The life of an AFL footballer has never been more demanding. The professionalism required to maintain such an elite level of fitness, as well as the time spent at a football club can be both physically and mentally draining.
To counter this, the AFL Players’ Association and clubs continue to push for players to take part in education and training outside of football. We believe it is important not only for balance in life but also to prepare players for the day their career comes to an end.
The AFL Players’ Association has partnered with Open Universities Australia (OUA), the leader in providing access to online learning. This is the perfect solution for so many ordinary Australians, but as we can see from one of its Education Ambassadors, it also has real value for our players.
OUA Education Ambassador Jimmy Bartel is a great example of a player who at the peak of his career is combining study and footy. He has undertaken a Bachelor of Business through OUA and says it has greatly helped his footy.
“I think it’s a great thing. It’s something you probably should do whether you study online for a qualification like a degree or even if you go into trades. It’s a healthy distraction to get your mind away from sport so it’s not constantly ticking over worrying about the game, training or selection,” said Bartel.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate with my club as they’ve been pro-education and learning. So if you do have an exam or assignment that clashes with training, they’re very flexible with letting you get your studies done and then come in and do your training at another time.”
Bartel said although he is still weighing up his options, he believed that study would help open doors.
“I’m not 100% sure at the moment but that’s probably the point of doing this degree. I want to open up as many options as possible and I think with a business degree and my sporting background, I can pick between a huge array of things.”
Another great example of a player who has successfully combined study and football is Essendon’s Henry Slattery.
Slattery is a nominee for the 2011 AFL Players’ Education and Training Award and in late 2010 he completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science from the University of Melbourne.
In his honour year, December 2010, he published a journal titled – The benefits of the Australian Pig Meat Industry from an increase in demand for a hypothetical low cholesterol port product.
Bit of a mouthful isn’t it, but Henry isn’t the stereotypical footballer which is further reiterated as he is currently undertaking a short course in Wine Appreciation and Making at Armadale Cellars with ambitions to become a wine maker and undertook this as a recommended course for his development in the profession.
He works part time on his days off at Yarra Yarra Vineyard and is also the current AFL Players’ Association delegate for the Essendon Football Club.
He is a great example of the calibre of candidate who will be competing for this year’s AFL Players’ Education and Training Award.
Challenging Henry is Hawthorn hard-nut Brad Sewell, who has completed a Bachelor of Commerce with a Sport Management Degree from Deakin University.
His story is as fascinating as it is diverse. In 2010, he travelled to Sri Lanka with Brett Kirk and several other players on a trip to explore reconciliation through sport and learn more about indigenous cultures.
Following in this theme, he is travelling to Nepal this year in October to enhance his knowledge of different cultures and explore opportunities to assist humanitarian projects.
He has also completed a work placement with Timbercorp in 2009, completed an internship with the Hawthorn Football Club in 2010 and is currently undertaking a media development program with Channel 7.
Brad also sits on the board of the Zaidees Rainbow Foundation which are an organ donor charity.
Joining Brad is fellow AFL Players’ Association Board Member Adam Selwood, who also boasts a Bachelor of Commerce – Sports Management from Curtin University and has managed to combine footy and education by studying many of these subjects externally through Open Universities Australia.
Selwood plans to move in the football management industry at the conclusion of his career and having been in the system for over ten years is in a great position to do so.
Following a different path is retiring champion Brady Rawlings who after trying many different career options throughout 2000 – 2008, decided to turn his attention to a career in coaching and completed his level 2 coaches course.
Since then he has completed a 12 month work placement at the North Melbourne Football Club in recruiting involving him attending TAC Cup games, reviewing vision during the week and then writing reports on potential draftees.
In 2010, he completed the Next Coach Program, through the AFLCA and AFL Sports Ready, and devoted many hours away from the club not only completing the course but talking to coaches and other industry experts on how to develop himself as a person and coach.
Throughout 2010 and 2011, he worked one day a week at AFL Game Development and in 2011 also worked with the Vic Metro U18s as an opposition coach and mentor.
Upon announcing his retirement, the North Melbourne Football Club offered him a full time development role for 2012, such was their high regard for his professionalism.
His alternate path shows the value of trying different forms of study to help identify what you are passionate about pursing and then making sacrifices to achieve it. He is very well established for life after football.
The final nominee is the Gold Coast recruit Campbell Brown who has followed a similar path to several of the other candidates.
He has combined education and footy having completed a Bachelor of Commerce – Sports Management whilst also completing an internship with Triple M radio station one day a week.
Brown has inherited a young list up at the Gold Coast and is a great role model for young players about the importance of combining study and training during your career.
He has certainly stepped up to the plate in helping the AFL Players’ Association and is a delegate for the fledgling Gold Coast team and is ever reliable.
Brown completes the list of nominees for the Education and Training Award. and win, lose or draw it is certain that these players have all taken the appropriate steps to ensure that when their careers eventually comes to an end they will are well positioned to make a smooth transition into life after footy.