the coach, so you know the massure, the physio, the people that are travelling. And, you know, I think there's a lot in that. But when I was thinking about that, it wasn't just that the massure was a nice person, but they were human touch, there's regularity. Often the massure's travelling with them, or they're seeing them every day. And there's also a sense of, you know, there might be some more power dynamics with the coach where you've got selection or whatever that might be going on. It's a little bit more high pressure. And when an athlete is just sitting, lying on the table or getting their ankles strapped by the physio, whatever, they can just chat. And so I think these you know, these service providers, you know, they have a great role to play in performance. So and, you know, a lot of the some of the work that I was drawing on when I wrote this piece and I talk about it in the article, is how, you know, quality relationships, so people that you feel comfortable with, they don't have to be, you know its not a Disney. It's not all utopic, but those people that you can be real, authentic self with, they actually being around them, are staying in close proximity, can lower cortisol levels. And a lot of your stress markers will come down to just being near someone which, you know, we kind of all know, like we have good friends that you just hang out with. You feel great just being with them or, you know, you "oh I'm so glad we caught up." it was awesome seeing them, I just feel, you know, they just lift you and, you know, people are like that. We made that human connection.
Cam Tradell [00:12:10] When you talk about that, I think about the role that that community has to to service that with regards to providing athletes, players, participants with that ability to if they do need to talk, they do need help. They do need support, is that it can almost cultivate athletes and condition them so that for the one percent that actually get up to podium performance level or, you know, the small percentage that if we can arm athletes and participants with the tools to navigate through that of they are faced with something like that, I think that becomes very, very powerful with regards to, you know, regaining their power in situations that you're talking about.
Lauren Burns [00:12:51] That's right. And one of the great things about sport is that many of the skills that you learn while you're playing sport or you're involved in, you know, a community level, grassroots, whatever level of sport and recreation, those skills are relevant in so many different areas. So, you know, it's not just getting someone to compete at a mastery level or an Olympic Games or world championships. It's also, you know, this is about growing our community and our culture and keeping people active. And, you know, so there's so many elements to along that pathway that if we can support people and provide skills and it, you know, for their health and wellbeing and, you know, there's just so many benefits, really. So we don't want people having a bad experience and stopping it. And then they always have this negative association with board or the coach so that they don't want to go back to that. But that's not good.
Cam Tradell [00:13:53] I like what you said before. It's about that community cohesion as well, about sort of reflecting your community and reflecting who you want to be so aspirationally you might not want to play for Australia. That might not be what you want to be aspirationally, but you want to be a better person. You want to be better yourself and sports a great conduit for it.
Lauren Burns [00:14:10] Yeah. And we talk talking in the Gold Medal Ready program. We talk about experiential avoidance and, you know, reminding athletes of that it is our job as human nature is that as we get towards something that's harder, we our mind is like go back, don't do this. It's hard. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't like it, you know, but to do any of those great things in life like to finish your degree or to finish running a half marathon or maths or whatever it might be, you have to move. You have to lean into that discomfort. And that's where that coaches and support teams can be really influential and team-mates and, you know, social scaffold. But, you know, those things, you know, sports is such a nice parallel for it. It because, you know, I mean, I took my son got his black gold in taekwondo and, you know, there was times when he didn't want to do it. And that's what he pushed through and he got it. And so now that can be well, you didn't want to do this. And it's the same with you know homework or, you know, study or finishing your work or getting a submission or whatever it might be that you're doing it. Sometimes we have to just lean into that discomfort a little bit, and that's when we grow and we stretch.
Cam Tradell [00:15:24] Fantastic. Lauren, thank you so much. We really, really appreciate your time this afternoon. It's always good to catch up and talk. Really appreciate you've given us a lot to think about there. And thank you so much. Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating, or have any feedback or questions, please email us at Workforce@sportaus.gov.au. My name is Cam Traddell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.
Disclaimer [00:15:57] If you need support, reach out to confidential services such as AIS Be Heard and the AIS Mental Health Referral Network, details can be found on the AIS website. ais.gov.au
Coaching and Officiating - Mal Meninga
Introduction [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I’m the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, I'm fortunate enough to be joined by former Rugby League player and current head coach of the Australian National Rugby League team, Mal Meninga. Mal is a sport Australia Hall of Fame member and is the most successful State of Origin head coach. Welcome, Mal. Thanks for joining us.
Mal Meninga [00:00:48] Thanks, Cameron. Nice to be here.
Cam Tradell [00:00:49] Mal, I'd be interested in understanding your journey with regards to what sport used to look like for you and how it sort of morphed from, you know, your earliest memories of playing sport and where it was.
Mal Meninga [00:01:01] Growing up in in rural Queensland, you know, sport was the social fabric of any community basically in those townships. And Rugby League was central to all that. But how I grew up playing sport was through the school systems. School provided many opportunities for me to play, cricket was and mainly was rugby league in the winter and cricket in the summer basically. But you could play other sports like soccer or basketball or anything you want, swimming. Whatever you want to get your hands on, you know, I played basically. So, I grew up playing rugby league in the school systems, mum and dad were heavily involved in the community rugby league as well, the school systems as well. And eventually that that came into a lot of parents, you know, wanted their kids to play club footy. So I'm going through, I'm sort of mid 60s, sort of late 60s. And, you know, mum and dad with a number of parents would start a club footy up, you know, so you might be and through schools, it was more than the weight divisions as well. So it was you know, I was a nine year old kid, you know, playing footy, playing rugby league in a sort of six stone, seven, you know. So I'm nine, I'm playing against 11 and 12-year-olds, you know. So it wasn't age relative, it was all around weight those in days as well. So, so mum and dad and a number of other parents started club rugby league. So, you know, under sixes and under sevens. Those days in the bush was sixes, and eights and 10s and 12s sort of go up by two lots of age groups because mainly because of numbers. So yeah, I mean I grew up playing that. So, I think, you know, from my point of view, you know, rugby league was central. I loved the sport. Mum and dad were heavily involved as coaching, Mum was, you know, the mum that did the canteen, washed the jerseys, took us to footy if we needed to go to footy or go to the games and things like that. I'll always remember mum sitting on the sidelines, you know, barracking for Dad when he played, you know. He was captain or coach for most regional teams and he went and played because he was very transient as well, lifestyle, you know, because you follow the money, I suppose. He used to work in sawmills or cut cane or whatever the case may be, whatever community he was involved in. So, it was very fond memories, you know, I really enjoyed the environment, loved the experience. And I think because of my upbringing, it enabled me to become a more resilient person. You know, I was motivated because I had the passion for whatever I did always, you know, wanted to be, I was always competitive, always wanted to win, no matter what I did, you know. Even at school, that skill base level, even in my studies, I wanted to be, you know, a good student as well. So that was how I was brought up in Rugby League. And, you know, things obviously change today.
Cam Tradell [00:03:48] You're talking about your father working in different jobs and so on, but still working and playing for the region. When you came through the system, you obviously had to work and also play rugby up until when was that?
Mal Meninga [00:04:01] I loved playing the game, but I never really had any aspirations about playing the game at the highest level. Again, I grew up watching or reading Enid Blyton books. Secret Seven, Famous Five, watching Police Force. I always had on police shows on: Division Four, Bellbird, all those sort of, all those sort of shows, I grew up on. Growing up in the late 60s, early 70s, I had ambitions to be a policeman. So I went to the Queensland Police Academy after I finished my junior certificate and I went, so that was 15 years of age. I left home, went down to Brisbane, the Oxley Academy down there and joined the police force, basically. So I was a cadet there and that enabled me then to do my senior certificate and also study police law, then obviously graduate to become a policeman. I was sort of recruited, I guess, my physical prowess as well. And ironically enough for a young police constable, Senior Constable I was, by the name of Wayne Bennett, was actually one of the instructors there at the academy. And he saw me play some touch on the footy field, basically. And he said to me, do you play rugby league? And I said, ‘yes, I do’. You know, I didn't quite know how to answer him, but, yeah, I was a bit petrified at the time. And he said, ‘well, we'll see’. You know, he said, oh jeez, you know, at the academy it was all about discipline. The academy is, you know, ‘get up at such and such a time’, and it's all about routine and discipline and doing your study. It was a really terrific environment and obviously Wayne, mentored me through my early years, you know, 16, 17, 18, 19 years of age. I remember him saying to me one time in front of a group, you know – this is where Wayne Bennett gets his reputation around managing people – he said to me, ‘Mal, you can do anything you want to in life as long as you put your mind to it’. And he brought me up on Vince Lombardi around, you know, goal setting, the will to win all that sort of stuff. And that sort of resonated with me. I kind of liked all that and when he told me that I could do anything I want to as long as I put my mind to it, I went up to my room at the academy and I put down a number of goals. And it wasn't it wasn't police goals. It was rugby league goals, because then I've started to realise that, you know, you can play rugby league at a higher level. So, I wanted to play for my state, Queensland, in 1979 at 18 years of age. And I achieved that, ticked [it] off, and I just ticked off goals ever since basically. When I started to achieve that it had a profound influence on me in those early years, and which led to me, obviously, to the things I do today.
Cam Tradell [00:06:47] The impact that a coach can have on a player, but even shifting that to the impact that a coach can have in the community level on other aspects of people's lives is profound. And I think there's a remarkable, almost a responsibility on coaches with regards to building better people.
Mal Meninga [00:07:05] Yeah, well, we have a program in the NRL called the Rise Program. The Rise Program eventually, came out of the Kangaroos’ systems where we looked at our values and looked at how we wanted to be, how we want to behave, how we want to be seen, how we want to protect the game. And this Rise Program, we talk to the coaches about that very fact, around the influence and the impact they can have on their young players and in their lives and the communities’ social outcomes as well. There's a lot of, we understand that, you know, in communities is a, you know, there's broken families, there's other things that can go with that person's young life. It's not just rugby league, it's school, it's what they do in their own time, it's family backgrounds and things like that. So, if they can have a positive influence on those young people, because that's what we talk about: we don't talk about talent, we don't talk about skill, we don't talk about how good the player is, it's about what how good a person he is. And when we talk about recruitment, we don't, we understand that they're skillful and they can run fast and jump high and they can tackle well and, you know, all those skill sets you need. But we need to know the person. And if you get the person right and you get the characteristics of that person right, well, then you're going to get a very good rugby league player and you're going to get a very good rugby league player that's going to play for their country.
Cam Tradell [00:08:27] And that's, that's an incredible program. I mean, I think that's great looking holistically at people. Hearing your stories, you came through the system fast forwarding to today. What are the major shifts that you've seen in athletes from back then to athletes now?
Mal Meninga [00:08:40] All the time. I mean, more knowledgeable, obviously better prepared. You know, it's still the same sort of characteristics when I just talked about before and the character of the person as opposed to the football player. They're a much better football player today. A better, well-rounded, very, you know, like I said, well prepared. They're faster, fitter, you know, they jump higher, all those sort of things, maybe because of the circumstances they're involved in, you know, the situations that they're involved in. But the characteristics of the player hasn't changed at all. You know, we want a player that, you know, has got strong character. He's got a sense of resilience, a sense of community about him, loyalty, team, you know, all those all those characteristics that you want in an individual that you know won't let the team down. And when they put that jersey on, they won't let their club down, they won't let their community down, they won't let their state down. They won't let their country down. And that's how I look at things when I go into the representative programs. And Queensland's got, you know, vast history around he mightn't be the best player, he mightn't even be the best player at the club. And sometimes he may struggle to be the best player. He mightn't even play first grade in the club. But we know that the person he is, we know that what's, what the jersey means to him. And we prefer to pick and have those players play than someone that's going to be high maintenance and someone's going to take a lot of work to get ready because, you know, when you come into a rep program, you haven't got long to prepare him. So the person's really important.
Cam Tradell [00:10:22] Yeah, that's not having long to prepare, knowing that you're also getting players from different systems, different regions with different playing styles or different philosophies. How do you go about pulling that team together? I look at the the work with the Queensland team over the years and also with the Australian team, how do you bring those philosophies together quickly so that you can perform at the levels that that you do in State of Origin or international?
Mal Meninga [00:10:48] We have a sort of what I define as a close-the-door policy. So once they walk through the door into the camp, we close the door behind him. Then we then we talk about we know we know they they're all talented. They said they all belong there. It's very, very important that they understand that. They understand the reasons why, the purpose, and we talk about history a lot. We talk about, you know, so when we talk about the Queensland program, we talk about what it means to be a Queensland player and what we'll bring in ex-players and they'll talk about their experiences. But the things that we understand from a Queensland point of view is around trust, around the effort. It's around the attitudes, around mateship. And with the Kangaroo programs, around respect, respect for your jerseys, a respect for yourself, the opposition and what and where you are in your life. That greater sense of gratitude. We talk about inspire because we want young kids to aspire to be a Kangaroo. We talk about selflessness, and that's our team-first attitude. Making sure that they turn up for the team, they do all the right things around their routines, their habits, the way they prepare for the game. And then we talk about excellence, which is around wanting to prove all the time. We provide what I call resilient environment for them to thrive. You know, we're always looking at innovation. We don't want to be boring. We want to be fun. We want it to be enjoyable. But they've got certain obligations, accountabilities with putting those jerseys on. So that's really important. And we play the Queensland way, or we play the Kangaroos way, we don't play the club way. So they've got to accept that as well. They've got to accept that collectively, you know, and it is a collaborative environment. It's not autocratic. It's not. Yeah, it's very diplomatic. The way we go about our business and it's in my role is to make sure that I lead, that resilient environment. You know, I lead it through great communication channels. You know, we talk about, talk through accountability, through recognizing everybody, making sure that their contribution is rewarded. And we always look at how we going to keep on improving the person foremost and send them back a better person and send them back in really good shape. And also, you know, hopefully they pick one thing up they can take back to their clubs, their club, clubland. They can be a better player as well. I think that's really important. So then that in that environment, I think if they want to buy in and take ownership over, it will give us the best chance to be successful. And it's funny through the Queensland program that we never talked about winning because that's not, that is the expectation, but we want every player in that squad to play the best of their ability. We'll provide everything they want to make sure that they're the best prepared. In the Kangaroo system, we talk about winning because everyone expects us to win. So why not get the monkey off your back and talk about winning, how we're going to do that. It basically comes back down a process again anyway. So it's just different ways of looking and thinking about things. But it's the same old process, the same routines, the same characteristics you want in your players and the buy-in the jersey and its history.
Cam Tradell [00:14:20] Yeah, that's incredible the way that you put them together. Thanks very much for joining us today. Now, really appreciate your time.
Mal Meninga [00:14:27] My pleasure, Cameron. Thank you.
Cam Tradell [00:14:30] Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at Workforce@sportaus.gov.au. My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.
