October 2020

Reclink Connect program

What they did

In response to COVID restrictions that curtailed Reclink Australia’s sport and recreation activities that support disadvantaged communities, they created Reclink Connect as a means of maintaining connections, checking on welfare, providing ideas and motivation for their participants to remain active. Reclink Connect consists of the following 6 elements;

  1. Consult and coordinate their activities with member agencies who are also subject to restrictions to ensure no person is disengaged, and to ascertain the recreation needs for them and their clients, particularly those in a supported residential setting
  2. Connect in each location with all known participants/players in their programs impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions, via weekly phone calls/emails/Facebook chats. Check on their welfare, their level of activity, encourage them, direct them to their digital content and in higher needs cases, arrange for them to receive some sports equipment to encourage activity.
  3. Distribute via the Reclink Sports Share program, packs of sporting equipment and bikes to local agencies and targeted families to build their capacity to stay active from home, vary their activity, and reduce boredom. Packs contain a range of equipment including; footballs, basketballs, netballs, soccer balls, skipping ropes, and frisbees. For families with children, they have included arts equipment to keep them stimulated with indoor activities.
  4. Establish individual and team communication platforms, blogs, or chatrooms for all participants to connect and maintain communication with each other.
  5. Create and regularly post online content with new instructive drills, demonstrations, and activities for participants to use to maintain their fitness and their connection with team training. This was expanded to include wellness content.
  6. Work with State Sporting Associations to deliver online training packages to participants i.e. AFL Level 1 Coaching, Umpire training and other relevant foundation training modules.

To date, they have delivered over 600 Sports Share packs to agencies and individuals containing new and used sports equipment that was either donated or purchased through paid donations. They have also delivered over 400 re-purposed bicycles as a COVID safe form of exercise. Their social media has reached over 50,000 people and is now a part of the regular delivery of Reclink Connect activities through Facebook, YouTube and other platforms.

Why they did it

Before COVID-19, Reclink's delivery model was based on face to face interaction with participants, either with their sport and recreation coordinators, with member agency staff or with contractors/facilitators that conduct activities. Their activities were conducted in greenspaces and indoor facilities.

COVID-19 removed all face to face delivery, and even when restrictions were relaxed, indoor facilities were still not accessible. Their programs and activities are designed to reduce isolation and to enable connections to other individuals, and the community support agencies that work with people experiencing disadvantage.

With a need to continue to support their participants and member agencies, they developed a model to maintain connections and keep people active, engaged and supported.

The move to Reclink Connect was prompted by:

  • a need to maintain support for the community
  • the commitment of their sport and recreation coordinators to the participants and member agencies
  • the needs of the community
  • the recognition that the restrictions of COVID were going to cause greater levels of isolation - and many of these people had no preparedness or resilience for this new environment
  • the research that shows that being active physically has a significant positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

What were the results

Their target was to reach as many participants as they could. Unfortunately, many of their participants maintain a certain level of anonymity and caution over providing contact details, making it challenging to reach everybody directly. Reclink worked directly with member agencies to “spread the word” and facilitate connections.

Social media has been a significant platform to drive engagement when one on one conversation via phone, text or email were not possible.

The reach and integration through social media have been their primary measure of effectiveness. Reclink received a significant level of anecdotal feedback acknowledging the positives of the Reclink Connect effort, including:

  • Articles in the local press
  • Notes of thanks
  • Requests for more assistance through the Sports Share initiative
  • The growing reach of their digital content