By Mitchell Durham
For someone whose sole focus has been on developing my craft as an elite athlete, dedicated to the physical demands of training that is required to be competitive at all levels of sports karate and only really believing that the only future possibility for me was that of an athlete or a coach, the WAKF Youth & Leadership role has been an interesting, insightful, and valuable experience for me.
Two years ago, I had never had terms like board, director, committee, governance, and strategic planning in my vocabulary or even as a train of thought. So, to say I was a little daunted to have been considered for this role is an understatement.
I had a preconceived idea that the board was big official business only reserved for special people that know a lot about a lot. But after taking on the role, I slowly learned that the WAKF board is just a regular group of people that are enthusiastic and dedicated to improving karate in Western Australia, simple as that. I’m certainly not taking away from anyone’s specialised skillsets or experience, because the people I have had the pleasure of listening to and share ideas with are well equipped with knowledge. All I am saying is, anyone with the desire to contribute to WA karate and are willing to work and learn in a collaborative environment, can and should consider this role.
There have been some highlights for me in this role over the two years. I have a deep sense of pride being able to represent athletes and the next generation of karate-ka and knowing that I have influenced some decisions based on my experience as a state and national team member. However, the biggest highlight for me was celebrating the success of our amazing WA athletes competing overseas through the article I wrote in September of 2022. I was able to take a deeper dive and consciously broadcast these achievements to the karate community. We have such amazing talent coming out of this state, and for WA to be at the forefront of Australian success is something to be proud of.
It really has taken me the full 2-year term to get my head around how boards operate, specific processes and governance and I feel that I’m only just scratching the surface. However, this role has given me a wonderful opportunity to gain insight and learn skills that can be applied to any board. It has also allowed me to witness and get a grasp on the inner workings of the WAKF and how much time and effort really goes into providing the best possible service for karate.
A common theme I have come across is that our sporting organisation is built and relies upon our volunteers. We need to at all times nurture the people that are here for the love of karate, give back to them where we can and show the same amount of love as they give, because it truly takes a community to achieve success within a federation. I believe that Western Australia has one of the richest communities within the karate world and it is powerful when that is harnessed to its full potential.
Following from that statement, my hopes for the Youth & Leadership role is to see the motivated youngers shine through even brighter. There are a lot of great minds with positive energy and keen ideas for the future of WA karate, but perhaps feel a little reserved just like I did. Considering there are not many decision making or voting powers within the role, the Youth & Leadership ambassador should be more of a hands on and active position. Aligning with the soon to be formed Athlete Leadership Group, engaging with identified leaders within the federation and orchestrating workshops or activities is a great way to plant the seed for a future within the board. In hindsight, there could have been more encouragement on my behalf in this aspect if I weren’t too reserved for most of my tenure, but hopefully having this blueprint laid out for my replacement will allow things to kick start sooner.
Overall, as mentioned before, the past 2 years have been extremely insightful and valuable, and the Youth & Leadership role is an amazing initiative to create a stepping stone for young people that are deeply involved in the sport and wish to take it a step further. Whether it be exploring different possibilities for their future, or simply expanding on their knowledge for the sport, this position is perfect for a motivated youth. So to cap it off, just a little word of advice for whoever comes next; Be open minded, trust your experience as it is something unique to offer, and don’t be afraid to speak up in what you believe in.