Australians see themselves as part of a sporting nation, with a great tradition of sport.
Many of them, however – particularly city dwellers – are more likely to be switching on a television set and settling down to watch other people doing things, people who are paid specialists. Our national waistlines are growing in proportion to the amount of time we are just watching.Yet we take sport for granted as part of life in Australia and expect to bathe in its reflected glory. A particularly good reason for really taking sport seriously is that (sorry about this!) it is good for us in so many ways – health, personal development, social interaction and yes, some serious fun.Do you know that the primary meaning of the word ‘sport’ in the Oxford English Dictionary is “Pleasant pastime; amusement; diversion…”?In Armidale, it is more icing on the cake. Accessing sport can be stressful and difficult in metropolitan cities, and not all regions have nearly the range of facilities we have. We can enjoy activities very easily. Steve McMillan is the President of the Armidale Sports Council. He is a man who doesn’t waste words, and when he speaks he usually has something worth listening to. Steve says it’s easier to name baseball and softball as the only two possible sports that are not currently available in Armidale rather than to list those that are. I’ll take his word for it.The Armidale Sports Council works closely with the Armidale Dumaresq Council to make sure that the facilities are available. Jasmine Galletly is the sports coordinator, and she absolutely fizzes with experience and expertise. The University of New England facilities add that extra cream to the venues as part of the mix, with more major construction activity in progress. UNE has just done a 3 year deal with the Northern Inland Academy of Sport (NIAS) and local Member and UNE Chancellor Richard Torbay says he can’t wait to see UNE host the next 2 Academy Games. April will see ”a spectacular opening ceremony featuring more than 1,000 athletes in Armidale,” he says.Armidale is increasingly hosting so many sporting fixtures “because it is a very desirable destination and the facilities here are good enough,” Steve says. (As an example, Port Macquarie has only 2 turf wickets – we have 8.) From young participants to masters’ games, Armidale is welcoming them all. And it is wonderful to see the excitement on very young faces on the local TV news – their efforts are still important here, and not brushed aside for the professionals …We should be making sure that all our sporting visitors leave knowing what else we have to offer in our city and district.Armidale has one of the highest motel occupancy rates in the state. This is just one of the spin-off benefits that sport can bring to the community, with the flow-on effect spreading through our economy.The proof of the pudding is in the eating, in more ways than one. It has been estimated that sporting events in Armidale over the last three years have added $55 million to the economy, and last year the figure was $25.5 million! The Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout was a big contributor.Hats off to all involved in sport – this is serious stuff.Steve says that one of the major factors in running sporting contests here is the large number of available volunteers who have always put their hands up for the different aspects of running a successful event. Armidale has long been recognised as having one of highest volunteer responses in many different fields, and the support of sport is obviously no exception. In changing times we have to make sure this continues. Taking on a committee position or a job is one of the most rewarding ways people can give back some of what they have gained and enjoyed in life.This is the spirit that makes a healthy, happy and functioning community, and here in Armidale it is so easy to be part of it. We are lucky enough to have the opportunity to realise the primary meaning of the word SPORT – we can actually enjoy it the way we were meant to.For information call:Steve McMillan ASC 0409 663 674; Jasmine Galletly ADC 6770 3807; Dave Schmude Sport UNE 6773 5185; Peter Annis-Brown NIAS 6766 2526.