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How Arthur Chapman is promoting sport and exercise at the Nabiac RSL sub-Branch

Sport and exercise turned Arthur Chapman’s life around – and he’s now helping others get active through the RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Pilot.

By Chris Sheedy

This article discusses veteran suicide and other issues that may impact veterans. If any of this raises issues for you, don’t go through it alone:

  • Open Arms 24-hour Support Line (1800 011 046)
  • Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467)
  • Lifeline 24/7 Crisis Support (13 11 14)

At a glance:

  • Nabiac RSL sub-Branch President Arthur Chapman used to smoke and drink in excess – until exercise turned his life around.
  • He’s now helping others get active by rolling out the RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Pilot in the Nabiac area.
  • The program has proven such a success, sub-Branch membership doubled in just eight weeks.
  • For Arthur, it’s all about getting outside, networking with others and having fun.

The RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Program, currently being piloted in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and the Lower North Coast, is about much more than simply having fun.

The program aims to build the wellbeing of veterans and their families, fostering connections between community members and promoting a little healthy competition along the way.

It also aims to remind people of the benefits of physical activity, as Dr Arthur Chapman, President of the Nabiac RSL sub-Branch, explains.

“I used to smoke a lot, drink a lot of alcohol, and I tried to complete suicide,” he says. “Then I went to an exercise physiologist who got me into CrossFit, and my life turned around. Exercise became my medicine.”

Arthur is now offering that same gift to others as he rolls out the RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Program to veterans and their families in his local area, including for members of the Nabiac RSL sub-Branch and in conjunction with neighbouring sub-Branches.

“The first thing we hope to achieve through this pilot is to increase social connection among our wider veteran community and to establish and deepen relationships.” – Jennifer Reynolds

Activities on offer include gym sessions, Zumba, Pilates, tennis, yoga, nature walks, walking football, trivia nights, lawn bowls, tai chi, archery, kayaking, mini golf and darts.

“We’re all rubbish at darts, but we have so much fun,” says Arthur.

More important than the specifics of the activities themselves, he says, is the fact that entire families can be involved, from young children to elderly grandparents. Activities are supervised and adapted for all age groups.

“The physical side of what people are doing is good for their minds and moods,” says Arthur. “They’re getting out, breathing fresh air and networking with others. They’re having coffee with like-minded families, discovering common interests and building friendships.”

And the program has been a roaring success – membership of the small Nabiac RSL sub-Branch doubled during the first eight weeks after the program was introduced, and numbers continue to rise.

Family-friendly activities

The RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Program pilot is a key component of the 2021-26 Strategic Plan and supports the League’s goal to grow its membership, encourage members to support their peers, and help veterans and their families in need.

“Our research tells us that our veteran community wants and desires activities that include their families,” says RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Program Manager Jennifer Reynolds.

“We also know that in the age group in which we’d like to see membership increase – younger veterans – the preference is for healthy and fun activities that can be undertaken as an individual or a group, rather than team-structured activities.

“As people are time poor and have many commitments within their family network, they want to be able to show up, often with their family, participate, have a whole lot of fun, then go about their day.”

Jennifer believes the values of those running the Sport and Recreation Program are vital to its success.

“Arthur has shown an openness to trying different ideas and listening to the veterans to take on their suggestions,” she says. “He always wants to make sure everybody from the entire veteran family group enjoys themselves, and I think that’s an important ingredient for success.”

And success is important, considering the bigger picture of veteran wellbeing.

“The first thing we hope to achieve through this pilot is to increase social connection among our wider veteran community and to establish and deepen relationships,” says Jennifer.

“The magic is in the social connection, in the positivity and happiness that come as a result of connecting to others that deeply understand you, all in a completely welcoming environment.”

Tips for sub-Branch sport success

The Nabiac RSL sub-Branch’s success with a social sport and recreation program need not be a one-off. Arthur shares his top three pointers for other sub-Branches looking to learn from Nabiac’s example:

  • Keep up engagement. “Use social media and be consistent. Post once a week, sharing the event and the contact details. If it’s slow for a week or two, don’t give up. Consistency is everything. When a few people come along, ask them to invite more.”
  • Keep an ear to the ground. “Once you start meeting interested people, ask them what sorts of activities they’d enjoy. Shape your offerings around them. Some might like a walk and a coffee on a Friday. Some might like fishing on the weekend. Always seek new ideas.”
  • Make it fun. “Most importantly, make every activity and event fun so that everyone wants to have a go. Don’t make it serious or competitive. Put finger food out, make sure everyone feels welcome, and

A version of this article was published in the September issue of Reveille magazine.

The RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Program offers a chance to build veteran wellbeing and community connection. Eastern Metropolitan and Lower North Coast District sub-Branches can get involved straight away – and sub-Branches across the State can find inspiration for their next event or activity. Learn more.

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