The Contribution of Sport and Recreation to Community Wellbeing

Unfortunately the contribution that sport and recreation makes to our community wellbeing is often overlooked by our influential decision makers. VicHealth recently funded the Centre for Sport and Social impact at Latrobe University to undertake a survey to identify the nature of the relationship between individual’s involvement in sport and perceptions of social inclusion and connectedness.

The results are very interesting and one of the questions asked was: “why do people join sporting clubs?” According to the report entitled “Social Glue”, there are four categories of people who join sport and recreation organizations:

THE PLAYER joins to play the sport or participate in the active recreation pursuit that they love and is most interested in what they can get out of the club in terms of sporting experience. The player could be focused on the competitive element of the sport and is prepared to move clubs on the basis of better opportunities, better chance of success or in some cases, better financial remuneration. The player is not interested in the social networks and connections that membership gives them access to, beyond a brief  acquaintance with their team -mates.

THE SOCIALISER joins to socialize with others and to make friends. The sporting experience is important, but only so far as the sport appeals to them as one of a range of possible activities that they might have chosen. The physical activity that the sport provides is a bonus, but their primary goal in joining the club is to meet people. The Socialiser might have a small friendship group, have recently retired, or recently been divorced or bereaved and is looking to expand their social network.

THE CLUBBER has been with the club for an extended period of time, perhaps five to ten years or more. This person has a love of the sport, but over time their friendship group has developed around the club, and their stronger friendships are with fellow members. The Clubber continues to be a member of the club because the club largely represents their social network outside of family and their work mates. The sport is still important as a shared interest with other members, but the social aspect of the club is now the most important driver of their continuing membership.

THE IDENTIFIER is a long-term member of the club, usually for twenty years or more. This person identifies themselves as a member of the club almost above all else. They are still a spouse, parent or worker, for example, but a member of the club is an essential part of their identity. The Identifier is invariably a member of the Committee of Management and has a vested interest  in seeing the club succeed. This person has a very strong social network within the club and takes joy or satisfaction from being known around the club. Overtime the social network of this person may have moved from the players to fellow committee members and administrators.

The challenge for club leaders is to retain its membership and cater for the categories of members they have within the club.

“Social Glue” Sporting Club Research Document

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“Social Glue – The contribution of sport and active recreation to community wellbeing” – Centre for Health and Social Impact La Trobe University.

An Australian Research Council and VicHealth funded research project