Coaching and Officiating - Rochelle Eime
Introduction [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project lead for coaching and officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. We're lucky enough to have Professor Rochelle Eime on the phone today, Professor Rochelle Eime is the director of Sport and Recreation spatial, which focuses on investigating sport and recreation participation facilities and health for evidence-based decision making. She has strong industry networks within the sport and health sector, including state and national government agencies, as well as sport and recreation organisations. Rochelle has written over 300 peer review publications, book chapters and industry reports and research, and has won a number of state and national research accolades. On top of that, Rochelle has been involved with club based sport throughout her entire life as a player, coach, volunteer and now parent of players and is a board member of Vic Sport. Welcome, Rochelle, thanks very, very much for joining us.
Rochelle Eime [00:01:21] Thanks very much it's great to be here.
Cam Tradell [00:01:21] Rochelle, you've done a lot of research in your role and you've got some fantastic insight to our current volunteers of coaches and officials. And I was wondering, do you have any thoughts on, you know, throughout the last 10 years, the last decade or so, how has coaching and officiating changed in the landscape of sport?
Rochelle Eime [00:01:42] Yeah, I think one of the biggest things with coaching is the qualification of the coaches and the quality of the coaching. So we don't always see that the grassroots that the coaches necessarily have coaching qualifications or updated skill sets that might still be in the mindset of when they played footy or netball or tennis and deliver the sport the way it was delivered for them. And we need to make sure that it's quality coaching that looks at improving their skills. It's about inclusion of all participants, but also it's about improving the skills for everyone, not just those to the best on the ground. And it's about also to the the players having fun and enjoyment. It's not all about winning medals and trophies. And we need to try and change that mindset a bit to.
Cam Tradell [00:02:29] That's great. You talk about accreditation. You sort of are you leaning more towards competence of the people because so many bespoke or different sorts of environments that coaches and officials delve in these days. And it's no longer just a one size cookie cutter fits all approach.
Rochelle Eime [00:02:48] Absolutely. It's not about the certificate in the frame or it's in the drawer. It's about being competent to be able to improve the physical literacy of the children. So that's not just their skill set. It's about making sure the children or adults or adolescents have the competence to be out to play and be active throughout life. It's not just about the skills for that particular sport. It's more broader than the physical literacy.
Cam Tradell [00:03:11] With regards to physical literacy, one or two of those domains of the physical literacy may actually be more important to some groups than others. And I guess that becomes a real driver. And being able to understand that and having an understanding as a coach, what's required in front of you becomes crucial.
Rochelle Eime [00:03:29] Absolutely, because the motivations of why people play are really quite different. The motivation has changed throughout the lifespan, but they also change according to the drivers of the players themselves. You've got those that are driven to exceed in those sports and that those are others that just want to play with their mates or have fun. You know, the main motivations for the adults to play sport is fun and enjoyment and social reasons. And then the physical health and fitness and then performance and competition for adolescents. Again, it's fun and enjoyment, physical health and fitness, but playing with their friends. So it's all about being with others and enjoying that connection with others, it's not about winning and it really makes no one goes out there to lose, everyone enjoys winning, but it's not the main motivator, because if it was, more than 50 percent of people are really disappointed every time they go out to play because only half the people win. So it can't be the main motivator and it's not. But we see a lot of coaches, a lot of club officials and presidents always focus on the men's A grade side, winning or winning the premiership or best on grounds. So how many flags and trophies they have in the club. But that's not a main motivator for why people drive to play sport. And it's not a main motivator why people continue to play sport. And we see a massive drop out across the board in in a club-based sport.
Cam Tradell [00:04:47] Yeah, that's interesting. Fifty percent success I would have been happy with when I was playing. To be honest with you Rochelle,I tend to be on the low side of that. But maybe that says a little bit more about me. With that in mind, with regards to how we grow a vibrant support base, do you feel like Australia's still a volunteering nation? What have you seen with the trends and the research and the data
Rochelle Eime [00:05:10] Club based sport in Australia is a volunteer sector and in an industry unlike some other sort of countries overseas and to the nature of club based sport in Australia is it's generally an individual sport within an individual club. Now you might have footy and netball, but they are still to seperate sports. You don't have the the multi sports sectors that you might see over in Europe where kids can sort of easily transition around into different sports within that one sort of system and sector. The volunteers in sport are generally players, past players or parents of players. And so the trouble is you have quite a big churn rate with those volunteers and especially in the junior clubs. As soon as those juniors aren't playing anymore, those adults aren't going to continue necessarily to volunteer that club. They're going to follow where their children go to school or drop out of volunteering as their children move on. And I'm concerned that due to COVID that there's that loss of transition. So often you have the people that are volunteering the club, their children might be at the older age, so they've been around the club for quite a few years, sort of know what's going on. And they often have that transitional year of sort of being mentored into future roles such as president or secretary or coach, et cetera. And last year, especially in Victoria, when that was lost, I'm concerned that there's that loss of transition of skill set, because often there's not a lot of support in these volunteer roles. And I think that that's going to be a big concern for clubs, especially, too, with an extra layer of bureaucracy and guidelines due to covid. Some and a lot of sports are concerned, not necessarily just retention of players, but retention of volunteers, because without the volunteers, there is no game day.
Cam Tradell [00:07:01] That's really interesting and doesn't really lend itself to to what you were just talking about with regards to parents who are in coaching or officiating for their kids, actually just following their pathway and making sure knowing that their main motivator is fun, it sort of seems to take them out of their environment if they're going up the linear scale of accreditation.
Rochelle Eime [00:07:23] And what we say with the with the linear scale is the issue that the better coaches sort of tend to coach the better kids in that model. I know with my boys footy club that they're involved with that's just starting up again this season. They're struggling to find coaches for the ressies for the for the reserves teams. Now they're the ones that probably need the best coaches to actually improve the skills of those players. So we sort of have this mindset that the better the players, the better the coaches or the coaches want to coach, the better players. But we need the better coaches down at the grassroots, at the entry level, the ones that can really help those those children develop those skills and that competency and confidence. I know actually coaching younger children is actually a lot more difficult to do. And you need really good coaches at that level. And that and that age.
Cam Tradell [00:08:17] A hundred percent I couldn't agree more. The support of that area there is is really lacking. And the ability, the role that people can play, like the parents who are good enough to stick their hand in the air and come and coach at that level the impact that they can make with a little bit of help and mentoring from people who are, as you say, identified as good coaches, can make a massive difference with regards to intrinsically motivating people to remain in sport.
Rochelle Eime [00:08:43] And I don't think that's where clubs necessarily connect the skill sets of their club community with the actual roles. For example, you know, I was a level two tennis coach coached for many years when my children were starting playing football in sort of under 10s, there are about eight, you know, I can kick footy and handball well enough for under 10s footy. I put my hand up several times to help out with training when they asked for people to help out at training. By the third time I'd done that, I wasn't asked to step out on the ground, it was only the dads that were asked to step on the ground. So there was four blokes standing there, there was two lines and one footy and about 40 footies sitting on the ground and the kids barely touched the ball. It was really poorly run. So I think it's about seeing through those biases, and it's not just gender, it could be age, it could be people from outside of sport that could actually be really good in certain roles within another sport. I think we need to match the skill set of the people rather than just this mindset that the best player of the sport is the best one to run the sport.
Cam Tradell [00:09:45] Again, I agree. I think that's really, really important. What would be some of the ways that you feel like we could re-engage or get individuals coming back to sport?
Rochelle Eime [00:09:55] I think it's that I think it's about trying to articulate what the value proposition rather than just sort of seeing as an extra chore or an extra burden that people have to do. You know, there's some great things that people can learn and develop through, through volunteer roles and leadership roles within clubs. And I think we need to highlight what those, those aspects are. And especially for youth. I think we need to get more the youth involved instead of the ' pale, male, and stale' running every decision and and everything in sport. I mean, half of all sports participants are aged between five and 15. So we need more them in decision making. And why can't we have more formal leadership and mentoring of those youth into taking on some of these roles, they see the value in what they're gaining in their skill sets is going to help them out in their career as well.
Cam Tradell [00:10:42] That's fantastic. I think there's some parallels that can really be drawn. What would you say needs to happen next? How do we sort of get to that point that people want to get back to their club? What do you think is going to help us kick start that next?
Rochelle Eime [00:10:54] I think it's about trying to highlight the good of sport, so highlighting the good things we always see in the media, all the negative things with sport. And it's often at the elite end. Why can't we highlight the good things I was presenting to sports this week and state Government and Vic Health, and we're seeing some really good five year trends of female participation. Now, we don't see change overnight, but change can occur and it does occur, but it takes five years. So I think if we can highlight what is good about sport, it's about the physical, the mental, the social health and wellbeing. It's about connecting individuals, families and communities. It's about learning in leadership roles, whether it's coach or other volunteer roles. And I don't think we we highlight the good things about sport. I think it's often about winning or, or centralising good players. We should be centralising the volunteers, the people who've made the sport happen. I think we pick on people, you know, the the bad behaviour we often see towards towards umpires and the yelling, you know, why can't we all just be nice.
Cam Tradell [00:12:03] Exactly. Create these positive experiences. That would be a utopia. That that'd be fantastic
Rochelle Eime [00:12:08] Yeah, if we put enjoyment central to everything. And if we make it about being fun and people having fun and connecting with others in a fun environment, I think we can do so much and that that fun environment doesn't might look different for those with lower skills and those for high skills, and those are really like a real formal competitive model than those that don't. But it's still about enjoyment because that's what people are there for.
Cam Tradell [00:12:32] It's the major motivator for everyone. And there's some flawed thinking around the fact that enjoyment isn't the main motivator for people in high performance. It needs to be the main motivator for people in high performance.
Rochelle Eime [00:12:43] If they don't enjoy it, it's it's it's it's really tough.
Cam Tradell [00:12:46] I'm going to throw a blue sky question to you. Have you got a view on what's the utopia? What's the sporting environment? What do you see as being something that we can all strive for, a really solid stretch target for us to what the environment of sport looks like in this country?
Rochelle Eime [00:13:02] I think it's about being an inclusive, inclusive environment. So that can make a lot of things, but it's about being inclusive of diversity, of skill and of ability and race and of age and but but also to inclusive decision making. So, you know, the board and the committee, we can't have sport run the way it's always been run. We need to have fresh eyes. You know the way, We need to think about the way sport is delivered. And we have modified sport, which is "fun, friends and fitness and skill development", which is great. And then we have that transition to club competition. Now, that's great, too, but only for those that are really good at the sport and really love that competitive model. I think we need to open our eyes up into more the organised but not so focussed on competitiveness, so the social rec programs, because there's a lot of people that want to play sport but but aren't good enough to play in the competitions or don't want to be in that space.
Cam Tradell [00:14:06] Rochelle, thank you very, very much for joining us today. This has been fantastic, really insightful. And I wanted to thank you for your time.
Rochelle Eime [00:14:14] No worries, thanks very much.
Cam Tradell [00:14:18] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at email@example.com. My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.
Coaching and officiating Mick Byrne
Sport AUS introduction [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project leader for coaching officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series. We will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, we're fortunate enough to be joined by Mick Byrne via phone at the airport, Mick was part of a successful Australian Rules football team and won a premiership before successfully transitioning to coaching rugby and has worked across England, Scotland, Ireland and Japan before winning two World Cups with New Zealand. Mick then found himself in Australia, where he took up a role with Australian Rugby Union as the national skills coach. Welcome, and we look forward to chatting, mate.
Mick Byrne [00:01:01] Yeah, thanks, Cam.
Cam Tradell [00:01:02] Seeing things from such a broad spectrum. I'd be really interested in how you see the system working, knowing what community has to offer, what's the richness that can come from community that yes, you get your participation in community, but what does that actually offer to high performance with regards to a value?
Mick Byrne [00:01:22] I think the biggest one for me is the love of the game. I think, you know, the true community, it creates that, you know, as I say, the love of the game and people involved in sport enjoying themselves and, you know, continuing on from when you're a kid, like when you're when you're a little kid, you play sport because you love it and you have fun. And I think community has a role to play in making sure that that stays stays true all the way through. You know, I think, you know, we'll probably talk about it a little bit in greater detail. I think community can also have a have a stronger role in the way they prepare players without without losing that enjoyment, but how they can prepare players for a career. But I think the key is that whenever I talk to any players and, you know, the more I coach, the more I realise that, you know, I'm speaking to, you know, players that have just recently retired after, you know, 25, 30 years in the game. As you know, the thing that they've talked about is, is the reason why they are probably giving the game away at age 38 is the fact that they've had a great innings and they can't do the job that they love. You know, they can't do the game anymore, that they love doing. And that's the thing they talk about. It's it's it's a game that they love doing.
Cam Tradell [00:02:44] Your coach and your officials obviously play such a major role in what that experience looks like with with that sort of in mind, where do you see the benefits for coaches and officials with regards to getting that that, you know, open conversation and dialogue with with athletes and participants?
Mick Byrne [00:03:02] Well, I think, you know, having gone back to community and working with community, one of the things that's never changed and I know it was I know it was something that motivated me, and maybe that's why I chose coaching, but it was something that motivated me as a as a player. I just wanted to be able to do what I was supposed to be able to do, you know? So if I was playing, you know, when I grew up, I was playing rugby league. So if I was if I could break tackles and score tries or make tackles or kick goals when all the shooting like that, that's what I wanted to be able to do. And so every day I turned up to training. I wanted to I just wanted to be able to do those things. And I got frustrated as a kid not being able to, you know, make line breaks or break tackles. And I'd just go away and I'd work on stuff and I'd look on telly and I'll see what, you know, when I was growing up, you know, the players down at Manly Rugby League, you know, I was trying to emulate what those guys were doing. And I think that when I go back now, sport has become a lot more professional than it was back in those days for everybody. I look back and I think, you know, if coaches can continue to provide that at a community level and just keep helping young players get better and to be able to do what they want to do and not get caught up in this watching teams, and this is how this team plays and look at this move that this team does, but just continually work on helping young players and, you know, get better and keep the love of the game and turn up the training and try and be better players than they were yesterday. You know, so the whole concept of being better today than I was yesterday and waking up tomorrow and try and be better than I was today, we can provide officials and coaches and and everything can provide that for young players coming through that I will keep the love of the game because, you know, the more that the more I talk to the young players that that's what they want to do and how do I do that. Or how do you do that or how does he do that? You know, and I think that's the motivation around that is enormous. you know, we talk about intrinsic motivation, but I think we can provide that opportunity for young players, by the way, we coach them.
Cam Tradell [00:05:15] Some great insights there it is. It's the it's the environment that is created and people mistake the word fun and challenges and they sort of get them mixed up, fun is challenging people at their own level.
