Six tips to help drive community football engagement during COVID-19

words by Tackle Your Feelings, Wednesday 22 April 2020

Words by Tackle Your Feelings program psychologist Luke Jankie

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, there are a number of different challenges community football clubs are facing. So many of the regular and convenient structures we typically lean on to help manage our day-to-day processes have been restricted or transformed to fall in line with government policies and safety procedures, which can contribute to feeling overwhelmed, unsettled and disconnected. While the challenges we are facing at the moment are very real and significant, there are still things that we can do to shift the ball back into our possession. Empowering ourselves with a greater sense of awareness and intentionality about the way we are doing things will ultimately position us to be able to manage this situation as best as we can.

Given the nature of the obstacles in front of us, social connection, physical activity and practical structuring are now just as important as ever. So we here at Tackle Your Feelings have highlighted a list of our six most creative tips to help community clubs stay connected during these uncertain and challenging times.

Group Training Sessions (using online platforms OR 1-on-1 in pairs)

Physical exercise is important for helping manage our mental health and wellbeing.

A great way to remain connected and stay active with your teammates and coaches is through group video training sessions or exercising in pairs. Yoga classes, Pilates sessions and countless other forms of exercise have already been transformed onto online platforms, so join in on a class and workout with others from the comfort of your own home! For the times when you’re wanting to get out of the house, make use of the current regulations and find a single partner to workout with. Connecting with others while working out can help keep you motivated, challenged and socially engaged through the process.

Disclaimer: Each state has different government regulations around what you can and cannot do when it comes to exercise and you can find what is relevant to you on the COVID-19 hub of your state government’s website.

Challenge Accepted.

Structure is a key component in driving motivation and behaviour – so establishing some club-wide challenges can be a fun way to push some extra buzz around engagement. Anything from push-ups and sit-ups, to running time trials and goal-kicking trick-shots – issue the challenge and watch your peers try to match your efforts! One local Football club out of Albert Park issued a running challenge, measuring distances covered in a six-minute block. The leader board currently sits with 1.82 km’s in 6 minutes – can you or your playing group beat that?

Using apps like ‘Strava’ can also be helpful in streamlining challenges, whereby players can register for private running groups, record milestones and compete against each other for the highest spots on the club leader boards.

Captain’s (or Coach’s) Call!

Strong leadership happens both on the field and off the field – and is crucial in developing a strong sense of belonging in a club. Each week, the captain, the coach, or both can get in touch and call out to a select group of players to ‘check in’, start a general conversation and to see how they’re managing in the absence of football. There doesn’t need to be a strict agenda, rather just an effort to reach-out to all of the playing touch base and help stay connected. This may also help coaching staff keep track of player’s wellbeing, providing them with the capacity to recognise signs and symptoms of how people are coping.

Weekly Interviews

Football clubs have always been about a lot more than just the sport. Often sporting clubs represent a community and act as a hub through which people can connect. All clubs have incredible characters within their four walls, and regular interview series are a great way to showcase some of those people to the broader community and fan base. It might be a human-interest story about a club stalwart or committee member, or even just a case of checking in with the players, coaches and club staff. Whether you choose to go with a podcast, video series or an Instagram Live feed, this can be an engaging way to give a little preview as to what happens behind the scenes at your community football club.

Mock Game Review

Managing the consumption of news is important for maintaining a balanced state of mind. In times where newsfeeds and media publications are filled with distressing and negative content, injecting a little bit of positivity can go a long way. While community football games aren’t being played right now, that shouldn’t stop our imaginations from wondering what the game results could have been. So we encourage you to channel your club’s curiosity and prepare a weekly wrap-up for the game that didn’t happen. Each week, select a different coach or player to put together a mock game review that can be shared with the club to help boost morale. This can be used as an opportunity to give shout-out’s to players who had big pre-seasons, work ethics during isolation, or any other little wins from during the week with a football spin. Social inclusion is key here, providing an engaging platform for people to be recognized and appreciated by their peers – something we know is extremely important during these periods of physical isolation.

Thursday Night Dinner & Team Selection

Team selection and Thursday night dinners are a staple of any community football club around Australia. To keep the tradition going during the football shutdown period and isolation, video conferencing dinners provide a unique way to stay connected and in touch with your teammates and coaches.

And if you’re looking for some engaging content while you’re all working away at your own dinners, why not follow tradition and read out the weekly team! While specific playing groups don’t need to be named, another way to stay engaged with your players and club is through the naming of a new (but comical) side each week. It might be the ’22 Best Dressed’ or ’22 Biggest Social Media Users’. Whatever team your club decides to name each week, it is a good way to start a conversation and drive positive engagement.

For other tips from Tackle Your Feelings on managing COVID-19 click here.

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