This is a transcript of YACVic’s podcast, ‘Locked Down, Speaking Up!’, part of the ‘Learning from COVID-19’ series. Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts.
This episode of ‘Locked Down, Speaking Up!’ was recorded on the Lands of the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung and Boon Wurrung Bunurong people. Youth Affairs Council Victoria pays our respects to Elders past and present.
♫ Upbeat intro track plays – ‘Far Away’ by MK2 ♫
Kids in regional and rural Victoria who play sport have had a tricky time during COVID. Things being cancelled, locked down, opened up with confusing restrictions... it’s been a lot. If that’s been your experience, there might also be some things that you wish had gone differently, but didn’t know how or where to do something about that.
Maybe you feel like you don’t have the same energy that you did before COVID, to speak up or take action on things that matter to you. That’s totally valid – the curveballs of COVID have been tiring! But the last two years have also transformed what we now think of as ‘real’ or ‘valid’ action. Young people are getting creative about what activism can mean for our needs and our communities, and being more inclusive about it too.
Welcome to YACVic’s series Locked Down, Speaking Up. I’m Katia, I use she/her pronouns, and together we get to meet different young people in Victoria sharing their experiences of advocacy, activism and making change during the pandemic. You’ll learn how young people are making a difference, and how you can do it too!
Today we’re hearing from 16-year-old Louis in Leongatha, who goes by all pronouns. Louis loves sport – they play football, volleyball and hockey – but over time, they’ve been noticing some things that could change about how these sports clubs are run. Then in 2020, Louis joined Regional Sports Victoria’s Youth Advisory Council, or YAC for short. He learned a lot about improving sport for regional and rural kids, which inspired her to shake things up in her own area: they signed up for their club’s adult committee and campaigned for a junior committee. Let's hear how it all happened.
RSV YAC, that was one of the first things that we started talking about, like issues that we saw in sport. And I think every single person wrote down travel, just because it's such a big thing, especially for people that live in regional Victoria, we have to drive so far just to get a good game of sport in. Even just giving Regional Sports Victoria that information will impact it, because then they will have that in the back of their mind whenever they're organising anything.
We have kind of discussed with the YAC about COVID and everything, but we weren't as much talking about what would we like to see in the future, we were more talking about what we would have liked to see in the past. So a lot of people that were like, our clubs did absolutely nothing like we didn't hear from them at all. And we don't even know if anything's running now, because of how much communication there has been - like, there's been nothing.
But then a few of the other people were just like, 'oh, well, my club was sending out training videos and we were training online. And like, they were sending out constant mental health checks and everything. And we know exactly what's happening.' It was really interesting to see that kind of difference between clubs. And I think that's been really, really useful in like, this should be where they are. But there's clubs that didn't even talk to their players, like they have no idea what's happening.
The YAC has caused me to want to get more people's point of view and like create the junior committee and everything, because it's really shown to me all of these different people that don't even have a say in this. And it's shown me that there's way more that like, our sports clubs aren't even thinking of because they're all run by parents and coaches and things.
It's been such a good experience. Like I've made so many friendships out of it. And I have so much experience now. Like it's given me all of these pathways that I didn't even know about. It's given me all these questions and answers and things that I want to do like extra committees and things like that.
As we’ve heard, the YAC was important in helping Louis learn new skills and come up with new ideas to solve old problems in his own area. Specifically, joining their soccer club’s previously all-adult committee, and campaigning to start a junior committee too.
I'm focusing on creating a committee within my soccer club pure because of how close it is. But I really want to get, like those people's points of view and everything, especially since a few years back, my team was really unhappy with the way things were running.
Like we had a coach that was always putting his best foot forward, which was really good to see because we had a real chance at winning comp. But then there were some players that would travel, they'd get five minutes of game time, because they were the weaker players if they didn't get put on the field against these really good clubs. It would have been really good to have that being said in the club and have those complaints going through. But there just wasn't a process to do that. And if there was, which I'm pretty sure there was, but it just wasn't shown to the players that were young. So they wouldn't be able to stand up to the president and be like, 'hey, I have a complaint'; they're young.
