By James Eakin
As we await the rollout of the new IMMAF Oceania Youth Development Program, the President of IMMAFA, Richie Cranny, provided an update on the status of the course ahead of its much-anticipated launch.
Initially intended to launch in January after the IMMAF World Championships, the program is now set to open registration in March, after experiencing a couple of setbacks in regards to certification in select gyms.
“We’ve got 26 gyms in total finishing their working with kids and coaching certification. It’s taken longer than we hoped, but the selling point of what we do is good governance, and we can’t rush these things that are all part of the governance so that we can say to parents that all these checks and certifications are in place.”
Becoming recognised as a National Sports Organisation by the Australian government has been a battle for IMMAFA, but Cranny is confident that the launching of the Youth Development program will be a defining chapter in this quest.
“We had our first call with Sport Australia regarding our NSO status which went well. We pretty much meet all the criteria bar two. Part of the Sports Australia requirements is you have to have a youth program. We might end up merging with Sports Australia and just have it come under one banner but we’ll see.”
Another requirement of achieving NSO status is regular competition and national events. It was recently announced that Australia would be hosting a Grand Prix event in Brisbane on the 27th and 28th of May. The event will involve athletes from Australia, New Zealand and French Polynesia. The pandemic has stifled competition and as such has seen Australia’s rankings drop.
“Our rankings have dropped because we have no competition. We’re going to have a big New Zealand team coming over. We’ve got the guys coming out from French Polynesia as well. We will also have mat based competition purely for the kids and we’re going to use that as a qualification for our first-ever youth team for the World Championships.”
Cranny has high aspirations for the program and is hopeful of rapid expansion of membership. He explained his vision for the Youth Development Program.
“In six months, I hope to have 50 gyms on board. I set a target of 60 for the year and I’m confident. 50 gyms by mid-year would be fantastic and I could then include this evident success in our NSO application.”
This program is very close to Cranny’s heart, who credited his own experience of how MMA helped him when he was younger as an inspiration for the program.
“I know from my experiences as a kid what Martial Arts did for me, and I think that’s the thing I love about it. Nowadays there’s so much emphasis on mental health but who’s doing anything about it? We need to be talking to kids from an early age. It’s much easier to teach these kids all these life skills before they go off the rails.”
“It’s holistic training. You’ve got all the evidence-based knowledge and you’re giving them the tools to be able to live a healthy lifestyle from an early age. If they learn these good habits about nutrition, mental health and learn about how the body works at an early age, then that’s going to keep them in good stead all the way through. So I think that’s the most powerful thing about the program.”
Cranny will be working alongside the likes of former Olympian Adam Meyers on the program and has acquired sponsorship from Adidas for the Australian national team. These developments will be pivotal in the hunt for government funding and recognition.