Riverland sports clubs battle volunteer shortage, as basketball president calls for more sharing
Every week in South Australia's Riverland, hundreds of players young and old take to local basketball courts in what is arguably the most popular summer sport in the region.
Behind the scenes though, the competition's clubs are experiencing the same problems facing sports and community organisations everywhere — a lack of volunteers.
Volunteer numbers across Australia are falling, with a 19 per cent drop in people donating their time to charities and community organisations recorded in the latest census.
Busier lifestyles mean the average person is now more time poor than in the past, leaving fewer hours to be donated to the local netball club barbecue or soccer team's organising committee.
Loxton resident Domenic Perre wears many hats as president of the local basketball club and committee member at the town's football and soccer clubs.
Prior to him taking on the role at the basketball club, there were fears for its future without a committee to run it.
"There was an assumption that someone would do it and that was the problem," Mr Perre said.
"A lot of parents think, 'There's a committee so they'll handle it', rather than thinking, 'I should put my hand up'.
"When I was young, when you signed up to a sport you knew that your parents were signing themselves up to be part of the committee or working on the barbecues."
Loxton Basketball Club's challenges finding a committee have been mirrored elsewhere.
Renmark Basketball Club recently had a low turnout to its Annual General Meeting, leaving it in limbo without an organising committee.
The Cobdogla Football Club is in recess for 2022 due to a dearth of volunteers.
Griffith University Emeritus Professor and volunteering expert Graham Cuskelly said people could be reluctant to take on defined roles such as president, secretary or treasurer.
But he said there was not yet a clear alternative that would allow organisations to run more in-step with busier lifestyles across the country.
"Either the volunteers that are there put more time in, which often is impossible, or it's more people contributing a smaller number of hours," Professor Cuskelly said.
"I'm pretty sure there's plenty of thinking going on from the grassroots level to state and national organisations [on how to boost volunteer numbers].
"Sport is well aware that there's a problem with attracting and retaining volunteers, it's not something that's just emerged."
Mr Perre said the focus of local clubs should be on building volunteering and participation numbers and not winning games.
"There's a strong need to focus on networking with other teams more so than what's happening now," he said.
"There needs to be coaches getting together or having clinics and sessions together. I know people might say you shouldn't share with your enemy, but I think it would benefit all the teams.
"I strongly believe in sharing skills and making the competition a bit more even, and the only way you can do that is by sharing the skills around."
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