After many months of planning and preparing, the Victoria Goalball Association (VGA) were devastated when all goalball activities had to be postponed back in March, 2020. With the majority of VGA’s members being people who are blind or who have low vision, concerns were raised around maintaining physical fitness, loss of social and community connection and increased isolation.
To acknowledge these new concerns, VGA introduced an engagement initiative. As part of VGA’s initiative, it was acknowledged that members interact with VGA for different reasons. Using these considerations, VGA incorporated a range of virtual activities, including Virtual Training Sessions (March – July, 2020), Virtual Social Trivia Night (May, 2020), Virtual Health & Wellbeing Seminar (August, 2020), Virtual Team Walking Challenge (August, 2020) and the Virtual Victoria Vs NSW COVID Cup (September, 2020).
Implementing such a wide range of activities was initiated by the VGA Committee of Management, which consists of members who dedicate their time, skills and knowledge. To assist with running activities, skilled VGA members were contacted to assist with planning and running activities. Those who were contacted included engaging a qualified Massage Therapist to run the weekly training session over Zoom and a longtime coach to act as quizmaster as part of VGA’s social trivia night.
As VGA’s member base was not able to assist with running a mental health seminar, VGA’s committee had to step back in and search for a provider. Having previously completed their training courses, it was decided that VGA would reconnect with SALT Training to conduct the mental health seminar.
Following the seminar, the VGA has continued to coordinate activities by running virtual exercise challenges for members. In particular, Victoria are very proud of the imitation shown to set up a virtual competition with NSW. As part of these initiatives, VGA has created submission forms, created and managed all advertising and social media promotions.
VGA’s engagement initiatives were prompted by the needs of both VGA and it’s members. When COVID-19 restrictions were implemented back in March, concerns were raised around the health and wellbeing of members. With the majority of members being people who are blind or who have low vision, a number of concerns were raised around member health and wellbeing.
Individuals personal experience of living with low vision and understanding of the benefits provided by community sport, prompted the launch of VGA’s Weekly Virtual Training sessions. These sessions were launched as an alternative to goalball, which would assist members to maintain their physical health and fitness in preparation for returning to activities in May. Alongside virtual training sessions, it was acknowledged that many of VGA’s members engage in goalball activities to create social connections and build life long friendships. Taking the social aspect of sport into consideration, VGA organized a virtual trivia night in mid-May.
As VGA continued to monitor the restrictions being implemented in metro Melbourne, it was discovered that VGA would be returning to court in May as expected. With the changes in restrictions being announced by the government, VGA responded by adapting their activities to reflect changes by addressing mental health and emotional wellbeing. With the shift in focus on good mental health member have been prompted to reconnect with each other and access resources that encourage self-care. One of the main forms of self-care that has been encouraged is the one-hour exercise outside by running team virtual walking challenges.
Being a small volunteer organisation often makes it difficult to VGA to evaluate activities. With the adaption to the use of online platforms such as Zoom, VGA has been able to engage members to gather feedback. In conjunction with holding discussions with members, VGA is very big on the use of Google Forms to collect information from members. Information is often requested through VGA’s monthly newsletter, which was introduced in 2019.
To ensure that VGA are able to continue offering activities to its members, VGA have been focusing on recording activities through the creation of documentation. Documentation usually occurs through brief reports that record information about the event, tasks undertaken and any recommendations. All documents created for VGA activities are stored on a central cloud drive that is accessible to committee members.