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How To Fill The Void Left By Cancelled Kid's Sport

Sport is cancelled during the coronavirus outbreak, meaning millions of Aussie kids have lost a crucial source of exercise -- but parents are being encouraged to fill the void.

Paul Avery, President of the Balmain and District Football Club (BDFC), said the suspension of grassroots sport across the country is a loss for kids, members and communities.

The club’s first training session of the season was scheduled for March 19, but it never took place after Football Federation Australia suspended sports nationwide.

“The members were very understanding, we’re a not-for-profit and our parents are a huge part of our club,” Avery told 10 daily.

“Community sport is the social fabric of communities and the loss of that opportunity is huge.”

A long list of sports have been suspended during the coronavirus outbreak and health authorities are urging people to stay home, meaning many kids risk missing out on a crucial part of development during this time.

Grassroots sports across the country have been suspended because of coronavirus. Image: Getty

According to the World Health Organisation, children aged between five and 17 need at least 60 minutes of exercise a day.

“This can be spread out over bouts and is really important,” Exercise science expert, Associate Professor Kevin Netto, said.

“Only 18 per cent of kids get the recommended exercise.”

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Netto said exercise benefits kids' muscular and skeletal growth and it can lead to a healthy future.

“If kids if don’t get enough physical activity, that carries on through life,” he said, adding socialisation is another benefit of grassroots sport.

But with social distancing rules now in place, he said it's a great time for parents to reconnect with their kids.

“Organise a time where parents take over the kids' sports, run some coaching drills in the backyard, or in a park — just don’t form any groups,” he said.

“Take the opportunity to see how true fit you are!”

Kim O’Donnell, owner of children’s sport and fitness mobile franchise GeckoSports, said getting kids exercising and doing sport is all about making it fun, particularly with the stressful situation the world finds itself in now.

“If we think about kids at the moment, we don’t know what they know about coronavirus,” she told 10 daily.

“We believe they may be quite overwhelmed so let’s keep the children engaged and not leaving them to screen devices.”

Parents are encouraged to keep kids engaged in exercise while seasons are suspended. Image: Getty

Netto added it is important parents' keep activities varied so kids stay engaged in physical activity.

“After a while, the novelty wears off, for adults we can see the benefit but in children, it’s more about the fun,” he said.

O’Donnell suggested adding challenges to everyday tasks that can get kids moving.

“Every time they go to the toilet do lunges or frog jumps, go and check the mailbox every time they complete a level on a game or do 30 star jumps or 10 burpees when they lose a level,” she said.

“Act like an Olympian for a day, everything you do has be like that athlete.

“Have a workout jar to do at a later time when they have been sitting for over an hour, essentially each time the child completes work or a task, put a challenge in the jar ... such as laps of the house in a bear crawl or frog jump.”

Both O’Donnell and Avery said staff and coaches would be putting training videos online for club members so kids can exercise at home and practise drills.

However, Avery feared the financial toll of a cancelled season could sink some smaller clubs, particularly if registration fees need to be refunded.

“It’s a really big issue for community sports, clubs rely on registration fees,” he said.

BDFC is the biggest junior football club in Australia, collecting over 2700 registration fees this year.

It employs two permanent staff, a number of casuals through the season, as well as volunteers who give up their time, including 400 coaches and managers.

“We need the season to go ahead one way or another, we have financial commitments we’ve made, we have overheads,” Avery said.

“Sporting bodies need to help community football, and all sports, or we will lose some clubs.”

While the expectation is that grassroots sport will always be part of the Australian way, Avery hopes people will appreciate and enjoy community sport more in the future -- after a period of life without it.

“If we don’t get a season, next year there will be a rush to be back playing and being back in the community and the social aspect, we’re being positive about that,” Avery said.