According to a VicHealth Fact Sheet on Sport and Active Recreation 66.7% of Australians aged over 15 years participate in exercise, recreation or sport activities once a week or more. People who play sport during adolescence are much more likely to be physically active adults.

The physical and mental health benefits of participating in sport and active recreation are significant.   We know that sports clubs and activities play a major role in building social capital, especially with rural communities.

With the Victorian State Election coming up on 29 November it will be interesting to see if any consideration is given to grassroots community sport and recreation in terms of election promises and commitments.

MENTAL HEALTH

Being part of a sporting club or participating in active recreation can provide significant mental health benefits. Participating in sport has been linked to positive social and psychological outcomes such as increased self-esteem, better development of life skills, decreased involvement in risky behaviours such as drug taking, and increased academic achievement.

Adolescents who play sport also have lower rates of cigarette, alcohol and illicit drug use than non-participants. Playing sport during adolescence can also help lead to life-long healthy exercise habits. People who participate in sporting activities during school years are much more likely to still be physically active well into adulthood.

Sporting and active recreation activities can be the glue that holds communities together. This is clearly evidenced when we attend Grand Finals of football and netball. Sport builds social capital by providing a sense of unity. It is a social leveller, fostering a sense of trust amongst participants and members and contributing to greater social cohesion.

In many communities, sport is seen as a means of building community pride and loyalty, with sporting events providing a meeting place and a means of uniting people across age groups. Sport and shared recreation activities offers people the opportunity to be involved, which provides them with a positive sense of self -worth.

Highlighting these facts points out the importance of the sustainability of grassroots community sport. Many of our clubs are challenged with attracting and retaining both players and volunteers. My sincere hope is that clubs do not gauge their success completely on the number of Premierships they have won. Clubs that have not won Premierships are providing an extremely important opportunity for people of all abilities to enjoy everything that a good club provides. It is vital that they are sustained and supported especially in our smaller communities.

Reference: VicHealth: Fact Sheet Sport and Active Recreation

The physical and mental health benefits of participating in sport and active recreation cannot be overlooked by federal, state and local governments.