Georgia Love’s campaign Rise Up and Reconnect wants Australian women to get active. Ambassador Darcy Vescio shares the importance of a community in that process.
“I love going back there.”
AFLW leading goal kicker and inaugural Carlton player Darcy Vescio might not be playing VFLW footy this year, but that doesn’t keep her away from her community club the Darebin Falcons.
Her connection to the Falcons is as much about the physical experience of getting out and kicking the footy as it is the social aspect of the club.
“You get so much just by being around other people… Whether it’s just popping in to watch whatever game’s happening, or helping out with different footy trainings.”
This connection—or reconnection—is what encouraged media personality Georgia Love’s Rise Up and Reconnect campaign in partnership with Special K, of which Vescio is an ambassador.The program is focused on Australian women reconnecting with the sports they loved as kids as an avenue to increased physical activity. Love herself has returned to the dance training she enjoyed as a child, reconnecting with her childhood dance teacher in the process.
“I just loved the community and I think that’s such a big part of kids doing sport or dancing or any of those group activities is the camaraderie and the confidence you get of associating with other people.” says Love.
Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that 60% of Australian women aged 18+ aren’t meeting physical activity guidelines. This is born off the back of evidence that teen girls drop out of sport at a significantly higher rate than their male counterparts, with nearly 50% of girls leaving sport by the time they turn 17.
When girls drop out of their sporting activities, they’re not simply robbed of the exercise and physical activity, but a regular social event, too.
“When you’re out there training, you’re not really thinking about the exercise that’s happening and what you’re putting your body through,” explains Vescio. “But you’re more so focusing on helping people around you and doing the right thing by them.”
As a child, Vescio wanted to play “anything that had a ball in it”, including footy, tennis, basketball and netball.
We chat about how tennis is the odd one out of that group. The sport that isn’t a wholly team activity and how that impacted Vescio’s long term involvement.
“It is a lonely sport,” she admits. “I probably didn’t realise how much I enjoyed team sports growing up. Compared to playing tennis as well, it’s probably something I look back on and realise how much easier it was to find motivation, and I guess not be super focused on the outcome rather than just enjoying spending time with teammates.”
For this reason, Vescio’s long involvement with community club the Darebin Falcons makes sense.
“I feel very at home at Darebin. And I love the community aspect of things and knowing that you’re contributing towards other people feeling part of something greater,” explains Vescio.
“It’s a really special place, and somewhere where people come and feel like they can be themselves and just feel quite safe and protected in a little space. So yes, it’s somewhere that I love. I feel like it brings me back to why I love footy in the first place. And where I got a lot of opportunities from.”
Vescio’s ability to feel safe and supported at her community club did a lot to set her up to be a strong advocate for women and girls at the elite AFLW level.
“I think at a club like Darebin, you learn that change is made through having conversations. Actually raising different things when you see it, even if you don’t get the result you want straight away.”
Touching on her advocacy for improved conditions for AFLW players, Vescio is aware of the platform she holds as a star of the league, knowing that if improvement is to come it needs to be led by the voices within the game.
“I feel like I’m in a position where I can. I do feel confident speaking out about things, and I feel supported and supported by my teammates and my club to be able to do that. And there definitely is a feeling that every bit of discomfort that comes with those moments in speaking out and maybe putting yourself in a more vulnerable position, there is a goal and that it makes it easier for the next girl to do that, and shows that it’s okay to challenge as well. I feel like if you love something, you will try to make it better.”
This is why the word ‘reconnect’ is so crucial to Love’s campaign. Sure, the goal of getting more Australian women active is important to the nation’s physical health. But it’s the social aspect, growth in confidence and mental health benefits of reconnecting with sports we’ve loved as kids that is overwhelmingly positive.