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A program that touches all bases

Video: Kalyn Ponga talks about his journey from Touch Football to the NRL.

There is a “place on the field for everyone” when it comes to touch football, perhaps that’s why it ranks among the most popular sports for secondary schools.

The sport, which is one of 15 offered in Sporting Schools’ secondary program, is in the top five most requested sports by schools.

According to Touch Football ACT’s sports operations coordinator Mark Barnes, the inclusive nature of the sport is part of its popularity.

“Touch Football is a sport which anyone and everyone can play, no matter age, gender, experience or ability,” he says. “Touch Football also caters for persons who may suffer from a disability or some form of impairment.”

Barnes says Touch Football has a number of inherent mental and physical benefits, which can improve the longevity of a person’s life. 

“Touch footballers are constantly on the move, walking, running, jumping, stepping and everything in between. The fast-paced nature of the sport ensures participants are always getting a workout no matter what they are doing. As well as these obvious benefits, it is a social sport, there are opportunities for families to be involved and play together, as well as being very time efficient.”

For Emmaus Catholic College’s head of sport Kayla Hely, Touch Football not only offers physical skills such as hand-eye coordination, agility work, passing and catching but the importance of teamwork, perseverance and learning.

It also encourages those students who might typically be less enthusiastic about sport, she says.

“Our students developed their skills, understanding and knowledge of not only the rules and codes of the game, but the role of physical activity and its importance in their daily lives … Our students feel more willing to be active and find ways to promote health and sport as part of their lifelong learning,” Hely says.

She says the main barriers to student physical activity at Emmaus is a low socio-economic background and lack of knowledge about how to lead a healthy lifestyle and the role sport and activity plays in that. 

“We are grateful to Touch Football ACT and the Australian Sports Commission for assisting us to address these inequities and break down the barriers for our students.”

Year 7 and 8 students at Covenant Christian School in the ACT have just completed four Touch Football sessions this term.

The school’s teacher Jeremy Hopwood says the program was delivered in a positive way so that the students participated “more eagerly than what I’m used to seeing”.

“Most (if not all) the students were very enthusiastic about Touch by the end of the program,” he says. “They have been asking us (teachers) if we can continue doing it, and if we can enter a team into the gala day.”

He said the program has “definitely” encouraged kids to get more active and off their devices.

Touch Football is the fourth most requested Sporting Schools sport for secondary schools, following athletics, tennis and netball.

“I’m not surprised [by the popularity of the sport],” Barnes says. “It has a very rich history with many Touch players going on to even play in the NRL. Touch Football has proven to be a great pathway for many NRL superstars, such as Benji Marshall, Shaun Johnson, Kalyn Ponga and more. The fast-paced nature of the sport makes it very exciting to be a part of, whether that is playing or even watching.”

There are three types of Sporting Schools’ Touch Football programs available for primary schools and secondary school students in Years 7 and 8. Check out all the details on the Touch Football Australia page.

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