The Goodwood Saints Football Club is at the heart of its community, fostering an inclusive environment at the club which aims to improve the wellbeing of its members.

Club President Craig Scott and Community and Culture Manager Kathy Rogers spoke about the implementation of new programs and the positive impact it’s had on the club.

What is the strategy?

  • Fielding a SANFL inclusive team for male players with a disability aged 15 and over.
  • Establishing the Saints ‘Healthy Minds’ program which focuses on the mental health of its members.

How did this idea come about?

About 3-4 years ago, the focus of the club was to just come and play football. The club wasn’t financially viable and was struggling to pay bills.

The focus then switched to being community oriented and improving junior development. This change in mindset had a positive impact across the entire club and as a result, teams started winning premierships. The broader approach then became about the culture of club, attitude and listening to feedback from the players.

What challenges or issues is it designed to address?

As part of our community oriented approach, we wanted to form a side which provided opportunities for those with integration difficulties and disabilities  to participate in community sport.

The Healthy Minds program was designed to tackle the stigma of mental health. Mental health issues in athletes have led to a few suffering from depression during their career as well as a loss of identity in their retirement. This has directly affected the club as some members had lost their battle with depression and the club decided it was essential to support their members through education and various support mechanisms.

What has been the reaction (from club members and broader)?

There has been an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the community and from within the club to these strategies. Everyone has been supportive in backing each program.

The inclusive side has helped build the fabric that holds our culture together – one of gratitude, empathy and a totally inclusive family community where everyone is welcome and it is a safe place. Where we started and where we are now are miles apart. The side has come from being just another side that played on Sundays at 11am with very few supporters or support from the club to a side that is now a beacon within the club. They train on Thursday nights prior to our senior men (who now come to training early to help out) and play after the A-grade men or women on a Saturday night. The inclusive side awards are presented in front of all our senior teams and supporters – truly an integrated club.

The club also won the 2020 South Australian Community Achievement Awards Social and Emotional Wellbeing Award for the Healthy Minds program. This award acknowledges projects or initiatives that focus their efforts within mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention.

Do you think this initiative could be easily picked up by other clubs and in different sports?

Yes – committee members and club members just need to be brought on the journey.

Any advice for other clubs seeking to implement this?

The key is to start small when it comes to implementing new initiatives and ensure it is something your club is passionate about.

Another key factor is having the people to support and run the initiatives because without those people its hard to start up.

Is there a next step/are you looking to grow this further?

The club has started to document these programs which will help further develop these initiatives in the future.

The club is also looking into getting past players involved in various programs. It’s often found that when players end their sporting career, they start to lose a piece of themselves which may lead to mental health issues. By re-connecting with their club, it can help find themselves again.

Has this supported increase in members/volunteers/revenue?

By creating a culture that is inclusive and values the input of its members, the club has seen a spike in the number of members/volunteers and revenue with a 120% increase in sponsorship over three years.

Is there anything you would do differently?

The club would not change anything and felt there were only small hurdles to work on such as sharing the workload a bit better.

How do you resource these initiatives?

It’s important to find the people in your club community that are passionate and can relate personally to the subject. The club admin role takes about 20 hours per week to keep things on track, with policies, procedures etc. Parents also play a big role as eight out of nine committee members are parents of club participants.