Show passion, but give kids more time to make the grade

Show passion, but give kids more time to make the grade


When I was sitting down to write this article, I couldn’t work out which question was more prominent in football: Are we spoilt for choice, or is patience a virtue? But the more you think about it, the more they are linked in so many ways.

We are in the world of fantasy football and dream teams, allowing people to fulfil their inner coach, football manager and recruiting dreams.

The huge number of media now covering the game from all angles, the scrutiny and assessments of players, clubs and teams has never been so in-depth, and will only increase.

Here is a challenge for you: What was on the back page of your favourite newspaper this time last week? Can’t remember? Who cares – we are on to some other news pinpointing why player X should be traded, dropped and is no good.

Hey, I don’t blame anyone. I read it as well and it catches your attention and drives conversation on blogs or around the water cooler at the office. It becomes personal if that player has cost you the four points in your fantasy league. It is the type of conversation that dominates Twitter, Facebook and talkback radio.

But you can forget that some of these guys are 18-year-olds, from all sorts of demographics and geographical places, maybe only trained once or twice a week, only played against school kids.

The second challenge for you. Can you remember your first year on the job?

Were you a master builder in year one? Did you become part of the executive of your company straight out of university? Or did you even know everyone’s name in your office after year one, let alone speak to them?

This last point may be a bit drastic but the point I am making is that I feel sorry for these young guys drafted into the game.

“The same people who were getting into Tom Hawkins were the same people who couldn’t sing his praises loud enough six months later.”

I read their draft reports in the newspapers, asking whether they are going to be the next Adam Goodes, Dean Cox, Jonathan Brown and so on. If they don’t meet those expectations they are a bust.

Young men, 18-year-olds, are expected to have a large impact on games, but we often forget that there is an opposition as well – guys who have been at AFL level a lot longer than they have.

Challenge three for you. Think of three stars at the club you follow. What season and how old were they when they really became the player you knew what you were going to get on a week-to-week basis?

Gary Ablett was a very good forward pocket for his first four years before he graduated to being the best midfielder.

The thing that makes me laugh is the same people who were getting into Tom Hawkins were the same people who couldn’t sing his praises loud enough six months later. People who could see how much talent he had and were patient have been rewarded.

Even James Podsiadly wasn’t drafted until he was 28 or 29. In general, you don’t mature as an adult until your 20s.

Now, this raises my second point. There are exceptions to every rule and guys such as Chris Judd, Joel Selwood and Trent Cotchin have ruined it for every young player.

Why? Well, they are the freaks who have just come in and dominated from day dot and now have become the measuring stick that we compare every new draftee against.

For every one of these guys, your own club alone has first-round draft picks down to rookie-listed players who are going to come into their own at a different speed.

Agree or disagree with me, just think before you are willing to label a player a “spud”. Give him a chance, and also think how lucky we are to have some young stars who will dominate for the next 10 years. And, remember, just enjoy the game.

This article originally featured in The Age on May 1, 2013.

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