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Sport vs balance: getting back on track

Here is the second instalment of the Six Declarations and Principles from Reclink Australia Founder Peter Cullen AM after he met with Pope Francis at the Vatican for teh Sport at the Service of Humanity Conference. 


To play sport in the knowledge that it can revitalise you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. At every stage of life we need to play for fun, for health and for friendship.

It provides a rich tool to keep us well and in Reclink Australia, we also work with people with addictions.  In terms of life balance and opportunity, one person who played Reclink football for 9 months said it gave him a clean high.

Real sport is about enjoyment. So enjoy it and remember that there is more to sport than winning, but when you compete be and do the best you can.

Within the work of Reclink Australia with people with complex disadvantage, there is one thing our people share about their experience.  Bear in mind we are talking about people experiencing homelessness; mental health issues; drug and alcohol addictions; people who have left prisons. Sport can bring joy at critical and vulnerable times, especially to those leaving prison or leaving a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

Bringing sport to these people can be the greatest invisible legacy. The thing people say about the joy sport brings them is: “it keeps me alive.” This is a common expression from Reclink Australia participants. “What I like about football is people call me by name.” A lonely man said: “it opened a door inside me, it’s given me my spirit back. What do I get out of it? Life really.”

Sport becomes a vehicle to rebuild trust. We must not turn our back on the most disadvantaged and poor in the community, for the pleasure of sport brings positive joy as opposed to self - medicating and feeling all that creates. Giving people something to be passionate about can be life changing and life giving. To get a touch or possession in football, to be a part of the game and contribute; to have a laugh with team mates and experience the joy of competing. One indigenous football player said football took him out of being antisocial and out of his loneliness.

Sport and exercise bring the body into play; a reduction in crime; improved mental health and people believing there is something greater, something more possible for their lives. It creates new conversation of possibility for lives and the joy of thinking beyond ourselves.

I observed that in the word “recreation” it provided a new environment that was enjoyable. In one man’s life, he had the major challenge of giving up drugs and the challenge not to use them. He had no place of belonging as he had to leave his old friends. The football team became his balance and his tool of recovery. When he played Aussie Rules, the knocks were tough, but released his frustration and his head was clear.  Men in particular have to find a setting to meet informally to eventually talk; and have to find a language to say what is going on.

Sport becomes a form of self - regulating, managing anxiety and trauma; and returning to feeling good that the supportive sporting structures bring into their life.  Reclink Australia and many sporting organisations like it want people to plan their life, not their funeral.

The conference in essence is consciousness raising of the great value of sport steered properly by leadership. To enhance the enjoyment of sport and to give people something to look forward to in having a football Grand Final day with radio broadcast and sporting personalities.

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