As a young girl growing up in Sydney, Debbie Knape loved being a part of the Australian Marching Girls Association, now known as Drilldance Australia, and participating in regular competitions.
With carefully rehearsed precision, flair and creativity, she fondly remembers teams of nine, plus a leader and three reserves, demonstrating their discipline, mateship, teamwork and deportment as they dazzled audiences across Australia.
While the popularity of the sport has sadly dwindled in recent years, Ms Knape is determined to regenerate interest within the Clarence Valley community.
With fifteen years coaching experience and aspirations to form a local competitive team within the next two years, Ms Knape is encouraging women aged 29 to 70 to give marching a go and help revamp the sport.
“It’s a great sport and you can have a lot of fun while participating and competing,” Ms Knape said encouragingly.
“You get to meet new people, make new friends, and it keeps you fit and healthy.
“You learn different hand movements and formations, and sometimes you can use a flag to create movements too and form different displays.
“There is nothing strenuous about it.
“It helps with your physicality and it also helps you strengthen and straighten your back.
“It’s very good for your posture, which is one of the reasons why I would especially love to encourage older women to consider giving it a go.”
Ms Knape started marching when she was 7 and credits the sport with saving her life after she fell ill as a young child.
“It helped me to get my strength back,” she recalled.
“Physical culture and swimming did nothing for me, but marching did.”
After relocating to the Clarence Valley several years ago, Ms Knape said she is looking forward to sharing her enthusiasm for the sport with the local community, and admits she was disappointed to discover there were more marching girl teams in the city areas compared to the country.
“I would really like to get a team going in the Clarence Valley, especially for the older generations,” she said.
“There are a lot of middle aged, retired and semi-retired women in the region and I think
this may be a positive way of bringing them together, allowing them to stay fit and active and have some fun with new friends.
“There are so many positives about the sport.
“It teaches you to be confident, to learn new skills and it gives you a sense of accomplishment.
“No need for any prior experience to start marching, you just have to want to have a good time.”
Local women interested in becoming part of a new team called Valley Elite, are encouraged to contact Ms Knape at [email protected]