Australian Sport – Touch Football

Australian Sport – Touch Football
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Love the sport itís for all ages. Lucky enough
here Iíve got the mixed open title named after me. Iíve won it eight times. Iíve
been captain for the Australian mixed open team for a few years now. Iíve won a few
of the menís 30ís as well now and played Australian menís 30ís so Iíve been very
very fortunate. Probably been in the right place at the right time.   My background is Lebanese. Born in Australia
so Iím Australian. Mum and Dad are from Lebanon. They migrated here in 1966 and probably the
same as most migrants come over with only a thong ñ not that he lost one, he found
one. They did it the tough way you know. Hard because
it was a new country. They didnít know anyone here, had to find a job , they worked two
shifts and they sort of did it the old fashioned way. Actually it started with my friends. We had
touch football competitions running week nights and a few of the guys got together and said
hey thereís this touch football game ñ itís sort of like league but you donít have to
tackle, you donít get hurt, you know, we should put a team in, make a night of it.
Wednesday nights go and play and then go for a pizza and stuff like that. So it really
did start informally. Got playing for a couple of years and they started to mention things
like the regional championships and said why donít you come down and trial for this itís
the next level in touch. Itís sort of just carried on from there. You play for your local
affiliate, maybe a Parramatta or a Manly or a Hawthorn in Melbourne and from there they
picked our regional teams and from the regional teams they went on to pick the city country
teams, state teams and Australian teams. Itís sort of like youíre in the pool youíre starting
to swim and you keep going because youíve got five laps to go ñ itís just been really
good. My background is that we play for a team called
Western Suburbs of Sydney. We are a very very multicultural team there. Weíve got nationalities
ñ Australian, Italian and Lebanese. Weíve got some Chinese guys there, weíve got Pacific
Islanders there, weíve got a couple of Japanese players there so weíve got a great range
cultures. I think now as a coach youíve got to learn not to judge a book by its cover.
They are keen to learn so as a coach its rewarding to pick up someone like that and actually
see them progress and become better players. The benefits are unreal. When you are touring
and you get to learn the backgrounds of these guys thatís where you really enjoy it and
you think you know youíre missing out on so much because weíve got our blinkers on. I think the rewards are in the fact that if
you can create something that is successful, not necessarily as a result but in terms of
the atmosphere that you built. If you can create a family and get people just to get
on. Sport is sport especially at this level. We donít get paid so itís not as if itís
a lifeline for them. They actually pay to play this game so we make sure that if you
are going to pay you are going to enjoy yourself and have a really good time. Yeah thatís
probably one of the challenges. When I hit my teens and they realized that
I was taking a liking to this touch football thing, dad was always on my case saying what
about your school work, you know, what about your study. They didnít realize that that
was my out from my study and my break from things. Thatís pretty much the way they were
brought up. Having come over and having done it the tough way they sort of donít want
to see me do that. Speaking from a Lebanese background, weíve taken some teams to the
world cup to represent Lebanon. Weíve taken mixed teams and weíve taken menís teams.
Itís always hard to recruit some of the Lebanese girls especially in a mixed environment because
the old school thinking is that they shouldnít be going away with boys unless theyíre engaged
or something like that. Weíve a thing called the Blackest Cat. We
travel around Australia and we run Touch clinics just to develop touch and thatís for kids
from the ages of 10 to 18. We come across a lot of kids who are multicultural. The beauty
of those clinics is because the kids are young g the parents have to drop them off and they
end up making a day of it, having a picnic. They see their kids having a really good time
and having a lot of fun and they realise that this sport is pretty good. Thereís no contact,
thereís low risk of injury and we try and encourage them to come to things like that. The first thing is to make sure that its fun.
Donít worry about the results, worry about the process. If you can breate something that
people want to be a part of it doesnít matter if they donít win because they are actually
enjoying themselves. One of things I do with every team Iím involved in is that I actually
get them to talk about themselves in the team environment. You might do a little session
we you might say youíve got to answer four basic questions like your name, your nickname,
something you like to do outside of Touch Football, where youíre from, what your background
is and the funniest thing youíve seen a family member do. It actually invites them to open
up and maybe tell a story and get people start thinking oh thatís mad. The idea is to get
the parents to come to training sessions or come to the trials. Once they see the environment
the kids are in and know that the kids are safe then you can start to break them down
a bit. Half the challenge is to get the cultural parents there because they donít really see
sport as a necessity. They see it more as something that might get their kids injured
and they look at the negatives effects and say if you do sport you get injured, you break
our leg you canít work, how are you going to feed your family ñ the snowball type effect. We can only benefit from everyone participating
and everyone encouraging people to come on board. Sport should be taken as something
that you enjoy. If you can put together groups of people who enjoy being together then they
can enjoy their sport it can only to make our sport, no matter what it is, across Australia
much better.

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