Mick Byrne [00:05:27] Yeah. Look what I talked about this last year with the team I was coaching. They were talking about, you know, they'd had a bad run, they hadn't won for a couple of years and they were talking about they're not having any fun. You know, they're not having any fun in their environment and we talked about it. One day we went out to train and it was snowing and it was about minus two and we were doing some line-out sessions and we had a big Fijian guy, and he was really struggling in the cold weather and we have these lineout lifting aids, you know, the stretchy ones you put over your legs and he couldn't even put them on and the boys had to help him put them on because his fingers were frozen. And anyway, we got out, we went inside and afterwards and we had some breakfast. And the noise in the breakfast area was unbelievable how loud it was. And we had our team meeting and I said, honestly, boys, we've talked about fun. Did anybody have any fun today? And they're like, Oh, I looked at the Fijian fella, and I said, Did you have fun this morning? He goes NO! "I didn't have fun at all". I said, But how do you feel now? He says, "I feel unbelievable. I loved it" because it was the fact that you went through it together. It was the way we created the training and and the fact that they got through that together, that created an enormous amount of enjoyment from them. And we didn't go out there to try and have fun. But guess what they had in what was the worst environment was they they finished training and they're like, oh, how cool was that? It was awesome. And so, yeah, I think it's if you create the right environment and, you know, we've talked about this before about creating the right learning environment where players are finding things out for themselves and problem solving. It doesn't matter what what you're doing, they'll have fun. At the end of the day, they're going to have fun.
Cam Tradell [00:07:15] It's interesting, because you're talking about the the team meeting afterwards. And, you know, when you started to interrogate afterwards and you're getting that player feedback that really helped you so that you start to create that environment. How important is that feedback for a coach to learn and to understand themselves better?
Mick Byrne [00:07:31] I think if you're, if you... I think for me, Cam when I first started, it's important that you realise you've got two ears and one mouth, and when I was young, when I was a young coach, I forgot about that proportion, you know, so I tended to use my mouth like I had to two mouths and one ear you know, like I was I just didn't I thought that was my role as a coach. And, you know, really, you know, if you use that, you know, the two ears and one mouth concept, then you got twice as much listening, as much talking, and you're probably going to be a reasonable coach. And, you know, you do have those moments through your career where if you're listening, you actually hear some some things that you can learn from
Cam Tradell [00:08:16] looking at those those moments that that the "aha", the penny drop moment for an athlete, with you with regards to this could be in high performance, or community. Have you got any sort of insight to methods that you use to sort of bring the best out of players and how does that sort of work for you?
Mick Byrne [00:08:35] Yeah, I think for me, you know, you'd spend you could spend a lot of time, you know, imparting your knowledge and it not be received. And and I think one of the things I've learnt is to create Problem-Solving opportunities of training and asking questions about, you know, where the where the knowledge is that from your playing group. And I went out did an under 10s coaching. So is this works for the community as well, you know, and you go out and you do you know, I worked an Under 10s team up on the Sunshine Coast and we were doing some tackle tech and we were working on getting there, getting their wrap and getting their feet in. And we were doing it on the tackle bag. And and the thing is, I just asked the question, you know, you're sort of working away and you say, you know, tell me, how did that feel? Did you get a good wrap on there? Where were your feet when you made contact and, you know, were you feeling strong or were you in the right position? And they ask. And then the thing is, when you ask the question is you wait for the answer and sometimes you don't get the answer. And when you're when you first start off as a coach and you start asking these questions sometimes five seconds can feel like five minutes and you've just got to be patient and let them sort it out. You know, because I hear a lot of coaches these days because they've been told, you know, ask questions, ask questions, they ask the question. And if I don't get an answer within two minutes, two seconds, they're like, well, that's what we need. What we need to do here is we need to get our feet in close. And everyone, justs nods their heads, but they don't understand what they're actually nodding their head about. So I think it's for me, it's about asking questions and giving them time to answer. And if they do give an answer that they're not quite sure of. And I know you've experienced this with me a couple of times. I might say ask a question. And they. And the guy look at me and like," well what were your thoughts", and he might say something with a with a sort of an inquisitive answer and I'll say, do you think is that what you think or are you guessing? "Oh I don't know..." Well, let's do it again. Let's just let's just do it again and see what you feel and tell me, "Oh OK...", and then you might ask him again and he goes, obviously, I'm not doing it because you keep asking me questions and I'm like "that's ok mate," and then all of a sudden they'll turn around, and they'll go " Oh, now I feel it" and then you're done, you know, like the fact is that, you know, some players that some, especially kids, they don't realise, they think they're doing something and until they actually realise they're actually not doing it or your instructions aren't going to help them. And I think that's the thing I found with when I went to the Under 10s, even at Under 10s. And then I come up afterwards and this kid gets knocked over in a tackle and his dad says to him, "Oh what happened there?" he goes. Well, I just didn't get my feet in close, and I knew it as soon as I got hit. I didn't have my feet in close and I just got knocked over. And he Dad looks at me and goes " What have you done to my son?" And I said well, he's done it himself mate, I didnt do anything. He did it himself. You know, he found that out for himself. And I think that's the you know, that's the challenge as a coach is to create these learning environments where you're asking questions, but you're allowing the players to find the answers themselves. And, you know, some players are really good at it. Some players have great awareness. And, you know, like straight away, they realise what they're doing. Others take a little bit longer and we can grow this into a team environment as well. What do you think we should do here, this position on the field and have they have the have the team sorted out for themselves as well? And it's very easy. I like to make the sort of I won't use the words I usually use here Cam, but we we you know, you can have great Mondays to Fridays and average Saturdays as a coach, or you can have average Monday to Friday and great Saturdays. And what I mean there is you can you can be a coach who runs you really great training sessions, tell players what you want and players go out and do exactly what you want. And I get the Saturday in this struggling or you can create Monday to Fridays where there's a bit of chaos at training, there's Problem-Solving. No one's really going well. You finish training, and you thought" gee that wasn't a great session, we really struggled through that". But then you come out on Saturday and the players deliver everything you've asked of because they sort sorted it out for themselves during the week. And that that to me is one of the big things is, you know, if you can create an environment as a coach, you have to get comfortable with this. You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable in sometimes your training sessions just don't go exactly the way you'd like them to. As long as you've created problems and they're getting solved, you know, the answer will be good at the end of the day. So. I think that's the challenge that I sort of found myself needing to change.
Cam Tradell [00:13:39] That empowerment for the players. And the moment you almost had those dual celebrations between the coach and the athlete and them making the instinctive decisions on the field, I think becomes so important when they're competing rather than the conscious mind taking over rather than the instinct and having that chaos is so crucial at the training.
Mick Byrne [00:14:01] And you don't want to be out of control though, you don't want to be just throw the ball into the middle of the field and say, let's go for it. Or, you know, what you're doing is you're creating the environment that's in the context of the game so that they can sort things out. And and that's the challenge of a coach, you know, like "What do we want to achieve here?", we want to achieve that player's awareness of what we're doing, I want them to be thinking about the decisions they make in a game. And the big one is we want them to be able to enjoy the fact that they're contributing to it, you know, and and they're not going to do that if you're saying things and the players don't really understand what you're saying. If players are sitting there in a room and not so, I don't really know what he means by that. And they're too embarrassed to ask the question. And I'm only saying this because I went through it as a coach, you know, like you don't realise it, but you sit there and you're delivering stuff that's really good because, you know, you've done the the hours of the research. You've looked at the footage. You're really clear in your head what it looks like and you get up and deliver something. And if someone doesn't understand it, it's like, well "what's wrong with them?" You know it's pretty clear to me what what we need to do. And for any coaches that that are feeling that, you know, try and teach a, you know, a primary school kid, that three plus two equals five. And when they don't get it, try and explain to them. Then you'll know whether you're a good coach or not. Just, you know, because three plus two equals five. Yeah, well, we all know that. But at the end of the day, when you're learning it for the first time, sometimes it's not as simple as we think. And this is the part of being a coach.
Cam Tradell [00:15:35] Fantastic inside there, Mick, thanks so much. The having clear purpose and context as sessions becomes so crucial to creating these positive learning environments. Mick Byrne, I want to say thanks very, very much and I look forward to catch up again soon.
Cam Tradell [00:15:52] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at Workforce@sportaus.gov.au. My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.
Coaching and officiating Claire Polosak
Intro Voice over [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.
Cam Tradell [00:00:34] I am fortunate enough today to have Claire Polosak join us on the podcast, Claire's the first female ICC umpire to officiate in a men's cricket Test match in the world. So we're very, very fortunate to have her and to speak to us. So welcome, Claire. Thanks very much for joining us.
Claire Polosak [00:00:50] No, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to the experience of having a chat with you.
Cam Tradell [00:00:54] Thanks very much, Claire, I'd love to get some ideas or some sort of background on some of the ways that you make decisions on the field and being an official or being an umpire. Did you play cricket growing up or were you exposed through the umpiring pathway?
Claire Polosak [00:01:10] Yeah, I never played cricket growing up. I grew up in a regional town and at the time there wasn't that I remember any girls’ cricket and I didn't want to play with the boys. I guess I was too scared to and I know lots of girls did play with the boys, but I was a bit scared to do that and then I followed cricket from a distance. I had all the cricket players on my walls growing up and then every year mum and dad would be our family holiday would be to come to the Sydney Test match. And then when I was about 15, a friend, actually her dad, suggested that I complete the umpiring course because I like cricket. And so it did take me, I'm not sure how many times, but it was at least three times to pass the exam. I think being 15, 16 and never having played cricket definitely impacted the knowledge and the awareness around the laws of cricket. But every time I completed the assessment, I got a little bit better. And so it was just something I was really determined to do. And what I was I was forever jumping up and down when I finally passed the assessment task.
Cam Tradell [00:02:06] In really high-pressure situations. It's got some real learnings that we can take from what you do to what happens at the community level, knowing that there's different levels of pressure and so on at the community. But I'd love to sort of get an idea of some of the processes that you've got with regards to how you make your decisions. And if you can sort of broaden out on that when you do make a bad decision or you're aware of making a bad decision, how do you go about managing that on the field, knowing that you're out there for a long time?
Claire Polosak [00:02:34] Yeah, great question there. So I think at umpiring at any level, if you are striving to be 100 percent in every game that you do or even if every over that you do, it's potentially setting you up to not be perfect. So you really it's all about striving for excellence and what are the processes that you can put in place to ensure that you're doing the best that you can in order to make the best decisions as possible. When I am out in the middle, I have found that when I've made mistakes, it's usually because I've rushed my decision making processes. So it's really about slowing it down. You've got if you're umpiring, particularly in cricket, between, you know, the delivery, the fielders appealing and then you having to make your decision, you've actually got more time than what you think you do. So just taking it, taking a second to have a breath replay, I replay the ball in my mind to make sure that what I saw the first time matches up with where I where I'm thinking and then make your decision based on the information in front of you. Umpires in cricket are making decisions every delivery, even if there's no appeal. And so it's just about making sure you can tick off those boxes as you get towards the final result. So I think for an LBW decision, for example, if the ball is going on to hit the stumps, that's actually the last question I ask myself. You start off with, is the ball a fair delivery where did the ball pitch, what was point of impact? What was the line of the interception? And then was the ball going on to hit the stumps? So it's really about slowing your processes down to make sure that you can take in all the information that's available to you and to use that to your best of ability. But something that with all sports, I imagine that new umpires or new officials are going to make mistakes, and it's about learning from those mistakes to work out why they occurred and then to improve on them next time. So that with it comes into routines. So you mentioned about being on the field for a long period of time, if I start a day of cricket an 96 over day and I think I've got seven, six and a half, seven hours of cricket in front of me, you usually exhausted before you start. So I'll actually break the I'll break the over down or day down. I'll break the day down into even just two over blocks, so when I'm at square leg I'll say to myself, "let's have two good overs Claire, let's have two good overs". And then every time I'm at square leg, I repeat that to myself. When I'm at the bowlers end, I have a couple physical triggers and also some mental triggers that allow me to switch up when the ball is about to become in play and then to switch down when the ball is dead. We don't really talk about it a switching on and off because there's always something for us to be looking at. But there are certain points during the game where we don't need to concentrate as hard as when the ball is in play.
Cam Tradell [00:05:29] That's really interesting. where you're talking about always something to be looking at and I'm guessing that there's times when the things off the delivery, so outside of the delivery with potentially, you know, the chatter around the field or a little bit of banter, someone isn't happy about a decision, whether it's one that you've made or one that one of their friends have made or, you know, team mates where there's a dropped catch or there's where they think they've been hard done by. And you've got those other by playing things going on. How do you manage that with regards to trying to keep your focus on what's important on the field when you've got all these other things to sort of manage as well?
Claire Polosak [00:06:01] Yeah, I think it's important to acknowledge when potentially there's a decision that hasn't gone the right way has happened. If you acknowledge it, it means that you contain it, which means that you can then then move on to it, move on from it. Sorry. And I have in the past, you don't really want to be doing this a lot of the time. But I had a game where I made a decision. It was incorrect and the captain was very agitated about it. And he came up to me and he wanted to talk about it. And I just said to him, I know I've made an error, but we can talk about it after the game. And when we did talk about it after the game, he actually said that acknowledging it enabled him to relax. He knew that he wasn't going to have to have had a discussion with me about it being wrong because I knew it was wrong. And that just sort of cut it, nipped that behaviour in the bud. And he was able to go on concentrating with his own captaining of his team. But it's not something you want to do all the time. And I think it's really important to push if you have made a real or perceived error, you should try, and it's easier said than done, just like playing, officiating practice is what gets us there. But if you're able to push it to the side so that you can focus on the next delivery, because if you're focusing on the next delivery or the next passage of play, then you'll still your mind will be in the past. And in order to avoid making errors, we need to make sure our mind is where our body is. And that's and so it's so much easier said than done. But if you can push it aside for me, I actually write it down in my notepad, so it's like a shopping list that I don't have to remember to remember it later on and then I can go back and go through, hopefully not a too long a list, but go through the instances where I have potentially made an error and try and work out what happened that didn't enable me to make a really good decision at that point in time.
Cam Tradell [00:07:52] That's fantastic insight to the self awareness you've got. Do you ever write down things that are positive, that have happened? So something that you picked up and that's almost a skill that you want to put in the bank to perpetuate that behaviour? Is it always a negative that happens or is it sometimes reinforcing a positive?
