Like many western countries, Australia is facing significant challenges around how to activate children and young people to be active enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Participation trends show that there has been a shift from traditional team sports to more casual, commercially organised activities. However, this change has been offset by an increase in population over 30% in the past two decades.

The result is that local governments and community sports organisations are not able to keep pace with requests for additional spaces to play, recreate and participate in community sport.

In the past couple of years, football, cricket, netball, tennis, AFL and other sports have indicated there is a shortage of sporting facilities. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be required to rectify this issue, and this does not even include the need for casual recreation or play spaces.

Local government and sporting bodies have been embracing sports surface technologies to find solutions for the increased usage needs. The National Sports Surfaces Conference, hosted within the National Sports Convention (NSC), is focusing on how technology can be embraced to develop surfaces that can be used for longer periods than natural surfaces can withstand.

Key focuses will include:

  •    Sustainable planning for future sports fields and venues
  •    Developing youth and active recreation spaces
  •    Innovation, design, management and procurement of hybrid and synthetic fields
  •    Future design considerations
  •    How to maximise facility usage

If Australia does not have the appropriate surfaces in public places for children to play and recreate when they are young, the interest in participating in community sport will continue to decline.

To counter this, sporting organisations are becoming more innovative and accepting of multi-sports fields and markings while sharing spaces. The Chief Executive Officers from Tennis NSW and Football NSW recently announced a partnership agreement that is aimed at increasing opportunities for their respective clubs and associations to share access to existing tennis facilities across NSW. This could include training for football teams and/or small-sided football competitions. The use of cushioned hard courts or synthetic grass would be ideal for this purpose. Other sports like hockey, tennis, soccer, union, league and AFL have also been collaborating at school levels in this manner.

Multi-sport usage is critical for future planning if we are to encourage young people to have a less sedentary lifestyle and reduce the prevalence of obesity in young people. By adopting this model, less individual fields will be needed which is critical, especially in inner cities.

The Full Program is now available to download and be sure to follow the National Sports Convention on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for all the latest news and updates.

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