Whether distributing carefully chopped oranges on the sideline, nurturing kids’ love of sport with enthusiastic coaching and refereeing, or giving up their weekends to paint clubhouses and fences, community sport would not go ahead without dads.
Nominations are now open for the Community Sports Dad of the Year award. Now in its eighth year, it’s an award that acknowledges the contributions and positive impact Australian dads make to community sport.
Weston Creek’s Mike Lyons knows all about keeping team and community spirit alive.
He’s been spending his weekends at netball courts around the ACT for almost 20 years.
It was a simple desire to spend time with his family – his three daughters and wife all played and coached at Saints Netball Club in Canberra’s Arawang Netball Association – that encouraged Mike to get involved, too.
So when his wife, who was coaching their eldest daughter’s team, needed an umpire, it was Mike who stepped up – not that he really knew the rules.
“Being six-foot-two [189cm] I thought I could bluff it for a while as I didn’t think the kids were going to grumble,” laughs Mike.
“The parents, not so much.”
As an umpire, he knows all about getting the odd glare, but he doesn’t let that deter him in any way. Having worked as a police officer in Melbourne and with a background umpiring AFL, Mike has copped a bit of flack in his time and he generally takes it in his stride.
“A couple of times I have offered my whistle to people in the crowd and said, ‘Here, you do it,'” he says. “They tend to turn that down pretty sharpish.
“At least I’m giving it a go.”
As his daughters grew up, Mike got increasingly involved with Arawang Netball Association and he moved up through the grades before eventually becoming the umpire coordinator for many years.
Back in 2014, Mike won the Telstra Netball Hero ACT award, for which he was nominated by his then 13-year-old daughter, Caitlin.
She nominated him for all the volunteering he did, as well as the ferrying between games.
These days, although none of his daughters play any more, Mike is still, according to one Saints player, ‘like a bit of a dad to everyone’.
Up until this year, he had been running Arawang’s junior umpire program, and he says he continues to mentor the juniors, help out with coaching, and what he describes as ‘crowd control’ or ‘making sure parents behave themselves’.
“I do get a bit cranky when I see junior umpires who have been reduced to tears,” says Mike.
He encourages parents – and dads in particular – to get involved with their children’s sport, and says associations are always crying out for volunteers.
“I went to our AGM [annual general meeting] and put up my hand to run a barbecue,” says Mike. “I ended up as junior convenor by default.
“It’s been a great way of getting to know a whole community and make a lot of friends. I’ve had a great time getting to know everyone.”
Community Sports Dad of the Year award founder Paul Masluk says local dads are the ones who often spend countless hours boosting morale and keeping spirits high.
“It’s been a difficult couple of years with community sport placed temporarily on hold throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes affecting the whole season,” he says.
If you want to nominate your dad, or someone else’s dad, for the Community Sports Dad of the Year award, all you have to do is pen 100 words about why they should win and submit it here.