Claire Polosak [00:08:08] Yeah, it's funny you say, I think humans recognise or notice negative things seven times more than positive things. So it is only the incidences, I guess, that don't make my own expectations that I write down to address and to work out why they occur. But you're right. I mean, I think acknowledging it and celebrating the wins are really important and teamwork, it's sort of teamwork is really important. You know, we're out there on two people versus 11 people in the field. And, you know, when your partner makes a really good decision, give them a little thumbs up. Don't make it too obvious. But, you know, if your partner has made a really good decision, if my partner has made a really good decision when the ball is dead and I’ve got eye contact with them because we have eye contact, every delivery, just a little thumbs up by the side, just reinforces what you're saying there. The positive decisions that they've made say this to acknowledge that that I have had a really good decision there so that they can be confident and comfortable in what they're doing as well.
Cam Tradell [00:09:13] It's interesting because you're talking about the ways that you're supporting each other as another team on the field, which I think is really, really important. And seeing what happens at the elite level where the scrutiny under a decision is so intense with regards to it must come up on the big screen or it used to come up on the big screen and you can be scrutinised and at least you can get some closure with regards to good, bad decision. But at the community level, I'm guessing it becomes more difficult because it becomes about an opinion and everyone on the field has got an opinion from their angle. You know, from cricket terms, people calling LBWs from fine leg is a bit of a stretch. I just I love the way that good umpires can really manage that. Keeping in mind that the experience on the field becomes so important, do you try and influence the feeling on the field, or manage it being an upbeat environment?
Claire Polosak [00:10:02] Yeah, I think having clear communication and good people management skills will get you a long way on the sporting field. In cricket, it's very much that umpires are there to facilitate the game. It's not about us being the centre of attention and we are only brought into the game when the laws require us to be. So when I'm umpiring, I actually imagined myself as a jack in the box, so I only come out onto the only come out or I only speak when I'm spoken to by a player unless obviously, I'm required to do so, I think remembering that the game is there for the players at a community level, the players, and this is just sort of said to me just the other day at players, you know, they pay heavy subscriptions in some competitions to play cricket and it's their outlet for the week. And so they want to enjoy the game as much as you do as an official. So it's really about just ensuring that you can facilitate the game within the laws, within the spirit safely and just allow the games to happen in front of you.
Cam Tradell [00:11:04] Fantastic insight. That's amazing. I think that that's the piece that becomes so important is that enjoyment is really the factor.
Claire Polosak [00:11:13] If you if you if you don't enjoy umpiring and I imagine it's for any sport if you don't enjoy it, there are so many other things you could be doing with your time than officiating the sports, So I agree enjoyment 100 percent.
Cam Tradell [00:11:26] With that in mind, as you were coming through the system, you're talking about, you know, the difference between where you're at the moment in performance, working also in community and also working with the state side. Way back when you were coming through the system, was there ever a piece of information that you wish you were armed with to make your experience as a community coach coming through the system better?
Claire Polosak [00:11:52] The one thing that I wish I did more was ask more questions of my other officials that I stood with, because when we're just learning out there so much, we don't know and you don't know, you don't know it. So I wish that when I was coming first coming through when I first started umpiring, that that I had the bit more courage, I guess, to ask questions, to ask why umpires do something in particular. And it just might have got me the information a little bit quicker than having to sort of find it out and bumble along by myself. So, I mean, the support networks were there. I just didn't use them probably as effectively early on as what I should have.
Cam Tradell [00:12:27] Yes. And when you were coming through asking people what they will almost help you with regards to that review process is important. When you were doing education and training, did you find that you were able to ask those questions through your courses, etc., or did you find that you did most of your learning when you're out out in the field? In the middle? .
Claire Polosak [00:12:50] Yeah, you can't replace watching balls in the middle to a large extent. And just getting when you when you first start out, just do as many games as you possibly can. I would even head to my local cricket team and standing in there nets during the training sessions just to again, just to listen to the sounds, to watch the ball or to watch what's happening, just to increase the number of balls that I was seeing to to increase the number of experiences that you can put in your backpack so that when you are in the middle of the field, you can pull them out of your backpack or pull them out of your toolkit for things that you've already seen. Because as we know, the more you do something, the easier it gets.
Cam Tradell [00:13:27] I can just imagine you look where you are now and you think about... What a journey.
Claire Polosak [00:13:33] And if you'd have told 16-year-old Claire the opportunities you would have had by the time she was 33, then there's just no way that she would have thought it was possible. So I think it's really exciting to see what comes next, not for me, but for the next generation of officials of any sport coming through with the increased opportunities that are coming around for everybody.
Cam Tradell [00:13:51] I'm so excited for what's happening next, for Claire Polosak, because understanding where you're at and seeing what you've done and the way that you handle yourself on the field, the way you handle players is second to none in this country. And it's something that I genuinely enjoy watching and it honestly adds to my enjoyment when I watch, and I'm certain that that's the case for a lot of other people. Thank you so much for joining us today, Claire. Really appreciate your time.
Claire Polosak [00:14:18] No ,you're very, very welcome.
Cam Tradell [00:14:22] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at Workforce@sportaus.gov.au. My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.
Coaching and officiating Louise Sauvage OAM
This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell, and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. And we're fortunate enough to have Louise Sauvage join us today in the studio. Louise is recognised not just for the extraordinarily successful career as a wheelchair racer, but for her pioneering efforts in raising the profile and perception of Paralympic sport and athletes in Australia and all around the world. Welcome Louise, thanks for joining us.
Louise Sauvage [00:00:51] Thank you for having me.
Cam Tradell [00:00:54] Louise, you've got a vast experience and a long history in sport as an athlete, but also as a coach and developing athletes coming through the system. Given that you're working with professional athletes at the top end, but also developing athletes and people entering into sport, how do you go about setting acceptable challenges if you've got multiple athletes in the same group or environment?
Louise Sauvage [00:01:19] Yeah, it can be a bit tough unfortunately. In our sport, there's not a lot of coaches and not a lot of people involved in our sport. So it's a very small community. So we have to be a kind of a jack of all trades to a certain extent. Having my group on a Saturday morning, which is it doesn't hold the really elite guys, it probably has a gamut of, as you said, beginners right up to some athletes that, you know, are knocking on the door, so to speak. And you're training them all together. I think more than anything, we set different goals and different sessions for them, but then we try and work them all together. You have people chase each other, have different goals, set them time goals, set them off, handicap them and that kind of thing on the track and trying to make it fun as well as them getting a lot of a lot out of it and achieving their goals and acquiring the skills. So it can be interesting, but it does give you the full, I suppose, range of your abilities is stretched as a coach to know that you have to deal with every single level.
Cam Tradell [00:02:24] I'm guessing that your experience over time to put a little bit in your in your kit bag with regards to how you service that, knowing that you've got different talent coming through and different abilities coming through. How do you get that mix between people who are really aspirational and wanting to go as far as they can go in the sport? How do you set those goals for those people with regards to achievable milestones, considering that you've got others in there that that are never, ever going to really make that the top level, but are really keen to sort of be there, be part of the community and compete?
Louise Sauvage [00:02:59] Yeah for the guys that obviously show a lot of talent and want to get to the next level, and they're motivated to do that obviously, we have different competitions in different times. Obviously, my sport is worked on on times for different events. So we do set goals within the year and also different competitions that they can go to. You know, that's been a bit hard in the last year or so. But, you know, a lot of my guys compete regularly during the season, so they have goals to compete for, especially when they come to Canberra and go on a nice track. So they really love coming here and they get PB's and it just spurs on when they get home and get back on a slow track. So it's really good. But within the group that I have on a on a Saturday, there are the guys that, you know, possibly won't make that level, but they're definitely there to enjoy the sport and they all mix really well. It's a great community, actually. And, you know, maybe they do or they don't know how far they want to go in the sport. But it doesn't matter even if they decide, you know, a couple of years down the track that ‘I actually do want to have a crack’ well, then, you know, they still there and I'm still there for them to try and help them achieve whatever goals they want to. And not everyone will get to a Paralympic level, but they could get to national level. They could increase their 10K, you know, decrease the sorry, the 10k time. That could be their goal. So it's all relevant for the different athletes. And we try and see that they're individuals that way. You know, just getting around the track for some of the athletes and staying in their lanes is a goal. And some of my guys still struggle to do that. And so it's just it's all relevant to the to the person and the age they're at. And when they started racing.
Cam Tradell [00:04:36] It's incredible the way that you work with that vast range of people. And over time we're talking about, you know, what's in your kit bag. I'd be really interested to know the different ways that you communicate or that you personally as a coach that you've learnt over time to get different messages across.
Louise Sauvage [00:04:53] Obviously, with the elite guys, we do a lot of video analysis, photos, we do a lot of different things to show them what they're doing and how they're doing it and analyse their races and then that kind of thing to try and get them to say also technique physically actually being there with them and showing them. And you talk about the communication styles. It's funny, when I work with the national team and those guys, I seem to have a different level of communication just because they know that I've been there and done that. And they kind of know that. They know that how I know how they're feeling at a crucial moment and what they potentially might need. And they don't have to explain themselves. And it's kind of nice, I think sometimes that you don't have to do that and you get to learn the your athletes as well. And you've got that trust between you as well. So it all comes down to how you communicate, I think, and how you get along with that person. But when with my younger crew, it's just treating them like regular people and asking them questions and a lot of the time. And I can only speak from my experience a lot of time when athletes with disabilities don't always, or people with disabilities sometimes don't get talked to sometimes. Especially the younger kids, their parents are always there or someone's there and they get spoken to in that respect. When I talk to them and I'm asking them about their disability, what they can and can't do, what they can feel to a certain extent and what they can't, they kind of look at me as if to say, ‘oh, no one really asks me’. And it's kind of cool. And I'm not kind of, I don't know. I don't care what your mum's got to say, I want to know what you say and I want to know what you [feel]. And so it's kind of different to be able to talk to them that in that respect, I don't mind if they're six years old. You know, I always say I'm going to change my language, but you know, they're 13 and they're giving me a hard time because I don't know who the Avengers are. So there's lots of things like that. There's different communication levels in that respect. But it's good. It's a good little community. And, you know, it doesn't matter if they know who I am or my history. It's just the way I can relate to all of them. And we have something in common with most of us who will have a disability.
Cam Tradell [00:07:03] That's incredible in the fact that you just sort of brought together a philosophy of coaching, I think that's pretty much across anyone that you've got in front of you is you said that you find out what they can do. And I guess any coach that's standing in front of any group realistically is looking at what can they do, what can they do and what do they need to do and how you co-create a session that's suitable for the people in front of you. I think that's an art in itself. But it sounds like it's really exacerbated here, or highlighted here, because you've got people with the different abilities that it sort of makes you really coach and really innovate. Would you say that's a fair sort of [summation]
Louise Sauvage [00:07:41] Yeah, I think it makes you a better coach. Nothing's stock standard, when you're coaching someone with a disability, you're always finding ways to think outside the square, how to adapt, how to make it work to what it should look like or how it could look like. And even if a child or an adult or teenager says to me, what, I don't think I can do that, well, let's have a crack, you know, let's see what you can do. And, you know, I'll be here, and if it hurts or, you know, you don't think you can do it, then we'll stop. But let's try this. And, you know, and lead by example as well. You know, I often use the other the other kids in the group or adults to use as an example. This is how I get in and out of my chair. This is how I push. These are the gloves I use that you and I have got those or you know, this is where you trying to contact on the rim. You know, I will use my 13-year-old to help my six-year-old. You know, I go around the track and fix their steering, so it's all about, them all teaching the new people and, passing it on like I suppose I do to a certain extent. So it's good. It's really good. You know, how you can communicate between them as well and everyone's equal. It doesn't matter. I mean, I don't care. You come down on a Saturday morning, you're in a race chair, you can have a crack. I don't mind what your disability is and what level you're at.
Cam Tradell [00:08:58] It sounds like your communities of practise, which is an extremely well researched and understood area. So where we're trying to get to with nationalising, coaching and officiating, especially with regards to people having self-awareness, having someone there as a mentor to sort of help them along for people to understand their gaps or where they need help. It sounds like that's really alive and well in your space. I mean, hearing that a 13-year-old's helping out a six year old in something, one that sounds fantastic, just basically building those aspirational mentors and knowing that your aspirations are just there. It's actually the 13-year-old. It's not necessarily someone that you're seeing on TV. I think that's really interesting.
Louise Sauvage [00:09:39] Yeah, I think it's great. I mean, they say the guys, the national guys on TV, I seen them in the Paralympics and things like that. And that is the ultimate, obviously. You know, a lot of my guys come to these able-bodied meets and they see people that they've seen on TV do it and they get excited as well, which is kind of cool. They probably relate to them, but not in the same way. But, you know, we're such a small community. I think it's important that we all share our knowledge and pass it forward and are involved. And I think it's really important for them to feel like they belong as well. It's probably one of the most important things. I mean, most kids in Australia go to their Saturday morning sport or, you know, weekend sport at some stage. And, you know, they can join their local soccer club. They can go and participate. For a lot of kids with disabilities, it's not that simple. It's not that easy. They need specialised equipment or they don't fit in. They can't join in with their brothers and sisters. So for them to come along to their Saturday morning sport is you know, it's important for them to be feel part of that group and know that this is where they belong. They feel comfortable and they can all have a laugh and have new friends and, you know, be comfortable and still have a good time and enjoy their sport and be active and fit and healthy. So it's the same purpose. Yeah, it's a little bit harder sometimes.
Cam Tradell [00:10:52] I think belonging is a great word in that we all want to feel like we belong no matter what the environment is. You said before that coaching is very, very similar. Do people ever come to you for advice or someone who doesn’t have a disability?
Louise Sauvage [00:11:08] To coach someone without a disability? Oh, I don't know how to run. Oh, yeah, but no, I think on a broader spectrum, like I said, coaching is coaching. So where I work, you know, obviously I'm surrounded by another a lot of coaches from different sports and we all learn from each other. And regardless of our sports, regardless of whether it's an able-bodied sport or a sport for athletes with disabilities, it doesn't matter. Coaching is coaching. So I learn lots of things from those coaches and that's how I learn. It doesn't matter whether you're an able-bodied or not, I think that's really relevant. And I've probably learnt a lot from those people and the environment where I where I work more than anything. So, yeah, I think we learn together, you know, from each other. It's great.
Cam Tradell [00:11:55] Do you see that there's that opportunity for people and would there be that opportunity for people to actually come in and coach people with disabilities to improve themselves?
Louise Sauvage [00:12:05] Yeah, absolutely. I think it make you a better coach, like more rounded having to think outside the square, like I said, adaptability. You just learning perhaps you're involved in athletics, but like, it's throwing something, a curveball, which could be, you know, an athlete with a prosthetic leg or an arm. And then you go to coaching a sprinter, but with a difference. And so it does make it I think it's way more interesting and it opens your mind up. And there's not a lot of history that can go back onto a lot of our sports. So you can't go to a book necessarily and look up things. So it makes you think and, you know, some great resources around this country to be able to rely on to help you progress in that way as well. I encourage anyone to come along and experience and get involved and, you know, see what we do and different things. It makes you a better coach. Definitely.
