G’Day learning peer

Welcome to Blog 2 of ‘Gunn Engagement - 365 Day Sharing Project’ a daily reflective piece for teachers/coaches of all movement contexts, designed to increase confidence and ability for managing the learning of unique individuals. 

I’m Gunny (Coach Gunny/Craig Gunn) an experienced educator and I have a particular ‘calling’ to support those at the grassroots/foundation/community level.  As such consider joining the below group:

“Grassroots Coaching and Consulting” Facebook group (not the page) is once such community resource that gathers coaching/teaching brains from around the world.  It began less than 17 months ago and now has 527 members from every continent and most sports:

Join. Join. Join.  We’re practical, warm and engaging, but also a little more generalist for people who are often given a bag of balls as volunteer ‘coach’ and are trying to navigate what it means to be a teacher! 

I’m sharing this ‘Gunn Engagement - 365 Day Sharing Project’ to further support communities of educators, sharing about how to best engage learners in the work of movement…  

My blog begins now!

The topic of today’s piece is an observation on the ‘Queensland Sporting Collective’ housed and facilitated by Netball Queensland (NQ).  This is the introduction only.  I will share some of my idea summaries later.

In essence, I want to tell the story of how two very different collectives came to fruition within a year period.  And how with the latter collective,  I was able to eat some humble pie as a result. The collectives/forums were very different and maybe that’s because the participants were very different.

For example, I am often citing the likes of Martin Flanagan talking about his beloved Australian Football, (as reprinted in 'The Footy Almanac' ) where he explains  contrasting narratives: "...the game has evolved into two very different cultures. Those at the top talk in terms of branding and product and market share, the language of corporate culture”.  He describes this greatly with in the ‘grassroots’ when talking about the GAME of Australian football in his home state which is described to him like, ”...the ecosystem of Tasmanian football is sick”.  As such I try hard to support grassroots coaches particularly volunteers.

In July last year a ‘forum’ was proposed and facilitated by me, but housed by Australian Catholic University (ACU), Banyo. It was based on my passion for some of the amazing  research of ACU peers and guest researchers like Shane Pill and Rochelle Eime who find that community sports’ participation measurements needed an overhaul.  I worked hard at gathering together many stakeholders from many key sports and even left my own (rugby league (NRL)) out on purpose, figuring that as Queensland was an NRL state they were already securing great public funds.  In the end though, we talked and achieved little I suppose as it was never followed up.  We enjoyed it, had international guests and the hospitality was grand.  Yet I remember one key stakeholder from NQ, Richard McIness saying to the open floor, “We already know this Gunny.  But… How are we going to change it?”

Then one day a few weeks’ ago, I was scanning for learning material to share with coaches.   I came across a piece by NQ announcing the “Queensland Sporting Collective” and I was really conflicted.  Not because I wasn’t invited (this was quickly rectified) but was critical in social media because of the message I ‘assumed’ they (the collective/NQ) were trying to get out there. I mean here I was giving away much of my own IP for free for years… And I tried a few different free professional development formats etc at pubs for free and hosted groups like “Grassroots” (above) but kept feeling rejected…  (Talking like my kids now) I was just trying to think of, like, how much passion do I want to keep putting out there, only to be totally affronted by the ‘TCs’ (some of the greatest coaches in Australia and heads of NSOs ,Sport Australia, MPs on stage)???  This was a big mistake and I was blinded by my own bias of the ‘grassroots’.

 and NQ traded a few questions and I played the stubborn game of reconsidering past let-downs… However, unlike others from big corporations and those grassroots devotees like me in the past, as educators we remained curious, asking questions to ascertain motives etc. And soon, I accepted the opportunity to have an ‘open’ chat where key stakeholders were together addressing the issue I am most passionate about: Kids and Movement! Indeed, my own NRL who’d been so brave in addressing woes and drop-out were being used as a test case for change! And I should say that the collective was not the, you know, “oh we’re special, we write these plans and we love what we do” because I got the feeling that our current Queensland Sports Minister gets it. In fact, you had people like me questioning the head of Sport Australia about the demise of grassroots coaching.  You had members of the big sports saying we are sucking out too much public money.  We had an academic questioning the use of public funding for more wasted stadia…  We had Lisa Alexander and other head coaches debating some real issues around gender on a platform of, “let’s get fair dinkum!”   

Well that’s the inspiration that I got—and in a very small, kind of obscure way—I will continue working hard at my ‘Grassroots calling’. So this is a kind but weird congratulations Richard, NQ and crew.    It won’t be read by many but please know that I have placed your HONEST and FAIR DINKUM efforts at no.2 of the Gunny 365 project.  AND, I was indeed wrong to jump the ‘Gunn’ and fire the crossed bow blanks at this worthwhile ‘think-tank’.

So, this is a story about resilience and ongoing plying of our trades, even when you have no guaranteed signs that you’re going to find any kind of success.  However, I believe that the NRL’s ‘tackle safe’ program is something that’s come along that highlights bravery, skills and abilities that will eventually contribute to something positive for our kids in all of our professional futures.  AND it took brave members of NQ to remind me of it…

And so I actually got in my truck homewards processing words but also a strange feeling in my stomach: there has been action with the NRL and now NQ, reinforcing in me renewed opportunity for lifetime movement learners that I really care about.  AND I’m just, overall, thrilled that these two sports are going against the tide and being honest about ‘churn’ and revitalizing their games (although I’m not sure of the NQ workings in fine detail). 

Now before I finish, I must recall that coaches across Australia once knew this feeling well. Putting effort and time into kids and being able to share it out among peers feeling with pride through the Australian Sports Commission and NCAS.  So peers, if you’re struggling now with a problem whether it’s a government body, a grant, a lack of resources etc and you’re thinking about hanging up the whistle, I encourage you to share it among the wider caring collective. Just like we did on that morning.  Indeed start your own sharing cross-code mastermind group. Share that you’re trying your best to make good decisions. And, who knows, rather than parting ways with me, like other key sports’ stakeholders and accusing me of ‘online bashing’, remain curious like NQ and Richard and ask questions. Because it really, really worked for me.  And got me thinking again about my own learning motives…


By the way, Gunny and Dale Sidebottom are coming to UK and Ireland in September: 

1) What changes have you made in your own actions over the last few seasons to try and ‘walk in a different stakeholder’s shoes’? 

2) How has this helped the learners you are working with? 

3) What specific evidence actors showed up in the narrative? 


email: (September UK and Ireland tour of learning 2019)

Again learning peers, I’m Gunny.  If you want these Blog Posts to your inbox send me a personal email on address above or other, and, I’ll start compiling an all-important ‘list’.

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‘Gunn Engagement - 365 Day Sharing Project’ was brought to you by, me Gunny, and superior learning vision is curated by my partner in learning Anthony O’Brien of AOB Media,

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Finally, “Kids learn teacher NOT subjects!”

Yours in learning,