The Champions Academy leadership program is looking to expand beyond the Eastern Eyre leagues next year after obtaining grant funding.
The sporting club based program was successful in applying for a $2000 grant from the Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation to scale the model.
Champions Academy founder Sarah Powell was inspired to develop the program after seeing the decline in community and services in smaller townships in the Cleve district.
Growing up in Darke Peak before working around the country in her early career, she was saddened to return and find the football club and much of what brought the community together severely diminished by rural exodus.
Mrs Powell said during her childhood, sporting clubs played a very important role in facilitating community in rural areas.
“We didn’t just go there to play sport,” she said.
“We went there because it offered a relief from the isolation of rural living.”
She said sporting clubs taught children and reminded adults to be community oriented, to volunteer and to be leaders and organisers.
“When a club closes its doors, we lose that incubator for community leadership,” she said.
Mrs Powell set up the Champions Academy for the 2015 season through the Ports Football and Netball Club to mentor prospective leaders within the club.
In the 2018 season, she was able to expand the program to include participants from all four clubs across the Eastern Eyre region.
She said she was surprised how quickly participants put aside team rivalries to work on strengthening the competition as a whole, rather than as individual clubs.
“It really exceeded all of my expectations,” she said.
Nearly 50 people have gone through the program now, with many taking on leadership positions at their respective clubs or going on to develop more skills.
Mrs Powell is now in talks with sporting leagues across the state who are considering adopting the program.
She plans to have the program available statewide by 2020, and is working on expanding locally as well.
“We would love to have it available across the Eyre Peninsula by next year,” she said.
Pictured from left are Megan Turnbull, Tyler Wilkinson, Kirsty Gregory, Kayla Whillas, Kirsty Segon, Max Fauser, Cade Hartwig, Bryce Hampel, Hannah Lienert, Kelly Kitson, Shylie Harris, Brook Seal, Megan Hornhardt, Leigh Mathews, Sharon Rodda, Dylan Bone, Erin Martens, Kim Redden, Ange Harris, Carmen Hampel, Jasmin Piggott, Kyla Franklin, Nick Gale, Corinne Tucker and Ben Earle.