Connect & Support Participation Network reaching new heights in 2022

Published 31 March, 2022.

A networking group that was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to facilitate connection amongst the sport and recreation community has been relaunched in 2022, with the aim to support even more staff working within sport development.

The Connect & Support Participation Network, funded by VicHealth and supported by the Centre for Sport and Social Impact at La Trobe University, is a monthly catch-up run by Vicsport featuring members of State Sporting Associations (SSAs), Regional Sport Assemblies (RSAs), Local Government Authorities (LGAs) and other peak bodies.

Each session sees participants discuss a relevant and topical issue, usually with a guest speaker involved, before convening in smaller groups to delve deeper into the topic as well as liaise, problem solve and connect with like-minded individuals within the sport and recreation community.

“Initially designed to maintain connection within our industry, we reassessed the Network and its intentions at the end of 2021 and realised that there was a need for a space to network regardless of whether we are in a pandemic or not,” said Vicsport Events and Membership Coordinator, Meredith Hodson.

“Our 2022 relaunch has seen us expand our reach and bring in more representatives from the Victorian sporting landscape. With the ability to reach so many different organisations and understand what the industry’s broader issues are, Vicsport is in a great position to moderate this Network.

The sessions offer attendees a place to discuss issues, which is of benefit to them. And for us at Vicsport, we gain valuable feedback and insights which we can use to improve our services and inform our advocacy work.

Whenever I hear of a new person entering the industry, I let them know about these meetings as they are a great personal development opportunity. Thinking back to when I started in the sports industry, a Network like this would have been so valuable for me as I was wanting to learn as much as possible and meet as many people as I could.”

The Network has played that role for Shaun Johnson, Tenpin Bowling Australia Sport Development Officer – Victoria/Tasmania, after he began the role in 2021.

“This is my first position in the sporting industry and when I started, one of my colleagues forwarded me everything that had helped her in the past and an invite to join the Connect & Support Participation Network was included,” Shaun said.

“Being new, I found it’s the perfect way to meet people and create a connection. It’s far better than sending an online message or cold calling, especially when we have been stuck at home and behind a computer for so long.

“Learning about the sporting landscape in general and understanding the goings-on from the perspective of different organisations has been really helpful. If I hear ideas that are similar to my own, it provides a chance to catch up with those people to brainstorm and if it’s a completely new idea, it can help spark your own thoughts in different directions.”

Since the Network’s inception, previous sessions have alternated between practical, instructive sessions (including value proposition and grant writing workshops as well as advice on time management techniques) and personal development sessions which have included industry leading guest speakers and, more recently, Paralympian Carol Cooke AM who discussed her own journey and the theme of resilience.

“It’s nice to be able to flick between different agendas,” said Meredith. One month we might be assisting attendees with aspects of their day-to-day work, then the next we do a deep-dive into career progression and self-development. We want to ensure the Network is constantly evolving and always reflecting the needs of the group.”

With the sport and recreation industry now moving into a COVID-19 recovery phase and looking to ‘get back to normal’, Meredith believes a discussion group like the Connect & Support Participation Network is more important than ever.

“Based on my own experience working in sport, we can get caught up in the day-to-day. We are delivering for our members 24/7 but that can mean we put the blinkers on and forget that everyone in the industry is dealing with very similar issues.

“This group provides a space to take those blinkers off, ask questions, meet and help people and be exposed to new ideas in a relaxed setting. With sport getting back up and running after a lean two years, it’s important that we do not lose sight of how important it is to create and maintain connections with others.”

For more information on the Connect & Support Participation Network, details on upcoming meetings and to register, click here.

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