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Friday, December 06 2019 @ 08:47 pm ACDT

Now for the Kids...

North America

In 1999 I joined the Milwaukee Bombers and became one of a small group of people pioneering footy in Wisconsin. In those early days, I would drive an hour and half up to Milwaukee to run around with 5 or 6 (not so fit) Australians and the odd American (often quite odd). I think it was after my first practice, that I was given the email address of a bloke in Madison and told to start something in my home town. Gary Hill, a physicist, and I would run regular training sessions in Madison and we even hosted a couple of games. The numbers were always light and Milwaukee always got stomped on by Chicago. The two clubs got so sick of the one-sided games that it eventually led to an on-field fight. You've gotta believe that things are pretty bad if the on-field scuffles are over footy administration. Things have changed a lot since I left. Last year the Bombers hosted the USFooty Nationals and they have become one of the dominant sides of USFooty.

After leaving Madison, I moved to Vermont and then to DC. In both cities I worked with numerous people to try to grow footy. Unfortunately, things never got off the ground in Vermont. In DC, footy has had its ups and downs, but today, thanks to the hard work of Rob Brunton, the Baltimore Washington Eagles are becoming a decent side with the potential for great success.

In July, I take the next step of my footy development journey - the kids. My son is 6 and is ready for his first AFL Auskick clinics. The only problem is that there are no AFL Auskick clinics in Washington, DC. Not to be deterred, USFooty Kids National Coordinator, Denis Ryan, and members of the Eagles have agreed to run two Saturday morning clinics in Arlington, VA.

To some extent this is much harder than what we were doing back in 1999. When we started running practices in Madison, we would just show up to the field at the appropriate time and if there were 20 or 2 people we didn't much care. Of course, scheduling games was more stressful but at least Chicago was willing to put up with us (for the most part). An Auskick clinic, on the other hand, takes logistics. You can't just show up to some field and hope a couple of people notice you out there. Getting an Auskick clinic into an American child's busy schedule takes hard work and persistence. Fields need to be booked months in advance. Goodies for the show bags need to be ordered from Australia. Footies need to be found. Parents need to be convinced.

The one thing that is easier is that Auskick and USFooty Kids are completely self-contained. In Madison and Vermont, it was hard to get things going because it was hard to find teams to play. I remember being very upset when the Boston Demons decided not to come up to Burlington to play us. Maybe if they had done so, things in Vermont would have gone much better. On the other hand, they were concerned about driving 4 hours for nothing. Setting up an Auskick clinic takes much less coordination. If you can recruit 10 to 20 kids you are done. You can run through the activities, have a game and hand out some showbags and everyone is happy.

Watch this space to see how things turn out...

For more information on the clinics go to USFooty Kids or advance.org (under Other Events Washington DC).

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