Australian young people, like their British peers, are interested in sport, but most regard it simply as fun. "They are reluctant to be coached by the 'win at all costs' kind," explained Geoff Pierce, manager of sport development in South Australia. "So clubs need to have a 'sport for all' attitude as well as encouraging excellence."
The state introduced a junior sport policy in 1990 which was adopted by the rest of the country. Its key component is a sports development model which caters for three to 20-year-olds.
In 1986 the government set up the Australian Sports' Commission which in turn began Aussie Sport to encourage people to take part in many activities: about 40 instead of the traditional half dozen, with modified versions for children.
The commission co-ordinates the programme which is delivered in partnership with state departments of education and sports and recreation through units supported by national sporting organisations - equivalent to the UK governing bodies of sport.
Aussie Sport encourages "fair play, a fair go, maximum participation and informed coaching and teaching practices". It promotes coaching education and youth leadership, contributes to teachers' in-service training and publishes sport education resources. Its main programmes are: * Sportstart - helps parents learn how to play with their three to six-year-old children.
* Sport It! - helps primary teachers to develop children's movement skills. About 250 schools are involved in South Australia.
* Ready Set Go! - promotes around 40 games modified to be suitable for children.
* Active Girls Campaign - encourages adolescent girls to take part in sport.
* Sport Search - counselling package which includes 10 physical tests for 11 to 17-year-olds to match them to the 80-plus sports available in the country. "Sydney 2000 was the impetus for this," said Kylie Taylor, programme co-ordinator for Aussie Sport in South Australia. "We want to identify talent as well as encourage participation."
* Sportsfun - school-based leadership scheme for secondary pupils to help younger children in after-school modified games.
* Challenge, Achievement and Pathways in Sport - designed to "skill-up" the next generation of volunteers. Fourteen to 20-year-olds are encouraged to train as coaches, umpires, referees and study sport health.
These programmes coincided with a change in attitudes by teachers, said Geoff Pierce. As in the UK, industrial disputes meant teachers were reluctant to run competitions and coaching sessions outside school hours. Also, the introduction of a national curriculum meant languages took more time at the expense of PE and sport. So community clubs stepped in and began to organise competitive sport.
South Australia also runs 22 camps that give 800 12 to 13-year-olds a chance to develop their talents with the help of top coaches in 20 sports - the first state to do so.
"Good quality, well-balanced PE in schools is as essential as quality in elite programmes to produce good athletes," said Geoff Pierce.