So then having a committee with even just one representative from each team, that representative knows all the players, they're their friends. And if one of them is struggling, they can go to that committee and be like, hey, we have an issue which can then be brought to the senior committee and actually talked about and actually happening.
It’s just shown me that kids should really be getting more involved into these leadership positions, like committees and everything. And they're just not offered to players. And if they are, it's very, very poorly done. Like, I'm the only kid on my committee. And I went to my AGM, which was a massive AGM. And we didn't even have a vote in it. And I was the only kid there because of it. And it's just like, we can have so much of an impact here, and we're just not getting the chance to have it. Why is that? And why can't we have an impact?
And I don't think that it was really their fault at all. But it was more that just that, they hadn't even thought of brought in kids. And it’s more that kids aren't given the option of having a choice and aren't pushed to have a voice. Especially in sports clubs that are run basically by the kids, like there's two seniors teams and 10 juniors teams, you would think that the juniors would have more of a say, but they don't.
If you’re listening and thinking, wow, this should happen in my sports club too – you’re probably right! There is so much room for improvement that young athletes can see that others are oblivious to, and we need more young people in genuine leadership to make those changes happen.
I think a sport club run by young people will just be a lot more inclusive for young people. There will be kids that have to travel really far. And all these kids will be like, okay, what can we do about that? Because this person really wants to travel really far. And we really want to play with this person. And they're really good. Or even just, we need some more players, let's grab this person. How are we going to help them get here? Let's find a better way to do that. So I really hope that that's the kind of thing that will happen. Because it would be really, really good to see. Like, these kids, they need a voice.
When I push myself into sporting clubs, it's less of like a, 'hey, I'm here now, deal with it.' And it's more of just like, 'hey, I'm here now, and you didn't even realise I existed.' So it hasn't really been like a thing they've been really against having, it's more of a thing that they hadn't even thought of having in the first place.
So then having even just one kid step up, and want to do this, it'll make them realise that oh, my God, what if all of these kids want to do it? Like, we really need to get more voices, let's just go for it. So I really hope that even just me standing up and be like, 'hey, I want to be in the committee,' And 'I want to create a junior committee' will get kids like, 'oh, yeah, sure. I'll do that.'
Young people offer their communities a broader perspective, because communities run by adults only get the perspective of adults, and communities with more kid involvement will of course get their perspective as well. It just creates more points of view and it creates a different age of view.
Since the time of this interview, Louis has managed to establish the junior committee in her club. They’ve run fitness trainings and a bring a friend night, and organised a comp for when restrictions ease. There have been some setbacks and moments where they’ve had to adapt, but as Louis said when she shared this update with me: ‘if a deadly virus can’t knock us down completely, what can?’
If Louis’s story has you motivated to make change in your local sports club, or simply inspired you to take action on something important to you – there are heaps of ways YACVic can support you! This podcast is part of our ‘Learning from COVID-19’ series, our resource full of materials to help you learn from the most clever COVID adaptions for young people. You can check out the activism category for plenty of helpful info, from a social justice glossary to guides for meeting with your MP, and much more! Head to YACVic.org.au/COVID-youth-work to find it all.
You can also become a YACVic member – which is free for young people! – for exclusive opportunities, supports and resources.
If you want to learn more specifically about Louis’ experience as a regional athlete part of the Regional Sport Victoria YAC, or joining a YAC yourself, check out episode 2 of our series Green Flags, at YACVic.org.au/Green-Flags.
All of these links are also in this episode’s transcript and show notes.
♫ Upbeat outro track plays – ‘Far Away’ by MK2 ♫
In the next episode we’ll hear from Mac, a high school student talking about how he found community to connect with during COVID, started doing advocacy and now even does it as a job! And of course, Mac’s going to be sharing his advice so you can learn how to do it too.
Thanks for tuning in, until next week!