Fun and flexibility on offer for the community with Biloela Social Sports

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By Jen Gourley

A rainbow is a sign of hope and yesterday afternoon, after a short sun shower, a double rainbow appeared in the sky over Biloela – a promising sign that 2023 could indeed be a year filled with hope. It was also auspicious as it was the first gathering of Biloela Social Sports, a community-focused group that meets each Tuesday afternoon at Magavalis Sports Complex on Valentine Plains Road.

A bunch of community-minded people from Biloela got together and saw the need for a social sports group that could cater for busy families at a very affordable price. David and Amanda Hicks are among those who established Biloela Social Sports (BSS). Previous shift-work pressures and having four active children were two of the reasons for starting up the group. And then there was Covid…

“Covid made it hard for clubs and I think people got more and more isolated during that period,” Amanda said. “But the biggest reason for us was having four kids as well as the expense and the commitment to club sports. We’ve got kids wanting a variety of sports and sometimes that meant that every single night of the week you were at a different club and a different facility to entertain each of these kids’ interests as to what clubs they wanted to join… it’s expensive.

“Our club sports in this town are wonderful and they have great coaches and great volunteers and great programs but sometimes as a parent that’s really hard to commit to for a season. You let your team down if you can’t be there every week. We still wanted our kids to have the opportunity to participate, and not just kids but even adults, when parents go and watch their child play basketball for instance. I’m not joining in, but it would be lovely to have a hit of tennis or do something else while we wait. It would be good to have a variety of sports that we could all play at the same time so we can have younger kids in the family doing handball, we could have some kids doing a more structured game like basketball where you do need a team, or you could have a hit of tennis at the same time with the parents.

“It’s all just about socialising. Biloela Social Sports is under the Magavalis umbrella so all we’re really doing is putting a shout-out to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to gather on a Tuesday, whatever sport you want to bring to the place, you’re more than welcome’.

“It would be nice to have a real sense of community back without it being an expensive thing and people who are singles or are feeling a bit isolated or don’t have the schedule that matches a lot of other people’s can hopefully come and participate.

“We still wanted to support the kids by encouraging them to be active and socialise and learn social skills but in more of a relaxed manner where we don’t have a huge commitment financially and to a team.”

BSS meets at Magavalis, a sports complex on the outskirts of Biloela, with netball, tennis and basketball courts. David said Tim and Gay from Magavalis had been so supportive of this new venture for the community.

Local businesses also got behind the new group, with sponsors Lee Crane Hire and Cap Air donating new basketball hoops and AMA donating a shot clock which can keep the time and scores digitally. Mitre 10 also donated items needed to get the sports group up and running.

Members of the Biloela community also chipped in by donating tennis racquets for group members to use.

David and Amanda have been joined by other parents volunteering their time to make BSS a success, and they are looking for more volunteers, more participants and more input.

“We were passionate about getting it started and then committed to keeping it going and contributing as much as we can,” Amanda said. “We’re very community-minded people and we love to see the community doing well and we will help out as much as we can. But we’re also really keen not to have it ‘owned’ by one person – we want to have lots of people and lots of ideas and whatever the community wants that they can help support.

“David was really keen on the basketball option because there was no free space for kids to come and play basketball. I know at the high school that basketball is a huge sport for them to participate in and enjoy and the only court that they can access (outside of school time) is the one at Lions Park which is quite a small court and there’s only one hoop at one end. So, your membership to Magavalis means that these donated hoops can be used by anybody who is a member at any time. If you’re a member of Magavalis you’re entitled to use their facilities. If someone wants to create a games night with their mates, they can come down and use them.”

David has also been contacted by some local ladies keen to play bridge or monopoly, so the potential is there for a wide range of pastimes to enjoyed at the Magavalis facility. Just let the BSS crew know what you are interested in.

Looking down the track, David said they were thinking about contacting local businesses again to try to get another basketball hoop. “Then we can play 3 x 3 or have a warm-down area,” he said.

If you are keen to play on a Tuesday, you can sign up each week on the Sign Up Zone.

“Biloela Social Sports has a social page on Facebook and we’ve created a Sign Up Zone to try to structure ages and times so that people aren’t hanging around for hours or we don’t have a huge gap in ages with teens playing littlies,” Amanda said. “But we do want it to be a bit free-flowing and a bit natural so people can come and have a hit and not be pressured that they haven’t signed up. Pop ins are also welcome too.

“Our clubs still offer something really great for kids with coaching and structured sport but if that’s not a financial or time option for people we wanted something else where people could pay their $3 a year and just a gold coin if we need the lights on.”

If you would like to put your hand up to volunteer, on the Sign Up Zone there is a section where parents can pit their name down if they would like to help referee or coach or be a timekeeper.

 At yesterday’s inaugural event, there was a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, with cool music pumping through the speakers, kids tearing up and down the basketball court with smiles on their faces, tennis balls whizzing over the net after being walloped by enthusiastic young Nadals and Federers, and chilled-out parents watching on while catching up with friends. Around 60 kids and adults participated which is an awesome turnout for a first week (and during the school holidays!).

It’s inspiring to see how the town has embraced Biloela Social Sports and what its can offer for families and other community members. It’s been tough for many people lately and everyone needs a little hope and a little fun.

“Life’s hard at the moment,” said Amanda in response to the comment that Biloela could really use this. “Work’s hard, time pressures are hard, cost of living pressures are hard, everything seems that little bit hard at the moment… Life’s just so quick and we didn’t want that pressure where you have to sign up to a club and be committed and have it feel like another burden. We wanted this to be somewhere you could come, join in, participate, have fun when you can and when life’s too much and you’re busy there’s no stress. Just sign up from week to week in the Sign Up Zone if you want to join a team and if you don’t want to join a team that week you’re not on the list so there’s no burden there. We didn’t want to add a burden – we wanted it to be a really fun, hassle-free way for people to reconnect, socialise, join in and not have that extra pressure. It’s a neutral space when anyone and everyone can come and participate.”

Magavalis yearly membership is $3 for kids and $6 for adults plus $2 game fee for lights etc (no game fees for the first four weeks as Magavalis has offered to cover electricity for this period).

For more information or to sign up, search for the group “Biloela Social Sports” on Facebook.

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