Captains’ call to arms

THE leaders of tomorrow weighed in on the problems facing Gippsland football and netball clubs of today in a Captains Camp Community Action Day at Morwell Recreation Reserve on Sunday.

A group of young ‘skippers’, nominated and sponsored by their clubs to take part in the leadership program, workshopped ideas about improving club culture which they presented to club officials during the session.

The forum explored ‘unhelpful cultures’ including: inconsistency and lack of fairness in team selection; the divide or lack of unity between football and netball; unhealthy levels of aggression on and off-field; and the lack of connection between senior and junior players.

Captains Camp and Game Changers Australia founder Jamin Heppell said the initiative was about giving young people input into the way their clubs operated.

“It was a conversation about what’s actually happening here in Gippsland. The level of engagement and respect the club representatives demonstrated really allowed for a space where all the skippers felt they could be heard,” Heppell said.

“That way they can actually hear what young peoples’ experience being part of grassroots footy and netball is like, because often young people don’t have a platform to speak about what they care about and the change they want to see.

“They see the challenges, they’ve got solutions, and often we don’t enquire into what their solutions could be.

“It’s really about bringing sport back to its essence, which is about creating environments where young people can develop character and become strong contributing members of our community.”

The session was a change of pace from the past two Community Action Days held as part of Captains Camp, which involved skippers collecting used sporting goods from the community to donate to charity organisations.

Heppell said the revamp came down to the core of the Captains Camp vision.

“What we’ve identified or got a sense of over the last couple of years is the collection of sporting goods was good but didn’t quite fit what Captains Camp was all about,” he said.

“The idea around this initiative was all about the skippers contributing directly to their club as opposed to taking from the community and giving elsewhere.

“It’s about exploring what’s great about Gippsland-based football/netball clubs, but also what can make them better.”

Rosedale thirds footballer Tyler Peters was among the skippers who presented ideas to club committee representatives as part of the day.

The 17 year-old’s group focused on the selection process of teams within clubs and ways to make that process both fair and consistent.

“We came up with things such as the coaches and players sit down at the start of the season and create guidelines of good and bad expectations,” Tyler said.

“We also came up with a committee, which influences the coach to balance the way they select between winning and development of sides.

“He’s going to pick boys who are skilful to win and boys who are committed and will stay around to develop the side through the years.”

Peters is taking part in his first year of the Gippsland-based Captains Camp, which has a series of camps throughout the year, and said it had been a valuable resource.

“This is a life changing experience; I’ve learnt so much,” he said.

“From the first camp I went to, coming back afterwards, I found I was a more punctual leader than I’ve ever been before.”

Among the club representatives listening to the skippers’ feedback was Drouin Football Netball Club president and former Gippsland League general manager Chris Soumilas.

Soumilas was one of the early advocates of the Captains Camp initiative and said the Action Day was eye-opening.

“It’s good just to see and hear young people discussing issues that clubs have, and their perceived issues,” Soumilas said.

“It probably opens up our eyes a little bit to give them an opportunity to maybe have a talk to our committee and air their views, because they are the future of the club, and maybe sometimes we neglect them a little bit and don’t realise maybe they know what they want and we need to listen better.

“They’ve got a voice, let’s get involved, let’s hear them. As a committee you can assess what they bring up to us, make a decision and explain why you made that decision.”

Drouin’s representative in the program, Ryan Taylor, will be given the opportunity to present his views to the club’s committee following the workshop.

Soumilas said it was a great avenue to engage with younger members of the club.

“It’s really good to see the kid grow and become a more confident person. We expect Ryan to be one of the leaders of our club in the future,” he said.

“When Jamin first brought it to us when I was in the (Gippsland) League I thought it was a great program. I think it’s great to see young people given the opportunity.”

For more information about Captains Camp and Game Changers Australia visit