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Auskick is a program designed to teach the basic skills of Australian rules football (AFL) to boys and girls aged between 5 and 12. A nationwide program in Australia, it has increased participation in the sport amongst children, and is employed in many countries across the world. It is known by different names in several countries, such as Kiwikick in New Zealand and Footywild in South Africa.
The program was devised in 1985 and began in the state of Victoria—the traditional home of the sport—under the name Vickick. It was supported by the Australian Football League (AFL), the sport's preeminent professional competition, which rolled it out nationally in the 1990s.
Under current corporate sponsorship rights (as of 2006) the program is officially named NAB AFL Auskick and is sponsored by the National Australia Bank (NAB), while previous sponsors include Simpson,a whitegoods company and, even earlier, fast food giant McDonald's.
Auskick is a national football coaching network, with clinics held weekly (usually on Saturday mornings) run by volunteers. The program attracts over 100,000 primary school aged participants annually and, as such, is the largest grassroots sporting association of its kind in Australia.
Each Auskick session consists of a training session and a game, with the emphasis on developing skills rather than the game result. Some of the major rule differences from Australian rules football are a ban on tackling and the restriction of players to their zone of the field, similar to netball.
The AFL is a major supporter of Auskick and star players occasionally assist in training events. The AFL also invites various branches of the Auskick network to play short games during the half-time breaks of premiership season games at all grounds, with numerous matches played on modified fields simultaneously.
In 2007 the program's slogan was "Where Champions Begin", with Jo Silvagni (wife of former AFL player Stephen Silvagni) and Robert DiPierdomenico, the 1986 co-Brownlow Medallist as the main ambassadors.They also used the kick-to-kick tradition as part of their promotional television campaign, which shows kids from around the country kicking the football to each other to the tune of "Gimme Dat Ding".
Parents are involved across the board in activities such as at skills sessions, as coaches and supervisors, administrators, helpers, coordinators and first aid officers. Throughout the year, there are parent orientation courses as well as coaching courses.
The AFL has used the Auskick program the introduce Australian rules football into schools and communities around the country to increase the AFL's profile in areas that traditionally support other football codes such as New South Wales and Queensland.
The AFL have been accused of exaggerating their participation figuresin their attempts to gain access to Sydney playing fields. Vast increases in AFL participation figures in Sydney were questioned by David Lawson, a Melbourne University academic, in a study commission by the AFL itself. His study found that AFL club participation rates in Sydney had stalled, and that the AFL was masking low figures by using short term, non-club affiliated Auskick participants and comparing them to competitive junior club participation numbers in other sports.
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