Stingers – Quality Club of the month

Toowoomba Stingers – Quality Club of the month

The Quality Club Program is a club based accreditation program that recognises quality club administration by volunteers and promotes positive environments within our clubs. A three stage program, clubs start at Bronze and can progressively work through the program.  

Each month we profile one of our accredited clubs to find out what makes them an AFL Queensland Quality Club.

This month Club President Neville Jericho talks to us about the Toowoomba East Stingers, our Quality Club of the  month.

AFLQ: Tell us about the history of the club
NJ: “The Stingers” is 15 years old and was founded in 1997 by Paul Keenan, a teacher at Toowoomba East State School, who decided (with the help of many parents) to enter a Team in the Darling Downs Junior Australian Rules competition.  We started with a school-based Under 12 team known as the “East State Stingers”. We had 20 x Under 12 players, a figure that was unheard of then for one team on the Darling Downs, and all of those players were given equal time on the field regardless of their ability (not an easy task).
The Stingers had about 15 young players who were keen, willing and able to play Under 10s but there was no Under 10s in the junior competition that year.  Auskick centres and other Club youngsters were invited to play “Auskick/Under 10” games at the same ground as the Darling Downs Juniors; all games were played at the Harristown High School ovals.  
Despite the distinct lack of AFL skills at the start of 1997, the Under 12 East State Stingers team improved steadily, and this determined Under 12 team made it to the Grand Final and defied the odds, defeating the much fancied and experienced opponents.  That was a memorable season for the club and it galvanized our small “family” to look to the future.
At the behest of the Stingers, the DDJAFL officially introduced “non-competitive” Under 10s into the competition in 1998.  
In the off season of 1997, the parents got together and decided that it would be a positive step for both our players, as well as the local Darling Downs junior competition, that another junior club be formed and in 1998, we formally joined the local competition as a fully incorporated junior club, Toowoomba East Stingers.
We started with the ethos of “giving every player, regardless of ability, an equal opportunity” to spend the most amount of time on the field for their match.
In 1998, we included an Under 14 team and in 1999 we added Under 16s.  We grew our club slowly as our players grew.
From 1999 to 2011, the Stingers have entered a team in each age group Under 8s, Under 10/11s, Under 12/13s, Under 14/15s, Under 16/17s

The Stingers’ Paul Keenan was also instrumental in starting up Under 8s as a “non competitive” competition.

2006 was a milestone year for the Club – we celebrated our 10th anniversary with a special Dinner, inviting many of our past players and volunteers and inviting former AFLQ Darling Downs Development Manager, Jack Barry, to speak at our dinner.  

On that night we saw many of our “Stingers Originals” (players who started with the club in 1997) and we awarded our first life memberships – to three of our “founders” – Paul Keenan and Chris & Kim Thomas.   

The Stingers have awarded life memberships to 8 outstanding volunteers, all of whom have served in a volunteer capacity on our Committee and/or our Coaching & Team Management for 10 years and who have given “above and beyond” exceptional service to the Stingers.

The Stingers have made many junior grand final appearances, they have won premierships in the Under 12s, Under 14/15s and Under 16/17s, and have finished runners up (see attached Honour Board).  Over the years, this has taught many of our players to win with humility but also to lose with grace.

Currently the Stingers have Under 8s, Under 10s and Under 12s currently playing in the AFL Darling Downs Junior League.  The Stingers Under 12s is the only Stingers team to play in a “competitive” age group.

AFLQ: What do you think makes you a Quality Club?
NJ: We are a family orientated club, and proud of it.  Our Club ethos is an important part of “why we exist” as a junior AFL club.
We promote enjoyment in playing Aussie Rules footy, teamwork and sportsmanship.  Our club does not believe in the “win at all costs” attitude as this puts a huge pressure on our kids to perform.  We encourage, teach and educate our young players.
Most young players want to win matches, and ours are no different, but it’s not the central focus of why we, the Stingers, exist.
As a Club, we gauge our success as a Club not by how many premierships that may have been won and lost or best & fairest votes our players have won, BUT by the many smiles of enjoyment on the faces of our young players, the improvement in their footy skills and the friendships that are formed during footy season.
In the beginning, we decided what we wanted our club to represent –
•    Most important of all – our players having fun
•   learning new skills and teamwork
•    promoting sportsmanship and fair play
•    encouraging participation for both boys and girls without the “win at all    costs” attitude.
•    Helping our young players learn new life skills that will hopefully hold them in good stead into their future
•    Promoting respect for others
•    Forming new friendships
This ethos, developed back in 1997, still exists today.  We are proud that the ideals developed our “founding families” still play a major part in our club today.
The Stingers have always set high standards, both on and off the field, by promoting sportsmanship, recognising our volunteers, treating officials (including umpires) with respect and setting a good example for others.
Our Volunteers have always been very highly respected within our club, within the wider AFL community on the Darling Downs, with AFL Queensland and they have always promoted junior Aussie Rules wherever they can and have even volunteered at the higher level – the Executive of the AFL Darling Downs Juniors, volunteered at AFLQ State Carnival, AFLQ Country Championships and Under 12 and Under 15 Schoolboys Championships.

