Calgary kids kicking up a storm
They may have never heard of the sport before this year, but that has not stopped more than 5000 Calgary kids flocking to Australian football.
Teaching kids in schools across Calgary through the AusKick program, participants aged between 5 and 12 have been learning how to kick, handball and bounce a ball that was previously completely foreign to them.
The program has been run for the past five years and former Calgary Kangaroos president Lachlan Griffiths said it continues to grow.
“As long as there are kids wanting to play footy, we'll keep putting on AusKick leagues and school visits as much as possible,” he said.
“With this growth, we are having to get more junior coaches and this year we had a few of our Canadian players coaching the kids, so it's great to see the full-cycle of sport development now in Calgary where we don't have to rely on the Aussie expats to run things.”
Calgary Kangaroos trainers have visited more than forty schools across the city in the past four years – including nine this year – performing week-long sessions with the kids.
About 230 of the kids have enjoyed the school program so much this year that they have continued to AusKick programs outside of school lasting four-to-six weeks.
Griffiths said while it’s far cheaper for parents to enrol their kids in AusKick compared to other sports available, it’s only a minor factor in its popularity.
“It's an outdoor sport where every kid can be involved and have an impact, they are using and developing different skills, and we focus on fun and participation over winning and elitism,” he said.
“The teachers love it because it's inclusive and covers a lot of the physical literacy spectrum.
“The parents love it because their kids all get to participate and have a go, and because it's more aerobic, they come home worn out.
“The kids love it because it's fun. They can use a range of different skills, and as it's new for nearly all kids, there are no stand-outs so every activity and game is competitive.”