April 2006

The Nation Reviewed

Auditory hallucinations

By Gideon Haigh
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

As the barbecue sizzled at a Thursday-night training session of the Yarras a few weeks ago, the club secretary produced a bulging envelope from Cricket Victoria. When no cheque fell out, we almost lost interest. But hang on: what was this? An expensive-looking blue folder and a CD-ROM announced themselves as the Club Development Program – or, to those in the know, the CDP.

Hmm. Cricket Victoria is a large and prosperous body; the Yarras, the trifling, permanently impecunious suburban club where I’ve played for thirteen years. In that time, Cricket Victoria’s correspondence has been mostly in the form of, well, forms. This folder struck a new and helpful note from the first: “The CDP is structured around four (4) key areas.” Not four (5) key areas, or eight (4) key areas. No, not in the new Club Support Network – also known as the CSN. We read on, still a wee bit sceptical. “I trust the enclosed kit lives up to your expectations,” read the covering letter. Not a happy choice of words, really, given that our expectations were essentially zero (0).

Actually, the business of running a successful club under the CDP in the CSN was made to seem compellingly simple. First, you appoint a Club Liaison Officer (CLO). He/she then convenes a Working Party (WP). The WP conducts a Club Audit (CA); the CA inspires the Ranking For Action (RFA); to the RFA is applied the Strategy (S). Vision, implementation, Arbitrary Capitalisation. Why hadn’t we thought of this ourselves? That’s why they’re paid big bucks, we concluded.

Yet, in the same way as you can’t help filling out those magazine surveys promising to reveal whether you’re a sensitive new-age guy or a responsible pet owner, the temptation to submit the Yarras to the CA was too great. For instance: “Do we ensure that the cost or location of our activities makes them accessible to all people, particularly those people with disabilities?” Big tick there: inability to play cricket is no bar at the Yarras. “Do we actively seek to make our club more appealing by promoting and enforcing policies that eliminate harassment and discrimination?” Sure: we seldom harass opponents by the quality of our cricket, and our selections are usually completely indiscriminate. “Are our junior coaches’ police checked to create a safer environment particularly for junior players and their parents?” The free-floating apostrophe puzzled us here, as our junior coaches do not have police. Eventually, we got the gist and had to admit our delinquency.

The CDP didn’t merely set questions; it teemed with suggestions. We could, for instance, “organise a special family day such as at Christmas to cater for all family members with appropriate activities eg jumping castle”. Time to form an IFFTF (Inflatable Fun Fortification Task Force). We could “incorporate a variety of culinary options at Club functions, offering food choices that reflect your Club’s membership base” and “set up a ‘Club Café’ with outdoor tables and umbrellas serving for example cappuccino, hot chocolate, fruit cake, fruit juice and sports drinks”. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of polenta and tapenade while you’re putting your pads on. My favourite: “Praise volunteers when they are on the job acknowledging their achievements and efforts eg commenting that ‘your scorebook is very neat’.” And make sure not to complain if it doesn’t add up.

It became clear that the CDP wasn’t telling us much we didn’t know. “Offer players of lesser ability an off-field responsibility within the Club to maintain their interest and involvement”? As one who has served variously as vice-president, chairman of selectors, newsletter editor, trivia-night quizmaster, karaoke impresario and greyhound-syndicate shareholder, I can attest that we hew to this policy pretty closely.

As for encouraging us to cater for “people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds, old adults and socially disadvantaged groups”, the author was clearly a knowledge-based non-possessor (IDIOT). For cricket clubs – in fact, most of the sporting clubs I’ve been involved with – do this without thinking. Players at the Yarras range from 13 to 63. Their children run around all over the place, our collapsible middle order being as entertaining as any bouncy castle. Probably a third of our members were born overseas; another quarter come from the country. The last club wedding I went to was Greek; the next is in Shepparton. Sure, opportunities to include ethnic dancing in karaoke night may have been overlooked. But in summer time, the mixing is disarmingly easy. As one group pored over the CDP, another was kicking a Sherrin back and forth out on the oval, with Pasquale, an Italian, inducting Zameel, an Indian, in the mysteries of the drop punt. As the light petered out, Zameel was taking pack marks and booting it as long as anyone.

I often puzzle why sports clubs remain burdened by their reputation as bastions of the malign male monoculture of old Australia. In general, they are far more diverse and far less inward looking than political parties, the media and academe. And amazingly, people in them toil away without complaint, without reward, for the sake of other people, and for years at a time, in an era when – it is drummed into us almost daily – Australia is the most selfish and decadent society since the last days of Imperial Rome. But it would seem that even sports-organising bodies have bought into the cliché: thus the managerial, multicultural mush of the CDP, with its CSO and WP to look after the CLD in the CSN.

Mind you, Cricket Victoria did get one thing right, advising near the conclusion: “A blank template is provided for developing Action Plans to achieve desired outcomes.” No kidding. But we tend to find a way.

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