Sports was once a boys club for the wealthier, able bodied man. But now, if you are catering just to that demographic, you are missing the market completely. With the adoption of new sports technology and mainstream opportunities, sports are becoming more inclusive and accessible in Australia.
The introduction of inclusion and accessibility in sport did not just happen graciously or overnight. Meet one of the powerhouse women making strides in inclusion and accessibility in Australian sport.
A Champion of Inclusion and Accessibility: Gen Dohrmann (née Simmons)
Growing up in Melbourne, Gen Dohrmann (née Simmons) loved the passion for sport in her community, the way sport united people across different backgrounds. She saw and lived the positive impact sport brings to athletes and fans alike. Naturally, she was drawn towards working in the sports industry.
With over a decade of experience working in the sport world, Simmons’ professional life has a common theme woven in each position she holds: her passion for lifting up others and championing inclusion and accessibility.
Universal Passion: Sport has the power to be inclusive of all
Dohrmann (née Simmons) is the President of Women Sport Australia, a national advocacy body for women in sport, and the (Former) General Manager of Marketing & Industry Development at Playbk Sports partner Gymnastics Victoria (GV), a Victorian Government recognised organisation for gymnastics in Victoria.
Currently, at Women Sport Australia, Dohrmann (née Simmons) is leading their latest project to support the next generation of female athletes.
Research from Professor Clare Hanlon at Victoria University uncovered that uniforms are a barrier to participation for females if they are not comfortable playing in their sport uniform. The uncomfortable nature of a uniform borrowed predominantly from men’s sports and the male body, or even a ‘hand-me-down’ from the boys club, affects confidence about being active for young women.
Women Sport Australia partnered with CADBURY for a ‘Get in the Game’ initiative to provide $150k in funds supporting the purchase and design of new female-friendly sporting attire for grassroots girls’ sporting clubs and associations in Australia. Dohrmann (née Simmons) explained the goal of this project is to navigate uniform barriers and ensure ongoing participation.
“Just being able to create those little difference at various levels within sport is really incredible”Gen Dohrmann (née Simmons)
Sports Technology as an Enabler
In Dohrmann (née Simmons)’ opinion, the market has definitely opened up to women playing sport, citing the opportunity visible with the professionalisation of women’s sporting leagues in Australia. For instance, the AFLW is growing in popularity and reach, showing promise for what is just the beginning of the boom of women’s sports.
Dohrmann (née Simmons) feels that some growth of female participants in sport can be attributed to broader access to digital technology. In the digital world, it is quick and easy to make an internet search, finding sport opportunities within your community.
“Just being able to find the closest club near you and enrol online makes it easier to find that connection to sport,” Dohrmann (née Simmons) said.
Gymnastics Australia has a club finder on their website that populates nearby gymnastics clubs according to the postcode entered in the search box. The easy online applications allow participants to sign up digitally and book with clubs directly, providing accessibility to more athletes and families.
A subset of Gymnastics Australia, state member Gymnastics Victoria, utilises digital technology not only for easy and quick class registration but to teach and upskill their gymnastics coaches.
Award Winners of Inclusivity
In partnership with Special Olympic Australia and Playbk Sports, Gymnastics Victoria designed an online learning course, ‘Creating a Positive Experience for Athletes with Autism in Gymnastics’. The course was developed to provide gymnastics coaches with evidence-based coaching methods to support the participation experience of athletes with autism.
Gymnastics Victoria was awarded the VicHealth Sport Initiative of the Year Award at the 2021 Victorian Disability Sport and Recreation Awards. The award recognised the outstanding initiative of the ‘Creating a Positive Experience for Athletes with Autism in Gymnastics’ online learning course.
The course delivered by Carolyn Bell, Inclusion and Programs Manager at GV, and Damian Hecker, course designer at Playbk, serves coaches with the necessary learning to understand the unique ways to create a stimulating gymnastics environment.
At the time of the program launch in early 2021, Gymnastics Victoria did not have an e-learning platform. Through their partnership with Special Olympics Australia and Playbk Sports, GV houses their e-learning course on the Special Olympics Australia online learning platform, making the online course available for all gymnastics coaches within Victoria and the broader community.
“We really want to make sure that gymnastics is for everyone and every body type, every age and every ability,” Dohrmann (née Simmons). “The more that we can do to break down any stereotypes and any barriers to accessibility, the better we serve our members.”
A Common Theme of Inclusivity: E-learning
This type of innovation that brings inclusivity to sports is exactly what Dohrmann (née Simmons) has in mind for the future of Sports Technology. While e-learning is helping immensely through the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, it will continue to serve a purpose in our increasingly digital world, allowing bite-sized, skill-specific content to be available at coaches’ fingertips anytime, anywhere.
“Our soft skills learning modules allow coaches to refresh on what to do if they’ve got a child with autism in their class and how they can best cater to their needs,” Dohrmann (née Simmons) said. “Teaching gymnastics is not all one in the same. It’s critical for coaches to know the differences between teaching a class of fifteen-year-old athletes compared to teaching six-year-old athletes. There are different techniques that coaches must think about when working with children of different age groups.”
With the success of their program and rollout, the dynamic model of education and sports innovation with technology-enhanced learning products remains an important focus at Gymnastics Victoria. Dohrmann (née Simmons) said the club is looking to replicate this model again for other inclusive opportunities that deliver positive outcomes for learners through engaging and purposeful learning content.
“We are looking at developing more modules around how we can best integrate people with an intellectual disability into our mainstream gymnastics classes,” Dohrmann (née Simmons) elaborated. “We want to better cater to athletes with different learning capabilities and needs, so this is really just the start.”
Dohrmann (née Simmons) has recently moved into the CEO role at Table Tennis Australia.
For media enquiries please contact:
Playbk Sports: Jon Shepherd: [email protected]
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