2022 Year in Review – Connect & Support Participation Network

Following a big year for Vicsport’s Connect & Support Participation Network (CSPN), plans are underway to provide even more opportunities to engage with industry peers in 2023.

Funded by VicHealth and supported by the Centre for Sport and Social Impact (CSSI) at La Trobe University, the CSPN was initially born out of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to facilitate connection amongst the Victorian sport and recreation community.

Each session sees attendees, particularly those working in participation or inclusion at a State Sporting Association (SSA), Regional Sport Assembly (RSA) and/or Local Government Authority (LGA), discuss a topical issue while problem solving and connecting with peers from the sport and recreation community.

“We assessed the CSPN at the end of 2021 and realised there was still a desire to network and connect regularly, regardless of whether we are in a pandemic or not,” said Vicsport Events & Membership Coordinator, Meredith Hodson.

“In 2022, we expanded our reach and targeted more representatives from the Victorian sporting industry. We continued to host sessions online, but also introduced in-person events. Bringing the network together to catch-up with industry peers and make new connections is certainly the highlight of these sessions.”

Shelley White, Active Communities and Sport Lead at VicHealth, and Dr. Erica Randle, Senior Research Fellow at CSSI, echoed those sentiments.

“The value of these sessions is for people to build relationships and learn from each others’ experiences and knowledge,” Shelley said. “Hearing about what other organisations or teams do, as well as from individuals with lived experience, allows you to influence, adapt or create projects in your own environment to help create a more safe and welcoming sport and recreation sector.”

“During the height of the pandemic, attendees were able to use the sessions as a place to share their challenges and solutions, have a laugh and sometimes even a bit of a cry,” Erica said. “The meetings were a safe space, an outlet for stress but also an important source of inspiration, motivation and solidarity.

“Pleasingly, the strength of the connections made has now lasted beyond those lockdown periods and the CSPN continues to provide professional development opportunities for those who are just starting on their sport journey as well as a chance for others with more experience to impart their knowledge.”

Topics throughout 2022 included discussions on inclusive practices, organisational partnerships, respectful data collection processes, how to create meaningful and sustainable change, project management, youth engagement, doing sport differently as well as handling burnout and rejuvenation.

Presenters from Proud 2 Play, Regional Sport Victoria, Sports Central, Cardinia Shire Council, Nillumbik Shire Council, Tennis Victoria, Netball Victoria and Table Tennis Victoria have all featured while special guest speakers Carol Cooke AM PLY, Belinda Clark AO and Lyndall Russell were also engaged.

“We have been so fortunate to hear from a wide variety of experts on a range of topics,” Meredith said. “Case studies from industry peers are exceptionally valuable to the CSPN, as shared knowledge is power for the sports industry.

“Each of our special guests have gone above and beyond in sharing their stories and lived experiences. From ex-athletes to leaders in their respective fields, they have all inspired the CSPN attendees.”

With in-person events returning to the calendar this year, participants were able to take part in Table Tennis Victoria’s newest innovation, Ping Pong Rush, while the sessions featuring Belinda and Lyndall were also held in-person.

“Being in a new role, the CSPN has allowed me to improve a lot of my skills including leadership,” said Simon Devine, Water Polo Victoria CEO. “The presenters provide a unique insight which I can adapt to our business while collaborating with other sports who have similar challenges is invaluable.”

“The sessions are so good for meeting, networking and learning from a range of people from other sporting associations,” added Elsa Mangan, Women & Girls Project Manager at Football Victoria. “I have left each session with a number of takeaways that I can apply to my everyday work.”

The CSPN will reconvene in February 2023, kicking the year off with an in-person session co-hosted by Surfing Victoria, discussing their Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program. Using surfing as a way to connect Indigenous Victoria with the ocean while learning new skills, water safety knowledge and healthy habits, the program had over 650 Indigenous participants in 2020-21.

“I encourage anyone working in the Victorian sports industry to join the network in 2023,” Meredith said. “These meetings will continue to evolve and we always welcome feedback from attendees as the CSPN exists, first and foremost, to support the Victorian sports industry.

“Surfing Victoria’s Indigenous Surfing Program is sure to inspire and create conversations and while I know ‘networking’ can sound daunting or just be another task to add to the to-do list, I promise this is where the good stuff happens.”

To keep up to date with the Connect & Support Participation Network in 2023, sign up to the mailing list.

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