Cam Tradell [00:12:59] I think that's part of the some of the issues that might be here is the barriers to people actually not understanding that and just being fearful of making a mistake. Or what if they slip up? What if they say the wrong thing?
Louise Sauvage [00:13:10] I think people think that a lot. Me personally, I can't speak for all people with disabilities, but I'm definitely of the thing of the you know, I just ask me, you know, no no question is a stupid question. And if it is don't worry I'll probably tell you. But I'm in a nice way. But I think you just ask questions and become involved. You know, you see all the characters that we have, you know, and and how they interact and you know who will welcome you with open arms and yeah. Just come in, ask questions and get involved. Yeah, it's it's a it's a great way to get started and then experience something different.
Cam Tradell [00:13:48] Absolutely. And I think that there's a great opportunity with regards to as you say, it's it can be part of a development phase for people to make them think differently, to help them in whatever path they end up going in their coaching or even in the officiating space where having empathy, understanding setting the environment and then, you know, creating an optimal experience for the people in front of them has to be the ultimate goal for any coach, regardless of who they are coaching or officiating with. Louise, this has been fantastic. A lot to think about, a lot to unpack. And I really appreciate your time with us today.
Louise Sauvage [00:14:24] No worries thank you for having me.
Cam Tradell [00:14:29] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.
Coaching and officiating Rob Dalton
This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. In this episode, we'll be speaking to Rob Dalton, acting CEO of Sport Australia. He is with us to introduce the series and more importantly, the need for a modernised system that supports a connected sports sector. Good afternoon, Rob. How are you going?
Rob Dalton [00:00:46] Thanks, Cam. It's great to be here and thanks for having me. I'm really, really excited about the work that you and your team have done to build this modernised and connected coaching program across the sports sector. And, you know, I'm really passionate about coaching. I spent my life coaching and I think this is just something that we can all leave as a legacy and, you know, really make sport prosper in our country, which is what we really want to do.
Cam Tradell [00:01:16] Now, you've had multiple jobs and experiences through sport. You've got a lot of lenses and a lot of experience. Looking back, why do you see the need for some change?
Rob Dalton [00:01:26] Thanks, Cam. I'll take that. That you're calling me old because I've been around for a while. Look, I think, you know, sport has such a great thing in this country. And I think, you know, if I look at my experiences in sport where we really have just relied on the talent of the individual coach and there's been no there's been no consistency in the content. I know that a lot of sports have tried to do that, but there really is a great need for modernisation and actually get some consistency, which also enables a bespoke program for different sports and different cultures in different states because they are all different. And I think, you know, the real if we can get an outcome where sports are really developing their their coaches, then we're going to get a better experience. We get a better experience. We can impact the churn rate. You know, at the moment we've got 30 percent and 30 percent of our people are playing a game are leaving the game every year. And so that is largely because of the experience and by getting everybody trained in a methodology that can be applied, you know, from a bespoke perspective within each sport, we're going to get a better outcome. We're going to keep more people playing, which is what we're about.
Cam Tradell [00:02:43] How do you think we can best at Sport Australia, provide that consistency that you're talking about to get better outcomes for the broader Australian population?
Rob Dalton [00:02:52] Yeah, I think by working individually with sports, we'll find out the nuances between different sports. I think we've got to have a really effective medium to be able to do that. I think you're well on the way of being able to to make that happen. So having an effective medium where people are going to use it, I think, you know, using the manual approach where you run a roadshow or a workshop and those sorts of things, you can only get so many people to those events. So what we are trying to do is we're trying to make people, you know, those coaches who pass on their their talent and their ideas and their, their techniques to to young participants and hopefully its a chain letter, you know, hopefully they then go and pass it on as well. And we've got a cycle of coaches who want
to become coaches and then, you know, the participants that they coach and goes on and on and on. And I think that that's the lifeblood of sport. That's what we want our community clubs to be doing. And we really rich in it. And there are a lot of barriers at the moment, a lot of challenges for our for our coaches and our participants. They're being dragged away. They don't necessarily see the the value of coaching and coaching and volunteering have such an impact on their lives that they don't know. You know, it's so I think we've got a real opportunity to get some consistency, to give people the idea of what a great coaching session is. And so when our participants, who've got so many different options to go to, you know, whether it be through sport, arts, culture, whatever it is, you know, the emergence of E-sports, you know, we're giving them a great experience, which is teaching them lessons in life, and they want to keep coming back.
Cam Tradell [00:04:33] And again, you talk about that scale, which is so important, and the new learning centre at Sport Australia becoming available and underpinning everything that we're sort of trying to achieve. The getting that consistency of messaging, it's a really important factor is that we've got multiple ways that we can really scale this up.
Rob Dalton [00:04:53] Look, that's really exciting coming from a state sporting background and having coached it at all levels, you know, including including rep level. I think the the really exciting thing is that we can access more people. We've got the technology. I know you know, you and I are currently working on trying to introduce even more technology through virtual reality coaching and being able to use the superstars of our games, you know, of our sports and bringing them to communities and regions. So, you know, we've got to use technology. We've got to get that reach because there are so many other things for people to be able to participate in and we've got to make sport that one that actually has so many positives. So, yeah, the technology and I'm really excited about the learning system, learning management system. I think it is going to enable us to do not only from a coaching in sport, but also from an administration of sport, you know, the officiating of sport. You know, we can get consistency in the way that everything is delivered. And I know I'm and the board and management are really excited about that.
Cam Tradell [00:06:01] What do you see as being the major benefits to the NSOs with regards to what we're doing here at Sport Australia?
Rob Dalton [00:06:08] Yeah, I think the really critical part is that we're engaging with NSOs who then need to engage with our state sporting organisations and enhance our clubs. So this brings a sport closer together. This is critical. This is if we don't get this right, we are going to be overtaken by other things that are that are better experiential for our for our participants. And we're not going to exist. So this does require us all to work together and working with our NSOs to understand, how we can do a better and the nuances of each of the sports. It's going to help us, really deliver quality content. So I'm really looking forward to that. You know, that, you know, we talked a lot about our model within sport being a federated model and the separation. But, you know, we if the the one thing that sport has is that everybody's on the same page and that they want sport to prosper. So this brings us together. We might have some disagreements about what the content is, but then that becomes the bespoke aspect to it. Right. So we can tailor things to get different sports, you know, for participants and for officials
Cam Tradell [00:07:17] Getting down to that coalface delivery and having the hunter is good enough to give up their time to create these really positive experiences. How do you see them benefiting from a more connected sector and more aligned with with us the NSOs, etc?
Rob Dalton [00:07:32] I think there's always an element of doubt when you're coaching. You know, I'm sure you found it as well. You know, you wonder what else someone else is doing. You're always looking over your shoulder and I used to to coach the kids, and I used to think, well, what else can I come up with? You know, the preparation of a game plan or preparation of a of a skills session or whatever it might be. And that puts a lot of onus on on the individual. At least now we've got I can review the the system and and I can look at what other people are doing. And I know that I'm getting best practice. I know that I'm hearing about the best way to run a session. And so that gives me a lot more confidence. And I'm on the right path. And you know, that that validation that that I'm teaching these kids, you know, their future in sport. And let's face it, you know, there's going to be at least one in every team that's going to go on to perhaps play rep. That's a big obligation, you know, to be teaching the wrong thing. So, you know, just having that consistency and bringing the best of the best to the local sport. And I can just focus on, you know, community at a certain age group, and I can just become a real specialist out of that. And that's really exciting.
Cam Tradell [00:08:39] The podcast series coming out. We're really excited about who's on what excites you about what's coming. And I know that you've had a sneaky peek at the at who's on.
Rob Dalton [00:08:47] I have had a sneak peek and I'm sworn to secrecy that I can't actually tell who's on the list. But but wow, you've done a terrific job to get to get these people. And what and what I'm so impressed with is that, you know, the diversity of the sports we've got, you know, they're all amazing individuals and they're all going to bring unique aspects to their success, you know, in both their learning and in their execution. And I think that's a really important thing, being able to get everyone learns differently. You know, I'm a very visual person, so, you know, the theory for me, I'm going to fall asleep and I think everyone's going to bring the different ways that they learn better than than others. So, you know, for me, when I was playing sport, I would go and watch and I would learn from the watching. And, in fact, you know, very quickly I could execute and different people learn in different ways. So, you know, I see them and I see the topics that they've got. And it's terrific because we're going to get a real breadth of aspects of learning and execution. And I'm, you know, well done to you for doing that.
Cam Tradell [00:09:57] Well, thanks very much for joining us this afternoon, Rob. It's been fantastic to have you in here. And as I say, not just from the perspective of your current role, but your roles that you've played in sport and your experiences in sport.
Rob Dalton [00:10:09] Thanks, Cam. And can I congratulate you and your team once again. But can I also say how excited I am about the outcomes of this, and can I also say to everybody, this is a call to arms to to get back to your clubs, you know, to be participants, get back officials, volunteers. We need you. Some great stuff is coming. That's going to help. You even be better. You're going to have a lot of fun and it's really going to help you in your lives. You know, there's some such great benefits out of being volunteers and being in sport. You know, I really encourage everybody to to find out what those benefits are because, you know, certainly in my life, I wouldn't be sitting here now if it wasn't for sport. Thank you.
Cam Tradell [00:10:53] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at email@example.com. My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.
2020 SportAUS Media Awards – Lifetime Achievement Award
This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Mick Earsman It's an absolute pleasure to be sitting alongside one of the great Australian sports broadcasters. To many, his voice is the soundtrack of Australia's greatest triumphs and failures on cricket grounds here and all over the world. In almost half a century of broadcasting with the ABC, he is synonymous with the Australian summer, and now he is the 19th recipient of the Sport Australia Lifetime Achievement Award for Sports Journalism. We're here, we've been welcomed into his lovely home here in Sydney's eastern suburbs, along with his budgies, his pet budgies. Jim Maxwell, congratulations.
Jim Maxwell I'm very sort of surprised, overwhelmed and all of the things that happen when something like this occurs. So, it's Marjorie and Albert, by the way, over there, making the noise in the background. That might add something to the conversation as we go, but, well, thank you very much for the honour and the recognition. And there's a wonderful list of sporting people involved in this over the last 19, 20 years. So, yeah, it's a great honour to be told of this award. Thank you.
Mick Earsman It isn't your first award, clearly, Jim, and it won't be your last. How were you told? How did it come about, this news?
Jim Maxwell Yes, it was a phone call from Steve Moneghetti and we had a very pleasant chat about everything under the sun and then he told me that I was the recipient of this prestigious award.
Mick Earsman Ok, 48 years behind the microphone Jim. Over 300 test matches not out. Did the young Jim Maxwell ever dream that all of this was possible?
Jim Maxwell He had a dream. Maybe it was a fantasy in those days. When I was at school, I had an idea, an inkling that being involved somehow in the game of cricket, other than playing because I wasn't good enough to be playing at that top level, was perhaps achievable. I was writing a cricket magazine in school and I had quizzes and crosswords. I was also a bookmaker, but that's another career that I didn't embark on. And from there, even before I left school, I was applying for a job in the ABC as a trainee and funnily enough, the person who got that job was also at my school and had done his degree at University, a very good all-around sportsman and a lovely fellow who taught me a lot about broadcasting, Peter Meares. So that was the first crack I had at it and it went on from there at various intervals in the next few years before eventually I got in the front door.
Mick Earsman Yeah, you first started as a cadet in 1973 at the ABC but it wasn't all smooth sailing early on, was it? You got rejected a couple of times, was that right?
Jim Maxwell Well 1967, that was an optimistic shot in the dark. I hadn't even done the higher school certificate, but I thought it was worth having a crack. And then I went to uni and I had another go in 1969. And then I worked in life insurance for a while in the brand-new superannuation business that was all about and then I decided, because Tom Spencer, who was working in the same place, played first grade for Manly said “Why don't you come on the Old Collegians tour to England in 1972?” And I did. And it was through that experience and coming back home that my mother had advised me when I returned penniless at the end of spending all my dough there that “I got this cutting out of the paper, that job you were looking for in the ABC has come up again” and that was in September 1972. So the process started again and six months later, after auditions and whatever, I ended up with the job.
Mick Earsman And what was it that actually inspired you in the first place to pursue a career in broadcasting?
Jim Maxwell Cricket commentary. Listening to Alan McGilvray when I was young, particularly those Ashes series, ’61 a bit more, 1964. I used to listen to the cricket because by then I developed a keen interest in playing the game and following it. I used to have stuff stuck all over the bedroom wall. It was a combination of all the newspapers that I could find where I get some photos and scorecards. Cricket and motor racing. I had a lot of motor racing stuff on the wall. I probably had a few other things, but we won’t worry about that. But certainly, a lot of cricket and McGilvray’s voice was unique. There was only one McGilvray and the thing I loved about listening to him talk about the game was that he told you what was happening. All the other guys were colourful, they were lyrical and poetic and whatever, but they didn't give you the nitty gritty and McGilvray always did that. And that was the formative early influence in, as it turned out, my broadcasting career was listening to McGilvray’s silvery voice, confidential style and it had a lasting impact.
I had no idea when I was 14, 15 that I'd be sitting alongside him and sitting behind and listening to him. That was how I learnt more about cricket broadcasting than with anyone else.
Mick Earsman Was it him that shaped the way that you, your approach to cricket commentary?
Jim Maxwell No doubt about it. He didn't give advice very easily, very freely but every now and then he did offer you a crumb and one of them was ‘copy technique, make your own style’. So that's why I used to sit there and watch the game through his eyes and follow the way that he described the action, because cricket, unlike a lot of other more fast-moving sports, gives you pause for reflection. When you've got these rapid fast identification sports, you've got to be on the hammer. Cricket, you can just sit back and relax in between and talk to your kindred spirit next door or mull on what was going on in the crowd or somewhere else. So, it gives you a lot of opportunity to use language and to talk about things other than cricket the more it goes. It wasn't that in the early days you had to concentrate and be disciplined and that was drummed into you that you give the score, describe the field, very formal. And that was the McGilvray style and it was very, very effective. And he had a lot of people listening. As he used to say, a lot of people told me that they love listening to the cricket even though they don't know a damn thing about the game because it's just a friend on the radio, which is the delightful intimacy of radio.
Mick Earsman So, it has been a career in which has spanned the World Series cricket split, the coming of professionalism for cricket. There's been rebel tours, T20 cricket’s come along. You've seen the complete transformation of the game in your time in watching it and covering it. How have you seen the evolution of commentary over that same period?
