Elite Sports

Aussie sporting organisations lead the literacy way, but early intervention still the key

I’ve just arrived at the airport. I’m bound for Sydney where I’ll be providing feedback on literacy and numeracy testing to professional cricketers at the SCG. I’m really proud of the work Gameplan does with Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) and AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) and I’m thrilled to be part of organisations that take an active involvement in improving the literacy and numeracy outcomes of their members. There are very few organisations in Australia who truly understand that the literacy and numeracy skills of their employees underpin the success of their business.

It has long been known that language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) standards are declining in Australia. Organisations such as the ACA and the AFLPA recognise this and have made it part of their mission to provide support for their players, both past and present, who wish to improve their LLN skills. Players access the program for many different reasons and it’s a complete fallacy that elite athletes aren’t academically minded. Most are highly motivated individuals who realise that they must maximise their short tenure in professional sport. As you would imagine, some players access our services because they have come from substandard education backgrounds and wish to learn how to read and write well. However, many who access our services are juggling the demands of a university degree whilst playing elite sport. These players come to see us for help with the complex task of writing reports at the highest level. Completing a university degree does not preclude someone from accessing us for LLN support. And nor should it; LLN acquisition should be seen as a continuum over a lifetime, not a static skill that’s over and done with by Year 12.

When I come in contact with an adult who has very low levels of LLN, I am reminded over and over, of how important it is to seek help early. Early and intensive intervention can and does make the difference. I know this because I see how difficult it is for adults who have avoided getting help or been unable to access help. The earlier support can be provided, the better. It can be very difficult to help an adult with very low levels of LLN. Often deep seeded avoidance techniques, embarrassment and long term motivation (or rather, lack thereof) are persistent barriers to adults receiving the help they need.

If a child receives support early, with the support and love of parents, teachers and practitioners, then a wide world opportunity opens. Yes, the path can be tough and no, there are no quick fixes. However, these problems do not abate; they tend to increase with age.  I sound like a broken record, but peer-reviewed, research-supported and evidence based programs provided by expert practitioners are the only pathways to success. Like it or not, LLN are the foundations upon which academic success is predicated. They are the most important skills that your child will learn at school.

Whilst organisations such as the ACA and AFLPA are trailblazing the way by providing opportunities for players to improve their LLN, early intervention is the real key so that as adults they do not have to suffer the embarrassment of being unable to appropriately analyse a graph or read aloud to colleagues. If you have any concerns, talk to a teacher or a specialist.  You know your child best, follow your intuition. If you have concerns, don’t wait. Early intervention is the key to positive outcomes for our children.

Kind regards