Ryan MacKay has been announced as the 2017 Victorian NAB AFL Auskick Volunteer of the Year, after being recognised for his work with South Barwon’s NAB AFL Auskick Program at the 2017 AFL Victoria Community Football Awards on November 3. Jake Morris reports
The South Barwon NAB AFL Auskick Centre coordinator has been integral to the revival of the NAB AFL Auskick program which has seen a significant increase in participation numbers and parental engagement in the past two seasons.
Taking over the program prior to the commencement of season 2016, Ryan was faced with a number of challenges including dwindling participation numbers, low parental engagement and a lack of interest from volunteers.
Recognising the challenges the centre was facing, Ryan’s focus on parental engagement as well as overwhelming support and recognition for participants was pivotal in turning South Barwon’s NAB AFL Auskick program into one that made kids want to come back week after week, no matter the conditions.
Working closely with the senior club, Ryan created more opportunities for Auskickers to play in halftime grid matches at senior home games and introduced regular NAB AFL Auskick sessions where senior players would assist with training in order to grow a one club focus.
Today, participation numbers at the South Barwon NAB AFL Auskick Centre have more than doubled, while coaching and volunteer numbers have also jumped from five to 10 in just two years.
With an increase in participation numbers, Ryan was also able to introduce a female NAB AFL Auskick program to South Barwon earlier this year, with a total of 34 girls joining the program.
In addition to running the NAB AFL Auskick centre, Ryan has been mindful of the transition of participants to junior football, and created opportunities for players to meet with junior club coaches to make the usually anxiety filled transition from NAB AFL Auskick to club football, one of ease.
With his ongoing commitment to ensuring the NAB AFL Auskick program remains accessible, engaging, inclusive and community driven, Ryan has been commended by all involved at South Barwon, with many parents and volunteers citing his involvement as a key pillar, as to why the program is alive and thriving today.