Jim Maxwell Well, you always like to think things improve and I think for the listeners, I think what they're hearing now is a lot more enjoyable than my memory of it back in those years when it was pretty much inside the church, you know. It was strictly on the game as it was happening. And that's how we were taught. I think perhaps in keeping with the way we lead our lives and enjoy our social discourse, it's loosened up a lot, it's become more conversational. And hopefully we haven't got too far away from the essentials of giving the score on the scoreboard and I don't think as a rule we have on the radio. So, I think it's changed for the best, the games changed too. The players are more athletic and prepared than they were, the games generally more entertaining. And not just the T20 stuff, the frolics, but Test cricket is more combative and challenging and good to watch than perhaps it was in my young days when people were reluctant to take a risk and sat back a bit and waited for something to occur. So, I think the style of commentary has moved with the reshaping of the game. The game has evolved, and let's face it, there are very few sports that are as diverse, as varied, as cricket. When you look through Test match cricket, one-day cricket, T20, T10s around there, are there all sorts of different styles and looks and moods to the game of cricket that very few other sports can replicate. So that's another reason I think cricket is so good.
Mick Earsman There is a lot of variety, but are there rules that you've sort of stuck to throughout your career and that you would sort of preach to any, I guess, young broadcaster coming through the ranks at the moment?
Jim Maxwell Around the essential element of enjoying yourself because if you're enjoying yourself and you're involved in the game that will come across, hopefully in such a positive way for the listeners that they'll want to keep listening to you.
I think you need to have some sense of anticipation of events to keep people interested in what's going on when it gets a bit quiet as cricket can, because it has all these moods. But I think essentially, you know, the respect for the game, for the people who are playing. But the big thing to remember it is, it is a game. So, whenever things get a little bit serious on a particular topic, you always have to come back to that. And that's the good thing about talking to someone who goes off on a tangent on an issue in the game alongside you. The next ball will bring you back and you just keep moving on so that's how you sort of control, do your little bit of editorial in terms of the game.
That's part of recognising the fact that there is an audience out there. Now who’s listening? They're listening in England, yes, in Australia. Where's the audience? So talk to your audience. And remember, there are a lot of people out there who are coming and going. So don't forget the most essential thing, the score! Please don't forget on radio, to give the score! It's the one thing that really gets up my goat when I'm listening to other people and when I'm in the car or somewhere else that every now and then, they lapse into a discussion about this or that and get away from what's going on in the middle and don't give the score. So, yeah, that's my sort of reflection without going too hard on it for all cricket commentators.
Mick Earsman You have also written a stack of cricket books, but only one of those could really be considered the Bible of the Australian summer and that is the ABC Cricket Magazine. Was that your biggest passion project outside of the commentary?
Jim Maxwell Well, I used to buy it, of course, when I was young, two and six, whatever it cost back in those days and Alan McGilvray was the editor after John Moyes. And you also need to remember that this is a magazine that started in the 1930s around the synthetic broadcast as a guide to the broadcast, so it developed, evolved from that into what it's become. And it's probably the longest running cricket publication in Australia so it's got some history and tradition and there are a lot of collectors out there. So, I was doing bits and pieces for McGilvray when I first joined the ABC and then eventually, he passed the baton on and I was lucky enough to pick it up, back in the 80s. And the idea really from there on has been to try and introduce a bit more quality writing in the publication but stick to the basics of having enough statistics in there and pen portraits, the field. That's the one permanent thing the field placing, that's been there forever, we've stuck with that. So, you know, the quality of the production of the magazine it just keeps improving. And I'm very grateful to the ABC and those that have come on board from various organisations outside the ABC to edit and publish it and that it's survived because it's pretty hard as a lot of people out there would know for a magazine like that to survive in a in a market where everyone's online.
Mick Earsman Well, Jim, you've also had the pleasure of working alongside many great cricketers and commentators all over the world. Is there anyone that you've particularly enjoyed working with?
Jim Maxwell Well, Peter, the late Peter Roebuck, I enjoyed his company enormously. I was involved with a few other colleagues and getting him on the ABC many years ago. And he brought some dimension and knowledge, intellect, to cricket broadcasting that we hadn't had before. And the combination at that time of Peter Roebuck and Kerry O'Keeffe's quick wit, observational humour, I think made it one of the most enjoyable periods for me, if not for those who were listening, that the ABC has put out on the radio. So those two would stand out. And on the other side, I've got to say, although he does polarise the audience, Geoffrey Boycott’s been a lot of fun to broadcast with and with Michael Vaughan and then Vic Marks, Mike Silvy going back. We had a lot of fun in that Test match special box with those expert commentators around, obviously, Jonathan Agnew, Henry Blofeld, Chris Martin-Jenkins, a lot of very, very good broadcasters. And I probably I probably learnt more about how to relax as a cricket commentator by working with them, going back to Brian Johnston in the 80s than with it with anyone else.
Mick Earsman You have witnessed all of the highs and lows of Australian cricket over those years. Has it got to the point now where it's impossible for you to pick your most memorable moment in the box?
Jim Maxwell It's interesting, you think back on what Australia has achieved and its achieved an awful lot. And it's one I mean, very successful most of the time through all forms of the game. But funnily enough, it's the close games they've lost that seem to stick in the memory. Games like Edgbaston in 2005 when but for a whisker and a glove down the leg side and the rest of it with Michael Kasprowicz which they probably would have won that game. But as it turned out, it was a very important, significant trigger moment in the history of the Ashes, because with England winning and then winning the Ashes, it put some new life back into the Ashes series with Australia having been so dominant for so long. So that game stands out and there are a number of other very good games of cricket like, as a further example, because Brian Lara is probably the greatest batsman that I've seen, when he got the winning runs in that game in Barbados back in 1999. And they won by one wicket, another game Australia could have won and lost.
Yes, there's been a lot of those over the years, including a couple of ties that were memorable as well. But just watching the quality, the style of Australian cricket through that period out of the 90s into the 2000s, that was the time to be enjoying Australia's success and the quality of Test match cricket as we've not seen before, because of the superb bowling to a large extent of Warne and McGrath no matter what Australia did with the bat and most of the time they did enough with the bat.
Mick Earsman I think you've done very well to pull out those test matches from everything that you've seen. But you have also commentated on some other sports, rugby union, rugby league, golf, hockey. What would be your second choice behind cricket if you were to start your career again today?
Jim Maxwell It's very tough. I can tell you one of the most enjoyable matches, performances I've ever seen and been part of was Australia winning the gold medal in 1996, the Australian Hockeyroos, the women's team and Alyson Annan's performance with the hockey team and that was a stunning effort, that gold medal. So that that sticks in the mind as much as seeing Australia recover from a huge deficit in a rugby union test out of the football stadium against the All Blacks when Jonah Lomu was playing.
Nothing sticks quite as strongly in the mind, though, as calling club rugby on television, particularly down the road here with the eastern suburbs, with the home team, as it were. And probably the only time that I've been able to get a plug in for a sponsor without being in front of the Senate Estimates Committee. Yalumba with the sponsor for eastern suburbs, the late Greg Pullen, lovely fellow, he used to put a bottle of signature or something on the table for us to enjoy during the match. And they were very cold afternoons, you needed some medicine so that was important to have. And I thought to myself on one of these occasions, how on earth do I get a plug in for Yalumba without making it bleeding obvious that it's a commercial? So, we had this play down the right hand side or whatever it was and I said, the ball's gone out on the far side and Bartrop he’s out there and he's taken the pass and he's going to Yalumba in for a try. No one said a thing and Greg Pullen was very happy and Yalumba’s support for eastern suburbs was reinforced.
Mick Earsman You mention the Olympic Games and you have called at three Olympic Games, actually called three Olympic Games. But the most recent one that you called was Rio in 2016. And that's where life took a dramatic turn for you, didn't it, Jim?
Jim Maxwell Well, it did, yes. Luckily, I'm here today and chatting away, well it could have been different, but it was quite strange. We were working very strange hours in order to be on top of the time difference with Rio, we're doing it from most of it from Redfern, although we did have a couple of broadcasters in Rio, Alastair Nicholson and Quentin Hull were over there.
And I was introducing this yachting segment with my friend Peter Shipway who is a very famous Australian yachtsman and as I was about to introduce him, my voice just went. I lost it completely and Tim Gavel, who was in the studio, immediately recognised, even though he wasn't a doctor, that I'd had a stroke and called it, he called the stroke as I had it. And so, yeah, that that wasn't a great moment and the paramedics whipped me off to hospital and I have to say from that moment on, I really wouldn't have made the recovery to where I am now without the support of my wife Jen who has been outstanding. She's been with me on a lot of trips, work and pleasure and just the way she has looked after me and shown that sort of love you have in the relationship has been outstanding. I've been so fortunate so that's been a big part of it all. And remembering if we go back a few years to when we were married, it happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground. So, we've kept everything in perspective over these years.
Mick Earsman Did you ever doubt your ability to make a full return to the commentary box?
Jim Maxwell Oh, yes. Yes, well, in the early stages of it, I was struggling a bit with my speech and I've still got the legacy of a bit of a shaky right side. And I can't hit a golf ball properly at the moment so that needs a bit of work. But look, as they say, always, always look on the bright side. It could have been a lot worse, a lot worse. So, I'm very grateful that I haven't lost my voice and that I have been able to recover and do what I've been doing for such a long time. I mean, as Jen says, well, it's a stroke that keeps on giving.
Mick Earsman You’ve now even called a Boxing Day Test match from your lounge room here, probably that seat that you're sitting in but that wasn't due to your health or anything that you did, that was that was due to Covid-19 restrictions preventing you from travelling to Melbourne. Would that be up there with one of the strangest moments of your career?
Jim Maxwell Yes, it was certainly detached and remote. It wasn't as good as being there, nor was perhaps being at Redfern, where we did a remote call of that thrilling Test match that India played and won so well in Brisbane recently. But look, in all these things and perhaps the experience of being in the subcontinent, where to lose patience is to lose the battle, as has been said by a number of other people, so you adjust, you just have to adjust to whatever you confronted with. Just adjust and get on with it.
Mick Earsman That's fantastic advice. What do you feel has been, you know, the secret behind your longevity?
Jim Maxwell The fact that the ABC has stuck with me as much as I've stuck with them, I suppose, over these years, and I've had the opportunity to do what I've enjoyed. And it seems as though other people have enjoyed it, too. And so, yeah, there's something a little tenacious about it all, but a kind of fulfilment, a sense of enjoyment and the fact that 99 per cent, it seems, of those who are listening are enjoying it has sustained me and the more so having had this stroke and I'm recovering from it.
So just the support of so many people, either in a commentary box, the management level of the ABC and the BBC, but essentially at the end of the day, it's the people who are listening. And that's the best feedback you can get is from the bloke who walks across the road in the middle of nowhere and it's happened to me, fortunately, a few times, “I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed listening to the cricket from England”. And it's moments like that that make you realise that what you're doing is significant and to a lot of people, very important. So, I'm lucky to have been that messenger for so long. And now, I suppose as long as I've still got the voice that I've got at the moment, I might be allowed to continue to do it.
Mick Earsman I was going to ask, how long can you keep doing it, Jim?
Jim Maxwell Who knows? How long's a piece of string and all of that? I think it's the one thing about doing cricket that you can endure for a bit more than fast moving sports. I noticed and I haven't done a game of rugby or rugby league, for that matter, for some time, for a few years. But you need sharp identification and a quick brain to do that stuff. I'm not sure whether I could get away with it because all broadcasters who are listening to this will know that there's an element of bluff in what you do. So, yeah, and maybe as McGilvray said I'm not quoting him directly here, but I'll paraphrase him, he said it's amazing the boloney you can get away with on the radio. So, if it's all baloney, well, then a lot of people are listening to it so there must be some sort of substance to the baloney, I guess. And you just got to keep sticking your neck at all. As I said to my friends, you know that you are in control of what you are doing if you can put your foot in your mouth and then realise how to take it out.
Mick Earsman That’s great,that's really good. So, Jim, a few cricket questions to finish off for me without notice.
Jim Maxwell Is this a quiz?
Mick Earsman It's a quiz. Who is the greatest player you've ever seen?
Jim Maxwell Shane Warne. No doubt. Warne has done more to influence the game of cricket than any other Australian cricketer if not world cricketer since Bradman and is extraordinary, the most extraordinary talent I think we've seen in this era with his ability to rip those leggys and have the variety and the personality to command the stage. And he's not only been a great bowler, but great theatre. And I think he has added more to the spectacle of cricket than anyone else in the last 20 or 30 years.
Mick Earsman There havebeen a number of very successful Australian captains, who's the best of them?
Jim Maxwell That's a very tough question, because I remember Richie Benaud from my youth and he was an inspirational force, so is Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor’s probably up there, close to the top. You need the ability to have the confidence of those are around you for them to believe in you. And you need to have the tactical nous. And I think Mark embraced all of that.
Mick Earsman The scariest bowler you've ever seen.
Jim Maxwell Well, when I was at school, it was a kid called Nigel Agonia who came from Papua New Guinea and he frightened the hell out of everyone because there were no helmets in those days and he was bloody fast. That's a personal experience but sitting back in the commentary box and watching, that's a very good question. I'd say a combination if I put two on the table. Froggie, sorry, a combination of I put two on the table, Jeff Thomson, because no one could see where the ball was coming from with his javelin like action and Patrick Patterson at his best was ferocious, ferocious.
But there have been plenty of fast bowlers who have frightened the tripe out of batsmen. But I reckon Thommo in his peak for the two years before he got injured would have to be the fastest and most frightening bowler the game has seen.
Mick Earsman You will have witnessed hundreds of thousands of innings by any number of batsmen across the globe, is there one of all that really stands out?
Jim Maxwell The one that sticks in my mind because of its significance in the course of the series was Sachin Tendulkar in Chennai against Shane Warne. And he got out, I think a duck in the first innings, caught at slip by Taylor. In the second innings, he took on Warne and out of the rough there was a bit of rough too, I remember he hit this six over midwicket and he stamped his authority on the game and on Warne from there on in this series. And it was a brilliant, brilliant innings and it made a huge difference to the course of that series. So that stands out but goodness, there have been plenty of others, plenty of hours, and Ricky Ponting’s performance in the final of the World Cup in South Africa in 2003 is another that stands out as a glittering example. Certainly in one day cricket, if not all cricket, of a batsman, so dominating the opposition that it helped chalk up a significant victory for Australia.
Mick Earsman What about your favourite cricket ground?
