REWARDING: Kel Menchin and some of the children he has been helping through the after-school program.
REWARDING: Kel Menchin and some of the children he has been helping through the after-school program.

League lover and referee laps up national award



IT WAS a twist of fate when Ballina's Kelvin Menchin badly injured his knee when playing his beloved rugby league.

"The doctor told me in no uncertain terms that I didn't want another knock on that knee," he said.

"That was a turning point for me. I got into refereeing and coaching and loved it. It just came to me and it felt so natural."

That was back in the 1980s, and this week Menchin was honoured with a national coaching award from the Australian Sports Commission.

It recognises his dedication and commitment to coaching children in the Australian Government's Active After-School Communities (AASC) program. The presentation was held at Lennox Head Public School.

The program is aimed at inactive children and looks to teach them to be active for life. It is held after school at participating primary schools and out-of-school-hour care centres, offering an array of fun and safe physical activity sessions.

Menchin has spent two-and-a-half years as a volunteer coach in the program, giving up to three afternoons a week to help children in the Ballina Shire.

"It's so rewarding, seeing kids who have very few or no fine motor skills, going on to be involved in basic playing," he said.

"Playing is something we all used to take for granted, but unfortunately, not any more.

"In AASC I do fun-based rugby league sessions, as well as multi-skill sessions where kids play all sorts of games. It's just great to see their happy faces, all because they're having fun playing."

On top of his AASC commitments, Menchin is an avid volunteer. He is president of Ballina Junior Rugby League; a junior and Group One coach; junior referees co-ordinator; and first aid officer.

Another 'up there' moment? Seeing a child in the AASC program unable to use a hula hoop.

"After three sessions she yelled out in excitement, and there she was twirling a hoop on her arm," he said.



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