Community sport UNSW
The many clubs, teams and athletes across UNSW are eagerly anticipating a safe return to community sport. Photo: Arc Sport UNSW

Early discussions suggest that community sport could return in stages beginning from June - with guidelines put in place to prevent congregating and use of change rooms limited.

"We have considered sport in its entirety, from professional sport, to the recreational aspects...we have provided advice and considered circumstances in which they may be allowed," said Australian Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan.

While daily exercise, including walking, running and beach swimming, has been permitted throughout the physical distancing restrictions, community sport provides a range of benefits outside of the purely physical side of exercise. For people of all ages, sports clubs provide a community, family and a shared sense of identity.

The mental health benefits of being connected to other people in a meaningful way while enjoying exercise are immense. While it is obviously important to maintain physical distancing to reduce the spread of Covid-19, once it is safe to go back to the fields, courts and pools around Australia, the UNSW sporting community will return with a renewed sense of vigour to ensure local sports clubs are welcoming and inclusive spaces to provide those benefits to as many people as possible.

University sport, in particular, plays an important role in balancing the mental demands and challenges of higher education with movement and space for students to explore different facets of their personalities. A UTS study in 2019 found that 76% of students 
indicated that being a member of a sports club improved their research skills, 89% their creativity and innovation skills and 99% their interpersonal and communication skills (Foley, Hergesell, Almond & Darcey, 2019).

A University of Nevada study in the same year found that students who exercised regularly — at least 3 times a week — at high
intensity graduated at higher rates and on average finish with a full GPA point higher than students who do not exercise at all (Fitzsimmons 2019).

With conversations now beginning around the return dates for community sport, the UNSW sporting community looks forward to sharing these benefits across campus and beyond, through the University's sports clubs, the new Active Women Strategy, the UNSW 2025 Sport Strategy and the many Arc Sport participation programs such as She Can, Learn to Play and Day of Play.

In the meantime, our sporting community is focused on staying fit and active at home and maintaining close social connections while being physically distant. We look forward to a safe return to sport in the near future.