Jim Maxwell I always come back to the SCG because I've watched and done commentary, I mean, actually even played on the ground, fortunately enough, once or twice. The slightly lower level than the stars, but the thing with the SCG is that unlike any other ground in Australia, you have the members, and the ladies stands and in the members stand, you've got those two dressing rooms. Now, those dressing rooms are hallowed places. You can go in there, not just as an Australian player, but as Joe Blow, if you're able to on a tour or whatever, and take a seat where W.G Grace sat at one end of the pavilion or Don Bradman at the other. There's no other cricket ground in Australia that has that special historical significance that the SCG has, so that's why to me it is the number one ground in Australia, probably the world, but Lords is certainly special too. But the SCG, that's the home of cricket.
Mick Earsman This is probably going to be the hardest one to answer for you, but who is the best cricket commentator?
Jim Maxwell Alive or dead is the riposte to that goes. Well McGilvray was the best on radio and Richie Benaud was the best on television. I mean after that, there are a lot of very good commentators, my colleague from England, Jonathan Agnew, and we're very fortunate in the ABC to have a number of excellent commentators. And, yeah, I think it's a bit hard to define.
And the person whose company I've enjoyed enormously when we've had the chance to work together is Harsha Bhogle from India as an all-rounder and is that without peer, whether he's talking about the game or the influence of the game on our society, Harsha is number one. And you know, in the same breath I talked about Roebuck and O’Keeffe, my old pal Mike Coward, a wonderful person to have talking about the game of cricket with his passion and knowledge of the game. So it's a strong list and at the same time, as I say that, I think without doubt the best all round sports commentator, who was excellent on the radio and is just as good on TV is my old pal from Melbourne Tim Lane.
Mick Earsman Last question for you Jim. Why is cricket better on the radio than it is on television?
Jim Maxwell Because it's kind of seamless on radio, right, and you don't have to be concentrating on a screen to follow it and you can enjoy the lyricism of the commentator’s diction, description of the game. And that's more and more the case in this country, it seems, with people in the middle of summer who were out and about in a car, on a harvester, in a truck, on the beach. They need the radio and it's very soothing, gratifying and quite intimate, too, to have this person talking to you about the unfolding drama of an unscripted drama that's taking place. So it's just so much more fun than TV, which is Brian Johnston said years ago, television commentary, there's a bus coming down the road. What am I going to say? Oh, there's a bus coming down the road. So that's why radio is so good. It takes you to a place that you're not at, so to speak.
Mick Earsman Well Jim Maxwell, congratulations on being the latest recipient of the Sport Australia Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Journalism and thanks for welcoming us today in your lovely home. It's been a real honour.
Jim Maxwell Well, thank you for listening. And I say that to you, Michael, and to everyone. And I hope that you enjoy the continuation of listening to cricket on the radio and one of the unique sounds in the world.
Sport Governance Principles - The Game Is Changing
This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Kate Corkery Hello and welcome to the Sport Governance Podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I am am the Director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will take a deep dibve into the sport governance principles and how they come to life in practice. Each podcast will focus on an individual principle with a special guest joining me to share their experiences and practical advice with respect to that principle.
Kate Corkery In today's episode, we are focusing on the final section of the sport governance principles - The Game is Changing, contemporary and stable governance structures. This section highlights that structure is an enabler for supporting the way national and state sporting organisations collaborate. How they share strategies, streamline administration, achieve consistent constitutions governing structures and behaviours which in turn decrease complexity and increase agility. Sports can achieve their purpose and deliver timely responses to market needs. Joining me today is James Sutherland, current CEO of Golf Australia. James has a long and distinguished career in the sport industry, having previously been the CEO of Cricket Australia from 2001 to 2018. He currently sits on the board of cricket's T20 World Cup 2022. The AFL's Geelong Football Club. The Advisory Council to Sport Integrity Australia and is a member of the Champions of Change Coalition. Welcome, James, and thank you for joining me.
James Sutherland Pleasure. Good to join you, Kate.
Kate Corkery Well, this is certainly a topic full of opportunity and challenge and I'm really looking forward to getting a sense of your experience over this podcast. But I did want to start with some context. There is increasing evidence that the historical structural model for sport lacks agility. It doesn't meet the needs of our changing community and the the expectation of participants, spectators, partners and other consumers. As a result, the position of traditional sport in Australian culture is being challenged, particularly by recreational activities but also the rise of the Internet and on-demand consumerism. More than ever, Australians are choosing non sport options for their physical activity. In that context what is your experience in terms of modern Australia's expectations of sport and how those expectations changing?
James Sutherland Well, I think for a start, the expectations are high and they're only getting higher. I think from that perspective, I meant to drill down on that a little bit there's an increasing focus on the belief that sport should be providing opportunities. Opportunities for the broader community and serving the broader community and issues around fairness and equality, for example, are things that are pervading and expected perhaps far more than more than they were. I think there's also an element that comes with that. With that opportunity, opportunities to play, opportunities to succeed - as in to get better and be supported by coaching, but then opportunities to thrive as well at a performance level. So going into that high performance. Those expectations are there and they're getting higher all the time. And with it I think, comes an expectation around the administration of the game that the public just expects sport to get that right. Don't bother us with all of that detail about the administration. You just have got to get your stuff sorted and get it done. And to some extent, that's an unreasonable expectation because not all sports are resourced as well as the big ones that generate revenue from media rights and what have you. But it still comes back to that core challenge and something that pervades and, as I say, come back to the question - there's an expectation that is only getting higher.
Kate Corkery So we end up talking about modern and contemporary governance structures, and that means changing. In your experience, why is it so challenging to achieve these structural changes?
James Sutherland Well, first, whenever I've faced challenges with change, I've always resorted to a quote that I like that is attributed to Robert Kennedy, who was a US senator and obviously part of the Kennedy clan. He said "progress is a nice word, but change is its motivator and change has its enemies". And I think that you can get caught up in the word "change". But really what he highlights there is that it's actually about progress. It's actually about getting better. And we all sort of like to think that we've all got our eyes on continuous improvement and how our sport can get better. But it does involve change and for various reasons, lots of reasons which you were alluding to in the question. There are obstacles to change that are obstacles to progress. And I think it's a really important and fundamental starting point when you consider how you try to progress and the great dreams that you may have for your sport to think about the involvement of change and how you can bring people along with you. And perhaps we can take this conversation a little bit further into those reasons why there might be obstacles.
Kate Corkery I guess one of those obstacles is the traditional federated system of governing sport in Australia, which has not changed or using your language has not progressed significantly in over 100 years - is embedded within our Australian sporting organisations. So that takes us to our current sport leaders and our future sport leaders and I mean at all levels of sport - clubs, state, national, what do we need to continue to progress?
James Sutherland You know, I mean, we've seen, you know, the way that we're governed, not just in sport, but, you know, in political life and what have you. We've seen that every day. We're still very much operating within a federal structure. And there's been a great in the last 12 months, you know, with the pandemic, a great illustration of we've resorted back to federation and the power of states. And it's never been more apparent in the last 12 months than any time in the last decade or so how that all works. And some of that sort of rises to the surface in sport, as we know on a pretty regular basis. There is a lot of history and people in Australian sport have a great awareness, you know, people who are playing roles as servants of the sport, either as volunteers or as paid employees they have a line of sight and never really lose sight of where they've come from and who their constituents are. And that in itself can be a significant barrier to progress and change. But nonetheless, we bring ourselves together for the sake of the sport and we try to bring that forward. And I think the other thing with that is, you know, the bigger picture being a part of the bigger picture and growth of the sport and the performances at international level and the way in which the sport appeals to spectators and fans and what have you is something that can galvanise people and people can get behind.
Kate Corkery One of the things about structural change is it is about people. It's led by people. It's championed by people. It's sort of to a certain extent, stopped by people. It's not easy and it's not quick. And we've experienced in sport that it shouldn't just be any one party in isolation that is in charge of or responsible for accountable for the change. It requires the commitment of national sporting organisations and state sporting organisations to achieve that common purpose of strengthening, as you say, the whole sport. What lessons have you learnt through being involved in structural change processes?
James Sutherland I think I mean, my feeling around this is it's really important for a sport to have a clear vision and purpose as to why it exists and to get the stakeholders to agree on that common ground. I remember in cricket, we had a vision statement, which everyone sort of had a line of sight to, which was 'Australia's favourite sport and a sport for all Australians'. And so whatever you did in the sport, wherever you were in the hierarchy or the structure and wherever you were geographically, you still had a line of sight back to that. And in golf today, we you know, we talk all the time about more Australians playing more golf. If that happens and we're all responsible for growing the game and those opportunities everyone in the industry is a beneficiary of that. And I think that goes to the point of common ground and finding that, you know, realising that we have a lot more things in common about the success and how the sport thrives than we do in opposition as we work through change. And I remember when we were working in cricket, we had Pippa Grange, who you may know Kate is, I think, a behavioural psychologist and a bit of an expert in sports culture. But she was doing a workshop, I remember, with our management team, Cricket Australia management team and state CEOs one day and she just said off the cuff, we all love cricket, don't we? And we all want it to be great. So let's talk about that. And I think these sort of conversations perhaps aren't had enough or not, at least at the front end of difficult transformational projects and change. Let's talk about why we want our sport to be great and talk about what its potential is and then get into the detail of what the obstacles are. Think about what does success look like and then work through a process of how we get there.
Kate Corkery Quite often I'm asked and I'm sure you're probably asked, Is there a single right governance structure?
James Sutherland Many may think there is, but my personal view is no. And I also think with that comes the comment and qualification Kate that I think it's a journey. I mean, this whole thing about governance and the administration of sport and how we improve is a journey. There's no end point in this. And there's a constant, you know, oscillation to try to find an equilibrium that works for all of the stakeholders because our whole community is changing all the time. The environment is changing. Our competitor relationships are changing. And and so to that end, we need to continue to adapt and we need to continue to keep a line of sight to, this is where these vision statements and purpose statements come in, to continue to I guess look at that light on the hill and keep finding that sort of sometimes windy road to success so that the sport can thrive.
Kate Corkery And you keep coming back to that common purpose and vision, once you've got that line of sight and you've got that lighthouse on the top of the hill, having the ability to prepare a national picture on a range of functions for sport is really considered to be at the forefront as an outcome of good governance and reflective of a strong, united sport. Have you experienced this done well?
James Sutherland Well, I'd like to think that in cricket we went through some significant transformational change in cricket. I think one of my learnings from that was you go through that process and you think that when you get to the constitutional reform and everyone votes at a general meeting to change the way that we're governed, that you're there and you've arrived and there's a new almost a new dawn. But it doesn't work like that at all. What happens in that process is that - golf is going through that at the moment where we are bringing our states together under a One Golf banner. People take when they when they do subscribe to constitutional reform, members take a leap of faith. They are believing in something that has been put forward largely in concept. And to that end, it still needs to be proven and it needs to be proven every day. You need to build confidence. You need systems of reporting lines and communication. That is really important. I think back to my time in cricket. One of the things I inherited was a trial integration with Women's Cricket Australia and what was then the Australian Cricket Board. So that's only 20 years ago. But women's cricket in Australia was separately run, had its own board, completely separate company and Australian Cricket Board, which was largely the male side of the game, was the same. And one of the things with that I learnt was that this trial integration, which was a two year period which women's cricket was actually chaired by former Governor General Dame Quentin Bryce. But her leadership in that process was incredible. And so her confidence and belief but also she brought the stakeholders on the women's side along who were quite, I guess in some ways sceptical about it. But they believed in the integration, the trial integration proved the leap of faith. And I'd say reflecting on what's happened in the 18 years since, you know, the women's game in Australia has significantly thrived under that since that merger took place.
Kate Corkery Oh, look, it certainly certainly has. And I mean, I was present at the final of the Women's T20 World Cup in Melbourne in March of last year of 2020. And being in that environment, it's very obvious that when you look at the stewardship and the leadership and those leaps of faith, as you describe them, just how extraordinary they can be in terms of impact. And I guess that sort of leads me to a question around opportunity. I mean, you've given us a live opportunity there of what can happen when sport adopts contemporary governance structures and has that leadership, which is really infinite in its vision. What are the other opportunities you've seen arise out of contemporary governance structures?
James Sutherland One of the things that I've always felt is that under a more contemporary governance structure, you end up fishing in a much deeper pond or a deeper sea. There has been a tendency, I guess, in the past for sports to give roles and important roles in the governance of the game to people that have served for a long time. And people and it's almost a tour of duty and at the end of that, there's the reward of being on the national board or something like that. But if that's, you know, that's the sole qualification or criterion by which people get there, then clearly the talent is going to be somewhat limited. Now, that's not to say you don't want people that have vast experience in the game on your board. Absolutely you do. But at the same time, you need a balance of skills and a different sort of demographic. And that's where I think one of the benefits in these modern governance principles, we see sports now being able to choose from a much broader and diverse sectors of the population. And, you know, one of the things I say is that you don't even need to be passionate about the individual sport, because I think that diversity of opinion and view can be quite significant in helping the sport to progress. Because I think one of the real keys for sport today, amongst the various challenges of competition, not just from traditional sports, but as you pointed out in your intro Kate, from all sorts of other leisure pursuits. How do we make ourselves relevant, continue to be relevant in modern day society? And I think that's the big challenge for Australian sports. And if all we're doing is having a conversation amongst people that are rusted on passionate fans of that particular sport, then the conversation is going to go round and round. We're not really going to bring some new thoughts to the table.
Kate Corkery I think we'll leave it and challenge those who are listening to this podcast series to ask their boards and their colleagues and their committee's that exact question. How is it that we remain relevant in modern Australian sport? James, thank you so much for your insights on this challenging and important topic and appreciate your time.
James Sutherland Pleasure, Kate. No problem at all.
Kate Corkery If you'd like to access a copy of the sport governance principles, you'll find them at the SportAUS website - sportaus.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback of questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance series.
Sport Governance Principles - The Scorecard
This is a Sport Australia podcast production.
Kate Corkery: Hello and welcome to the Sport Governance Podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I am the Director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will take a deep dive into the sport governance principles and how they come to life in practice. Each podcast will focus on an individual principle with a special guest joining me to share their experiences and practical advice with respect to that principle.
In today’s episode we are focusing on Principle 4 – The Players. A diverse board to enable considered decision making. Principle 4 highlights that a board should be a diverse group of people who collectively provide different perspectives and experience to facilitate more considered decision making.
We are privileged to be joined by Pippa Downes to discuss this critical principle. Pippa has over 25 years experience in global financial services in Australia, Asia and the US. Pippa was a managing director of Goldman Sachs in Australia for over six years. Pippa is a commissioner of the Australian Sports Commission and is a director of Australian Technology Innovators ZIP Co., ALE Property Group and Ingenia Communities Ltd. Pippa is a former director of Swimming Australia and Sydney Olympic Park. Pippa is also a dual international athlete, having swum for Australia and represented Hong Kong in the rugby sevens. Hello, Pippa and thank you for joining me to discuss this significantly important principle that underpins good governance.
