It’s all about the team. That’s how it goes in sport. You’re supposed to be sacrificial, always thinking about the greater good. Well, sometimes it’s not about the team – it has to be about you. Sometimes one person has to stand out from the pack, put her/himself on the line, shoulder more responsibility, do what has to be done. 

Sport is a powerful way for individuals to be included and for communities to connect. The challenge is to ensure that teams, clubs and sports are inclusive, to make sure everyone gets an equal chance to join up and join in. Often this isn’t the case and we rely on individuals to make that positive shift. 

On the 6th of May, 2016, the 6th National Community Sports Summit was hosted by Sports Without Borders and Our Community. The Summit held at the Moonee Ponds Racecourse, Melbourne and explored the theme ‘power of one’, encouraging people to make positive change in their communities. A fantastic line-up of speakers, each of them leaders within their communities, led us on a journey of harnessing our individual power to effect change. It gave people passionate about making sport more inclusive and diverse the unique chance to engage with experts and leaders in the industry and also celebrate the 10th year anniversary of Sports Without Borders providing support for new and emerging communities through sport.

Furthermore, the 2nd edition of the Sports Without Borders ‘Hero Story’ booklet was launched at the Summit. This booklet is a heart-warming and inspiring look at some of the sportspeople, volunteers, clubs, communities and organisations that Sports Without Borders work with to increase participation in community sport.

The Summit kicked off with Paul Kennedy discussing the importance of diversity and inclusion in sports clubs. James Demetriou asked the delegates “What would you do?” if confronted with issues of social injustice. The frequency at which we are required to make these decisions determines the examples we set in society. Ron Murray once again delivered the ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ with the sounds of the didgeridoo filling the conference hall and a story about why koalas have no friends! 

Summit delegates were then introduced to the issue of culture change at sport clubs through research conducted by Ruth Jeanes and Ramon Spaaij, who are leading community sports academics. Jeanes and Spaaij identified the culture that we are trying to change and discussed the processes of how change occurs. Limitations to the power of one are that they take time and a lot of work. While persistence will get outcomes, the difficult shift is positively influencing the institution, the sports clubs. At the end of the day, the power of one is the catalyst for everlasting cultural change in a sports club. 

The stage was then set for a Q&A panel session facilitated by Angela Pippos. The topic was “The power of one: can an individual be more important than the team in creating change?” Tanya Oziel shared the knowledge she has gained running the AFL Peace Team which tackles the challenge of connecting Israeli and Palestinian people through sport. Carmel Guerra talked about how the people in her life influenced her actions today. Beverly Knight spoke frankly about her time with the Essendon Football Club and the responsibilities of board members in sport organisations. Francis Leach shared his wonderful insights on going against the grain and the powerful impact of individuals in American baseball leagues. 

The lunch break (along with the two smaller breaks during the day) allowed participants from all sport sectors to meet and network with like-minded professionals and students. 

Dr Simon Longstaff delivered the keynote address on what it takes to make a stand and influence positive change. He guided delegates through the reasons why we do the things we do, and how we can empower ourselves and those around us to believe in our bold actions. The power of sport is that it can help us to understand how we want to live our lives. 

Three distinctive afternoon workshops once again rounded out the day, giving participants hands-on and specialised advice. Julie-Ann Rose covered ‘Best Practice Governance’ for sport clubs. She explained how good leaders drive innovation and the importance of reputation. Paul Oliver showed how to change in a complex, evolving sporting environment. While diversity is the mix, he argued that ‘inclusion’ is getting the mix to work well together. Rochelle Eime discussed recent trends in sport participation, including the influences on participation and the value of sport. 

A special thank you to all the delegates involved in the Summit and to our Summit sponsors which include the Victorian Government, the Australian Sports Commission, Bartlett Workplace, Sport Technology Group, Australian Multicultural Foundation, PZ Cussons and Swisse.

The Summit proved to be a thought-provoking, motivational and engaging experience for those who attended. Delegates heard from interesting speakers, networked and took away inspiration and practical best-practice sports solutions. Now it is time to do your utmost to bring to reality the dream of inclusive and diverse sport clubs!