Another year has nearly rolled around as we fast approach our Annual General Meeting (AGM). Detail has already been distributed via Russell, but you can find more information here and the event details are:
Date: Sunday 20 October 2019
Venue: Holiday Inn, Auckland Airport, 2 Ascot Rd, Mangere, Auckland
It would be great to get as many people along as possible involved in our sport, as whilst there are some formalities to get through its also a great chance to get everyone in a room together and discuss where things are at. We will be keeping to a fairly strict schedule to ensure we get through all the formal voting, but will have time at the end to discuss wider things deemed important by the delegates.
As we did last year we will be collating a detailed Annual Report summarising the years activity to go alongside the audited financial report and this will be sent out at least a week prior to the AGM so you have a chance to digest.
We also had some very hungry people towards the end of last years AGM, so this year we will be putting on a light lunch to keep people going!
For this Chairman's email, I just thought I would give a bit of an update on some of the key initiatives that have been underway over the past couple of months. More detail will be included in the upcoming Annual Report.
MENS CONTACT TEAM
Whilst a National Men's Contact program hasnt been a high strategic priority previously, an opportunity arose with the Victorian State team interested in travelling down to New Zealand in early 2020 for a game as part of their preparation for the Australian State Championships.
You can read the official announcement here but over the past 2 months we have been gauging both Player and Coach interest in developing a campaign. The Board are clear (and many members have told us) that simple "one off" International games can come with a lot of cost, and very little ongoing benefit, so we are focusing on looking at using this potential game as a starting point for an ongoing Senior Mens Program.
There has been reasonable player interest around the campaign, but our current focus is on assessing and appointing a Coaching staff as this will be a critical step in delivering something of value for the sport. We also see this as not just a development opportunity for Senior players, but also for Coaches to refine their craft, learn from others and get more experience Coaching at a higher level.
We should be in a position to announce next steps around this campaign in the next week or so.
NZAFF COMBINE SERIES
Part of our ongoing strategy is how we can raise the profile of our sport, and encourage new people into it, as these are both critical if we want to grow. One of the biggest challenges around American Football is the high barriers to entry for the contact game. Equipment is ridiculously expensive, and with the game very complicated (and dangerous without learning proper technique) its not something people can just turn up to and "have a go".
This is a core reason we believe we need to focus heavily on Flag Football at both junior and senior levels, but we have also recently purchased some timing equipment to allow us to run professional standard "combines" in an NFL style.
Part of what drove this decision was to be able to use Combine style testing for National trials / campaigns such as the Makos Flag Football team and potential Mens Contact team as discussed above, but we also think there could be much wider potential for this Combine concept to grow the sport.
We think well run Combines could be attractive for athletes from other sports codes to come and test / track their performance, and we even think simplified versions could be run at Schools. Through the NFL Combine this sort of testing is strongly connected to American Football, so we think this could be a way to help let new people know the sport is played here, drive awareness of local Clubs, and even perhaps discover the next Jordan Mailata!
Initially we are running our first Combines in Auckland and Wellington with a focus on the National Mens teams, but once we get a handle on how to use the equipment and run events we will be assessing how to have a wider impact and aim to get the gear around the Country.
We are also willing to look at running events or testing sessions for member Regions and Clubs so if interested please get in touch with Russell (email@example.com)
One of our objectives this year was to try and look at ways to get gear into our game in a more cost efficient way, but to be completely honest we have had very little success in this area.
We tried connecting with US based organisations such as Colleges, USA Football and even the NFL to try and get donations of used equipment or some sort of sponsorship, but have had not success to date. I know some Clubs have had success getting access to used equipment this way, but most people we engaged seemed to be put off by the health and safety aspect with this side of things tightening up these days.
To try and make it a bit easier for players to purchase their own equipment we have launched a subsidised online shop where people can purchase Schutt Helmets and Pads. We have committed to cover $100+ per helmet and $50+ per set-up pads to try and at least cover the shipping and GST costs which are very high when bringing gear in from the US. This still leaves the gear very costly, but we are hoping it may help some players get their own kit.
Our next step in this area will be trying to work with suppliers to get bulk deals and then help Clubs apply for funding to purchase larger orders.
CLUB DEVELOPMENT KIT
We wont be a strong sport without strong Clubs, so one of the pieces of work we did this year was pull together some key information around starting and running a Sports Club which has been shared in a Club Development Kit.
It is fairly basic content, but is designed to be a resource for potential or existing Clubs to tap into if needed. The content covers things from starting a club, running and effective committee, applying for funding through to some marketing tips for promoting your Club.
At the end of the day, as the National Body we want to be supporting our Clubs however you need us so please review the Club Kit content and let us know your thoughts, and Russell is always available (firstname.lastname@example.org) to connect with if you have other ways you feel NZAFF could support your Club.
In my last email back in late July I mentioned the $93,000 grant we had been granted from Aktive Auckland to deliver ENDZONE Flag Football into Primary and Intermediate schools in Auckland.
This was an exciting bit of news, but even with the funding there it is still taking a lot of work to convert this into action. We have partnered with Kelly Sports to help us deliver these programs, but working through the RSOs has come with a lot of red tape and some slow progress.
Getting into schools is proving pretty challenging, but we are slowly getting there largely through Kelly Sports existing relationships. We should have our first 25 schools confirmed to delivery activity in the next month with another 25 to come. It looks like at this stage most activity will be kicking off in Term 1 of 2020 and once we have locations confirmed we will be working on how we can try and leverage this into wider involvement in the sport through connecting with local clubs, trying to get Junior tournaments off the ground etc
SENIOR FLAG FOOTBALL UPDATE
It has been great to see some growth in the number of Flag Football tournaments being held, this sort of competitive element is critical to attracting and maintaining players.
In late September there was a 4 team Tournament held in Hawkes Bay, its awesome to see the Bay continuing to push to grow the sport and congrats to the Palmerston North Touchdown for the win. Engage Video Creations were also down there doing a very professional livestream via Facebook which was pretty cool. We will look to try and do more of this for future events.
The Makos Men's National Flag Football team building towards the 2020 World Cup has also recently announced their High Performance Unit which includes athletes from all around the Country. The Coaching and Management team are putting together a professional campaign, and using resources such as HUDL for sharing film to help the team develop and stay connected even when living in different cities.
This is one area that I am keen to focus some good discussion on at the AGM. This comes back continually as a top priority in our member survey, and the NZAFF Board strongly believes that without great Coaches the sport simply wont be able to grow.
But despite the deemed importance, we are seeing pretty low traction in whatever initiatives we try in this area. Our focus a year ago was to develop a largely "online" and self-paced program to help develop Coaches all around the country, and whilst some individuals have taken this opportunity up numbers are much lower than we targeted.
We also didn't have enough interest and commitment to run the Coaches and Officials Conference we were planning in August which was disappointing, but on a positive note we did have over 20 people turn out in mid-September for a Coach Development Session focusing on safe tackle technique we flew Paul Manera over from Australia to run. The session was also videoed so content will be distributed soon for others to review.
I totally appreciate that with work, family, and other commitments finding spare time is difficult so perhaps we need to look at more frequent, shorter duration events like the one with Paul ran over 2-3 hours? Please let me know your thoughts because without great Coaches, we simply wont have player numbers growing so we have to do something about it.
So thats me again, and congrats if you made it this far. Hopefully I will get to see some of you in the flesh at the upcoming AGM.