Pippa Downes: Thanks, Kate. I'm delighted to be with you today.
Kate Corkery: So let's start with benefits. What are the benefits of diversity to a board?
Pippa Downes: Well, look, I think the research is very clear that when you have a diverse board, better decisions are made and you're less likely to miss things. So, you know, then if you have a group of like minded individuals and the role of the board is so critical in setting the strategy and for an organisation that you really can't afford to have a sub-optimal board. So a diverse group of people is really the only way to go.
Kate Corkery: And when we talk about sport, quite often matters relating to conflict of interests come up in terms of diversity. How is that played out for you?
Pippa Downes: It's very interesting, right? I mean, when you're on a board, you have a duty to the organisation to do the right thing. And I think what I've sort of encountered through some of my dealings with sports governance is people come onto the board and they come with their little patch that they feel like they're representing. But when you come onto a board, you need to leave that at the door because you're trying to represent the sport as a whole. And I think sometimes people miss that they have a fiduciary duty to the whole sport and the whole organisation, and they're not in there batting for their little patch. So everybody has to be doing what is in the collective best interests of the sport, not what perhaps they're, you know, where they came from. So if they're a coach, for example, if they're a high performance athlete, you've got to look at the big picture when you're on a board. And I think sometimes people don't quite understand that. And I think, you know, there are conflicts that arise. I've seen it myself. And sometimes that comes because people don't understand the duties of a director. To act in the best interests of the whole organisation. But I think that comes through education. And I think, you know, I think increasingly people do understand what a conflict is. And if it sort of smells like it, something might not be right, there's probably a pretty good chance there's a conflict going on.
Kate Corkery: We have conversations about the importance of elected directors and the importance of appointed directors. How does this inter-relate with a principle around diversity?
Pippa Downes: I think one of the lessons that I certainly learnt when I was on the board of Swimming Australia, one of the problems we had with the Federated Models is that the elected directors, like any politician frankly, I think there's a reason why elected politicians generally are continually rate quite low in the public's perception of them, rightly or wrongly. Because they are seen to be making short term decisions for the electoral cycle. I think, you know what I certainly witnessed in the swimming world when I was on the board many years ago, is that some of the directors were scared to make some of the the right decisions because they were worried about being elected. And that's the beauty of the independent directors who can come in. Often times they may or may not like obviously I was very involved in swimming but I hadn't been around the sport for 20 years. So I was able to come in with a very fresh perspective. I hadn't been involved, so I didn't have sort of a preconceived notion about what the right ideas were for the sport. I think what you can find, the people that been involved in the sport for so, so long, they sometimes may lose the perspective. I mean, the world's rapidly changing and sports also need to adapt. Like companies have to adapt. If you don't adapt, you die and you end up out of business. And unfortunately, sports are in the same way. I mean, we've seen it this year with COVID just how quickly we've seen the professional sports having to lay off people and adapt their operating models. So you need to be able to do that. You need to have a fresh perspective. Independent directors have that ability because they don't have to face the members, I guess, for a certain period, which gives it a little bit of flexibility to be able to sort of make those long term decisions that may not be popular but, you know, as we know, sometimes you do need to make decisions that might not be popular in the short term but there are obviously the best interests of the sport in the long term. I think a lot of sports are learning, just in the last nine months with COVID, that sometimes you've got to make some tough decisions to keep the sport liquid. You know, when when sport stopped and membership fees didn't come in. You know, it's been a very tough time for sports. Volunteers haven't been engaged and that forces, you know, decisions and strategic decisions that the board have to make. That sometimes, perhaps some parts of the sport may not be happy with but ultimately, the board has to make the best long term decisions that are in the long term interests of the sport.
Kate Corkery: Indeed, and I've certainly had many discussions with directors over the last six or nine months about the fact that they came on to a sport board because they wanted to see it thrive. They never expected that they would be in conversations about it collapsing. And that's certainly been a bit of a reality check for a lot of our directors on sport boards over last six months. What attributes create diversity on a board?
Pippa Downes: Diversity comes in many different forms but ultimately, I think you need people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives for a start. I think you need people with diverse experiences, a life experience and sport experience. So, for example I don't think it's valuable to necessarily have, for example on a rugby board have 10 guys that used to play rugby because, you know, let's face it, they're going to have a quite similar perspective. So I think, you know, having very different perspectives is valuable. I think having diverse backgrounds is very valuable. So, for example, you know, if I think of say some about the sport of cricket, you know, it's a very popular sport in some of the southern Asian parts for the Australian community. And, you know, if you're thinking about participation, you know, it would be wise to want to have the viewpoint of some of the people from that community, I would think. And you obviously need diverse skill sets both educationally and what you bring to the table, because, as you know, different boards at different times need different skills. But you need the greatest amount of perspective to make sure you don't miss anything. And that's the beauty of a diverse board. And you can have robust discussions with everybody asking different things. And, you know, sometimes it's great to have people that have a completely different perspective, because I think what happens if you've got people, too many people that have got the same perspective, sometimes the big questions don't get asked the sort of 'elephant in the room' type questions or the dumb question, which somebody who's not as close to it might say, well no actually, why are we even doing that, which might be for people that have been too close to it, perhaps for many, many years and are very entrenched in their views, might not be able to see. And that's why it really helps to have a whole lot of different people attacking a problem from different angles.
Kate Corkery: So if you're looking for these different people, you're out there, you've got a board, you recognise you need to diversify the directors either for age or gender or cultural and linguistic background, how do you go about doing that?
Pippa Downes: Well, look I think for all boards to be effective, they need to really understand at any given point what their big challenges are and what the sort of basic skills that they need to be a high performing board. And so, you know, I think it's a given that you probably need people that are financially literate particularly sports are in some challenging times financially. So financial expertise is almost a given. But depending on where the sport is in its lifecycle, the particular challenges they're facing, you may want to beef up your skill sets in particular areas. So, as I said, if there's financial difficulties, having some accountants or experts helping you navigate that or beefing up in that area might be wise. If a sport is desperate for looking for a sponsor and trying to raise its profile, because at the end of the day, it's a dog eat dog world out there in the sports world trying to compete for dollars. So maybe you might want to get some marketing people with some of that skill to sort of assist the management teams to do that. So the board isn't there to do the job of management but it's certainly able to counsel and advise. You might have, you know if you're going through tough times, you've got to look at how the organisation needs to change in a tough environment, having people that are management consultants or people with HR backgrounds might be able to assist. Technology is obviously a very big one. So I think increasingly sports need to compete and connect with their members and technology is the enabler in that space so having somebody with that background. But I think really you need to have a skills matrix set up to make sure you know what you've got. Look at the you know, look at the people you've got on the board or work out where your holes are and that's absolutely critical to make sure, again, that you don't miss stuff because a diverse board needs to be able to cover all its bases, or at least if they don't have it, know that they don't have it may be able to bring somebody in from the outside to assist on some of the more tricky issues that they're facing.
Kate Corkery: Absolutely. And you have the board skills matrix to identify all those gaps in terms of skill and personal qualities on the board. You then find yourself in a position where you've got a nominations committee to oversee the election and appointment of directors. Talk to me about the change in the sophistication impact of nominations committees in sport over the past couple of years.
Pippa Downes: Yeah, look, I think there's been some really good work that's been done in sports like tennis that have really tried to sort of, I guess have that lens about what the board really needs. What the sport really needs. And in a sort of almost a dispassionate way to say listen right now we need skills A, B and C. And so really, if we're filling some spots on the board, this is our immediate need in the next one to two to three years that we really need to beef up our skills in that area. And that way they can look at the candidates that are coming through and sort of almost sort of vet them to say look these people can add that value to the board because we're always trying to enhance the quality of the board by beefing up the skills. I mean, that's how I mean, it's like an athlete and if an athlete wants to be successful, they've got to train hard. They've got to cover all their bases. If they've got a weakness, they've got to work on it. And that's how you excel. And that's how our athletes are high performance athletes. That's how our coaches learn. And boards have to do the same thing to understand where they're a little bit weak, how they can fill the gaps to, you know, be able to assist the greater sport moving forward.
Kate Corkery: And is it important that the voting members understand the value and the importance of the nominations committee process in terms of ensuring ultimately as the people with the power of the vote, the candidates who are not suitable for the needs of the diversity of the board at any time?
Pippa Downes: Well, look, I think it's absolutely important to connect with your members. I mean, you know, sports are run for the members. And there has to be absolute transparency but for the boards and the members to understand the process and why the boards are doing what they're doing. And I think the minute you know boards are not clear about what they're doing or the boards are not listening to their members or even, you know, there's a lot of governance reform going on now where the members you know frankly, sometimes they don't even have a say. And I think that's problematic. So ultimately the boards are there to help the sports and its members, not the other way around. So it's critical that the members understand the process, why it's happening, be absolutely transparent about the skills that they're looking for at the time so they can understand the appointments or they can understand the type of candidates that have been put forward to them to vote for. And ultimately it's the responsibility of the chair and the board to make sure that is transparent to their members so there's no backlash through that process.
Kate Corkery: You've just mentioned the chair and the chair is another position on the board which modern good governance has sort of adapted in terms of its appointment over recent years. And one of the key good governance concepts now is around the board appointing or electing the chair from amongst the directors. Why is that so important?
Pippa Downes: That's absolutely critical. I mean, the chair is apart from the CEO of the organisation, the chair is the most important person. You know, they are ultimately the conduit between the board and the management team and the CEO and they are the ones that run the meetings and optimise the discussion and the strategy coming out of that board. And it's a skill. I mean, being a good chair is a skill and a good chair will ensure that everybody around the table gets heard that they don't impose their own views on the room and that they're listening to everybody. And that's, you know, when you have a diverse board, which is what we need to be successful, a good chair is very skilled at doing that. Now, I have experience absolutely the opposite and sometimes I know when I was on the board of swimming there was a member elected chair. Now, sometimes that just doesn't work. I mean, you really know the directors and know who is the person that probably is best placed to have that integrity to run the board meetings and to optimise the work of the board and I think it's absolutely critical that the directors are the ones that nominate that because the members they don't have that, if the members elect their directors, they need to have that trust that the directors can choose who it is appropriate to run that and do that optimally.
Kate Corkery: One of the key issues that we faced in good governance, not just in a sports sector but across the corporate sector, the not for profit sector, is women on boards and they are obviously a fundamental input into good decision making in terms of diversity. In 2015, Sport Australia applied a target of women NSO boards and that target was 40 per cent representation and despite that target being in place now for five years, we're still not hitting it. And in fact, worse than that for the 68 funded national sporting organisations, the gender balance is actually only 34 per cent and has declined by one per cent over the past four years and only 18 of our chairs are female which is 26 per cent. Why do you think that is?
Pippa Downes: Well look I think historically, you can't get away from the fact that sport and most businesses have been run by men. But things have changed radically in the last few years, particularly in sport, with the participation of women. So it's obviously critical you're not going to have a diverse board making good decisions if half the population are missing from the seat at the table. So I think, I don't know but there's still a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately I think some people are involved in boards, you know some people love their sports, everybody loves their sports. You'd hope that they're involved for the right reasons. But sometimes people want to be with people that they're comfortable and familiar with. Perhaps they don't know the women some of these boards are very political, as we know, unfortunately and sometimes people lose sight of why they're there and the purpose of the board and whose interests they should be looking out for which of course is the best interests of the sport as a whole. And maybe some women get a bit sick of it or they're not as interested in the politics because they want to work more collaboratively and, you know, sometimes people end up being a bit too close to the sport. And I've seen that. I've got firsthand experience of people who I'm sure anybody on a sporting board knows where people are in it, potentially not for the good of the sport, but for power or whatever reason, or they're just you know, they're so they're so close to it sometimes that they lose sight of why they're there and perhaps people sort of who are there for the good of the sport, you know, get disheartened and I know I certainly know that was sort of my experience a few years ago at Swimming Australia and others but it's so critical for the sports that we get as many people involved from as diverse range from the volunteers, to the coaches, to the participants. I think re-engaging with the alumni of the sport and ex athletes once they've, you know, been a successful athlete, often go on to have a different career and then they come back to the sport or maybe their kids start playing the sport. And I think having those people that have the love of the sport at their heart, maybe they're not as attached because they haven't been involved in sort of the day to day politics for the last sort of like 10 or 20 years. And, you know, sometimes people don't appreciate sometimes it's time to walk away. You know, you've got to let other people have a go. People can, all of us get very attached to our views and that's human nature. So sometimes I think it's important that people step away from the sports to give other people go, to get fresh perspectives on how the sport should be run. And you shouldn't have entrenched people running sports forever and a day because I think unfortunately sometimes they sort of lose sight of why they're there and moving forward and that's why you always have to have diverse, fresh thinking to make sure you're always looking forward about how to adapt into the new world.
Kate Corkery: So you've highlighted there the ways we can promote vacancies to actively seek diversity of directors. You've spoken about re-engaging with alumni of the sport, using networks, not being afraid to reach into professional community organisations and businesses. The other opportunity that there is and highlighting this for our listeners is Sport Australia actually has a national Director Register. You can register your interest to be on sport boards in Australia and when sport board positions are advertised, we push that out to those who fit the criteria on our register and that's a really great opportunity for us to identify and communicate with people who are interested in being on sport boards and feel like they've got a particular skill set or capability to offer.
Pippa Downes: Absolutely you think about how many participants in sport, who loves sports, who go off and, you know, enter into whatever career they choose, who have got a lot of knowledge, a lot of passion, who want to funnel that into the sport just because they love it, like me swimming gave me a great opportunity to travel to get a college education in the US so I want to give back to the sport and there's you know, hundreds of thousands of other athletes similar to me or perhaps their kids are playing a sport and they want to make sure that that sport is well-run. They can see things that probably need to change from their perspective. And they may have a very different perspective from a participation perspective watching their kids than sort of an elite high performance lens and, you know for sport to be firing on all cylinders, you've got to get the pathways right, you've got to get the participation right, you've got to get the elite and that's why having a diverse perspective and lots of different people who are looking at the sport from different angles is the way you make sure you don't miss anything and it's thriving.
Kate Corkery: Pippa, thank you so much for joining me on our SportAUS podcast, exploring Principle 4 -The Players.
Pippa Downes: My pleasure. Kate.
Kate Corkery: If you'd like to access a copy of the Sport Governance Principles, you'll find them at the SportAUS website sportaus.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback or questions, please email us at email@example.com. My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance Series.