Sport is the lifeblood of happy, healthy and safe communities. It is fantastic news that community sport is returning and clubs are adapting to the new landscape that COVID-19 brings. Many clubs have already done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to ready themselves for a safe return to play.

GippSport staff too have been working behind the scenes and having regular conversations with a wide array of sports club over recent months, the rich information we have gained during these conversations will continue to inform the support that we offer clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Something we have regularly heard from our members, through our discussions, was a feeling of ‘pressure’ to return to play. Regardless of whether your club chooses to return to play soon or not, what’s important to consider is what is actually driving your club’s decision? Is the driving force financial or welfare-based? Is a return to play the best decision for your club, members and volunteers? Have you frankly and realistically looked at what steps and protocols are now required of your players and volunteers?

REMINDER:
GippSport is here to provide support to you and your club. You can visit our website for the latest up to date information, or email us at 
covid19@gippsport.com.au with any questions or concerns you may have and one of our friendly team will contact you as soon as they can.

A Return to Sport - Have you Asked?

Do you have an accurate, thorough and current understanding of how your players, members and volunteers feel about returning to play? We encourage you to ask and to ask often. Some clubs have done this well through Facebook polls, anonymous Survey Monkey links or via regular empathetic conversations with their members. What are their concerns? What are their expectations? What would they like to see from the club before they return? What do they need to feel comfortable?

It hopefully goes without saying that no-one should feel pressured to return to play. We are all experiencing the pandemic in individual and personal ways. Have you reached out to your club’s most vulnerable? What about your club volunteers? How do they feel about a return to competition or training? What concerns do they have? Has their capacity to volunteer changed now that they have a greater understanding of the increased workload? Do they require more information before they can make their decision?

Likewise, for winter clubs who may be feeling the pressure to get something happening soon, it’s important to consider that the feedback you received towards the start of the winter season, may no longer be current. The importance of regular communication with your players and volunteers has only been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you would like further support to help make an informed decision about whether returning to play is right for your club community, please contact GippSport via the following email address: covid19@gippsport.com.au and one of our staff members will be in touch.

The Role of the COVID-19 Safety Coordinator

All sporting clubs who decide to return to play should be appointing one or more COVID-19 Safety Coordinators. This, in itself, may pose a challenge. Volunteers can already be very difficult to recruit and this role, in particular, comes with considerable responsibility and potential legal liability.

As a minimum, Safety Coordinators are required to complete the relevant ‘Return to Sport Checklists’, oversee the development and implementation of the club’s ‘COVID-19 Safety Plan’, periodically review its effectiveness, advise the club committee/board accordingly and act as the club contact point for all return to sport and COVID-19 safety enquiries. The realities of implementing the ‘COVID-19 Safety Plan’ will require this club volunteer/s to regularly assess, monitor and essentially ensure compliance with hygiene protocols and behaviours. This will be no small feat. Further information about the roles and responsibilities of the COVID-19 Safety Coordinator can be found in Sport Australia’s Return to Sport Toolkit https://www.sportaus.gov.au/return-to-sport

It is vital that the volunteer/s who take on the role of COVID-19 Safety Coordinator do so with a sound understanding of what is required of them, the extra work they are agreeing to and the inherent liability they may well be exposing themselves to. Neither is it of no small consequence that committee members may be exposing themselves to liability if they cannot show due care and diligence in the selection of a suitably skilled and capable volunteer to undertake the role, should negligence occur. It is therefore crucial that appropriate consideration is given to whether the right person for the role is in the role and equally that the volunteer/s who agrees to take on this responsibility does so freely without feeling pressured. Further reading about legal liability and your COVID-19 Safety Coordinator can be found here http://www.playbytherules.net.au/resources/articles/legal-liability-and-your-covid19-safety-officer