Attacking Goals

Monday, October 1, 2018 - 10:56 AM

A torn patellar tendon is every athlete’s worst nightmare. It’s especially devastating when you’re competing at national level, as Tracey Swami was mid-season with West Coast Fever. Though the injury sadly led to her departure from professional netball, Swami’s snapped tendon gave Swan Districts the opportunity to snap her up to for a key role within the organisation.

Throughout her sports career, Swami played the positions Goal Attack and Goal Shooter, which is quite apt considering that’s precisely what she does in her current role as Regional Manager for V Swans Hedland. Since 2008, Swami has transferred the drive, determination and passion underlying her success on the netball court to attack the club’s overarching goals and achieving phenomenal outcomes in regional WA.

Whilst the achievement of football-centric objectives and WAFL premiership wins is certainly a priority, meeting its community outreach goals is equally important to the Swans. The club has long dedicated resources to developing the potential of Western Australians and improving community wellbeing. This unwavering commitment to building community was recently reaffirmed in the organisation’s 2018 strategic plan and the reason why the club established V Swans back in 2007

Despite generating amazing social outcomes for countless residents of remote areas since then, few people are aware that V Swans is actually the education and community development arm of Swan Districts Football Club. With the support of partners BHP, Chevron – operated Wheatstone project, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of Communities and Pilbara Motor Group, V Swans has continuously delivered direct benefits to over 5,000 young people and their families annually and has become one of the largest and most trusted community providers in the Pilbara region.

V Swans designs, develops and delivers innovative education programs that inspire youths to re-engage with their studies, school and wider community. Utilising sport as the primary tool for engagement, V Swans staff excel at igniting students’ interest in learning and encouraging program participants to explore and expand their capabilities to fulfill their academic potential. Their programs’ integration of vocational education into the standard school curriculum equips students with industry-relevant knowledge, real-world experiential training and nationally recognised accreditation. Emphasis on personal development furnishes program participants with leadership and self-motivation skills that coupled with the qualifications gained upon program completion gives them a distinct advantage in acquiring entry into higher education and employment. No wonder Kicking Goals and Shooting Goals are now the largest regional football and netball programs in Australia.

Originally offering only Kicking Goals to regional students, the program’s huge success prompted V Swans to create a second within the same framework, which Swami was instrumental in implementing. 

“I was asked to join V Swans to create a netball program to try to engage more female students at the school and hence Shooting Goals was born,” Swami said. “We began running the program in 2009. The aim was to have students engaged at school, to be having positive behaviour, being good roles models in the school and within the community and obviously having a bit of fun, having healthy lifestyle options and choices and learning a bit of netball at the same time.”

Given Swami insisted on tailing her mother on the netball court from the moment she could walk; began playing herself at the age of ten; was a member of Perth Orioles for five years and represented the West Coast Warriors, the WA Institute of Sport and the South East Demons; is an Advanced (Level 2) Coach and only one of two umpires in Port Hedland accredited with a National B Badge; and still plays in the Port Hedland Netball Association A Grade Competition, the consensus that Swami is the perfect person to have at the Shooting Goals helm is unanimous.

Currently, there are over 550 students enrolled in the programs with full classes in all years (7-12) at both Hedland and Newman Senior High Schools.

“We have just under 300 students in Hedland participating in Shooting Goals and Kicking Goals,” said Swami, who oversees Port Hedland operations. “We’ve got nearly a third of Hedland High School’s population within our program - that’s pretty impressive in terms of any extracurricular or specialist program being offered in the school, definitely one of the largest.”

The popularity of Kicking Goals and Shooting Goals is not only reflected in participant numbers but also in their attendance rates. According to the Western Australian Department of Education, attendance rates for secondary students in Year 7–12 sit at 89.5% and 67.4% for Indigenous students. For 2018, Hedland Senior High School reported an 86% attendance rate for the whole school and an Indigenous attendance rate of 71%. In comparison, Shooting Goals’ 2018 attendance rates are an amazing 93% and 89% respectively.

With Shooting Goals producing a multitude of positive outcomes from outstanding student attendance and retention rates to maintaining the viability of junior and youth programs running in regional sports clubs through the provision of Shooting Goals volunteers, needless to say Swami is proud of the program’s success.

“Our attendance rates sits above the overall school’s attendance rates [and] over the years we’ve had over 150 kids contributing to community netball,” Swami reported happily.

“It’s a pretty good little gig I’ve got,” she said with a laugh.

“Throughout the year we monitor their attendance, their behaviour, being prepared for class.  We work very closely with the school and work very closely with the teachers and if the students are starting to become a little wayward in a maths class or English class they can actually call us and say can you have a chat to this one about this and we try to work together to keep the kids on track ... it’s a good partnership between everyone,” said Swami.

“There are some male Kicking Goals students where the program definitely helps retain them on a positive track at school. As soon as they get warned that they will be monitored and may get kicked out of the program, behaviour picks up across the board and often teachers say thank you for having a talk to the student, they’ve been a great contributor to the class today.”

The level of student support described by Swami is glaringly lacking in the metropolitan area. The resources and assistance V Swans makes accessible to program participants negates the pervasive belief that quality education and opportunities for youths are rare and inaccessible in regional areas.

“Being in a small community, sometimes people think you miss out and don’t get all the opportunities metro get where I think it’s probably quite the opposite”, Swami stated vehemently. “We’re fortunate here in Hedland having BHP as a major partner, that they’re willing to invest the kind of money they invest into our school and into our program. In metro areas companies aren’t so willing to inject money into public schools. So many opportunities arise out of these programs - tours to Perth, tours to Melbourne, tours to New Zealand, opportunities to work with the West Coast Eagles, opportunities to work with the top netball coaches, there’s just endless opportunities through our programs that kids can access.”

Though Kicking Goals and Shooting Goals are specialist sports education programs, acceptance isn’t solely reserved for athletically gifted students.

“Many initially think that to be involved in sport you need to be a top athlete but through this course we show students the variety of careers involved in the Sport and Recreation industry. As they go through the course they realise there are medical teams, event management teams, marketing and promotion teams, which contribute in making all these sporting organisations operate.  So it’s a great eye opener that even if they don't quite make it as an athlete, if they have a passion and desire to be in the sport and recreation industry there are many careers that will still keep you involved in sport,” Swami said.

Swan Districts FC invites all students interested in the V Swans Kicking Goals and Shooting Goals programs to apply for entry. Application forms are available at Hedland and Newman Senior High Schools, during Term 4. The club looks forward to welcoming new participants into the Swans’ family and helping them to attack their goals and achieve their education and career dreams.

As Swami says, “it’s not about being a netball [or football] superstar. It’s about having a healthy lifestyle and being positive contributors to the school and the community”.