Getting Touch in schools crucial to growing the sport, says Australian legend
Touch Football Australia hall of famer Peter Bell says that getting Touch played in schools is important in growing the sport in the future.
Since 2010 Touch in Australia has seen an explosion in participation numbers, with nearly 700,000 people playing the sport in 2016. This growth has been underpinned both by Touch Football Australia’s partnership with the National Rugby League, support from State governments and the Australian Sports Commission, and an increased schools programme, especially in the sport’s heartlands of New South Wales and Queensland.
North of the equator, the England Touch Association is steadily building its own schools programme, with pilot projects in Canterbury and a recent All-Schools event in Reading, Berkshire. Meanwhile more and more young players are taking up Touch competitively at club level, and hundreds of youngsters attended trials for the upcoming Junior Touch Championships.
And Bell, who has been responsible for the promotion and coaching of Touch throughout Queensland schools, says that England will start to reap the benefits in the future as Touch in schools in this country grows.
“The secret to growth is getting into the schools system and playing the sport at a younger age,” he says. “That’s what we found when we went ahead quickly with that in Australia. In order for Touch to grow in England and Europe something similar needs to happen, doing whatever it takes to get teachers involved in schools and playing it in their physical education lessons.
“Touch is a popular sport because of what it offers. We’ve got 500,000 young players in Australia, and from my experience working in schools the kids love it because it’s social and we’ve always made sure that the sport’s never split, so the boys and girls play it together.
“It’s a relatively cheap game to play and relatively injury-free. It’s a fast, fitness sport, and it ticks a lot of boxes for kids.
“As your game develops and more young boys and girls are playing it and are growing up with Touch, that’s where you’ll see the improvement in skill levels.”
The England Touch Association is always more that happy to hear from schools who want to try the sport at all age groups. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about our programmes.