AFLQ: What is special about the Stingers?

NJ: Our Volunteers are special people – they give above and beyond to keep the Stingers “alive”.  Some of our Life Members are still around to advise and guide the Stingers new breed of volunteers.

Our Mission Statement is –
“To provide a welcoming and safe environment for families, children and young people to learn about, play and enjoy the great game of Aussie Rules Football.”

Despite the Stingers’ struggles so far this season, we are still proud to be able to say this.

AFLQ: What are some of the challenges you have faced?

NJ: The Stingers have met with a number of challenges over the past 15 months.  In January 2011, we lost a lot of club equipment when our equipment shed was flooded during the Toowoomba floods.  As a result, the club received some overwhelming support from the public, both locally and interstate, in helping to replace this equipment.

The Stingers juniors share a clubhouse with our senior club, Toowoomba Tigers, and the Toowoomba Crows Under 18s and late last season our clubhouse was broken into 3 times in about a fortnight.  The wanton destruction caused by these vandals really upset our hardworking volunteers.   The Stingers continued to focus on our kids ensuring that everything went ahead as normal, while the Stingers & Tigers Committees received great support from the Stingers parents during this time.   

Then for the first time in the Stingers relatively short history, the Club had to withdraw 2 teams from the AFL Darling Downs Juniors competition just prior to the start of the 2012 season – our Under 14s and Under 16s – as we did not have enough players to field these teams.

As a result of this, we also lost a number of our Committee members and long time volunteer families as there was no team at the Stingers for their sons to participate in.  Unfortunately for us they left to join other local clubs.

The Stingers have turned their fortunes around in a few short months with some truly amazing parents putting their hands up “to save the Stingers”.

AFLQ: What fundraising methods do you use?

NJ: The Stingers has always been fairly fortunate in respect of finances.  We have held some fairly substantial raffles throughout the seasons and been able to obtain some good sponsorships.  

Over the years our canteen has been a vital source of fundraising for the club.  The Stingers canteen has been “one of the best” on the Downs with a variety of “specials” such as nachos and soup, due mainly to the tireless efforts of our Canteen Committees/Convenors.

AFLQ: Do you have any great ways to attract volunteers?

NJ: The Stingers have never really had great ways – they have simply asked parents for their help.  Some years this has been hugely successful with plenty of willing volunteers and in other years, it has been a struggle to get sufficient help.

In recent years, we have introduced a perpetual trophy for Volunteer of the Year to recognise the efforts of one of our volunteers who goes above and beyond in their assistance to our club.

AFLQ: Who are the key people that have helped shape the club and how have they been involved?

NJ: Life Members, Paul Keenan, Chris & Kim Thomas, Lawrie Price, Frank & Kathy Taylor, Tom Reynolds & Brett Kleidon.  All these brilliant volunteers were all committee members, usually at the same time as being coaches, team managers or canteen convenors.  They all carried out dual roles but most importantly their main focus was the Stingers “kids”; they ensured that the Stingers’ atmosphere was warm and welcoming, much like the Stingers’ current committee.

AFLQ: Name three words that describe your football club?

NJ: Enjoyment, Teamwork & Sportsmanship

AFLQ: What advice would you have for developing clubs?

•    Regular communication is a key in keeping your club families up to date with what is happening within the club
•    Recognising the efforts of all players
•    Organise a number of social functions throughout the year, not just during footy season
•    Ask for help and guidance from people within the AFL community

AFLQ: What are your current gaols as a club?

NJ: The Stingers are looking to the future and are hoping to re-enter an Under 14 team in the AFLDDJ competition in 2013 and will look at all possibilities in forming an Under 16 team for next year as well.

Our current goals are –

•    To recruit more players to our 2012 teams
•    Re-establish our Under 14s and Under 16s next season
•    Recruit more volunteers to help lighten the workload
•    Develop new strategies to keep existing players interested in playing AFL
•    Organise more social functions for our families
•    Offer assistance to other struggling clubs

To find out more about the AFL Quality Club Program

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