AFL Players’ Association president and recently retired player Luke Ball thinks players should stop thinking about life after football.
Yes, you read that right: stop thinking about life after football.
From Thursday, the players will be asked to disregard such traditional thinking and make the most out of the opportunities football presents, as the AFL Players’ Association launches its player well-being program called MAX360.
“Max 360 is about identifying areas that you like or you think you might be suited to, and also getting organised and making sure you’re mentally in a good space” – Luke Ball
It’s all part of re-imagining ways to connect professional footballers to satisfying careers outside of the game.
The program will help players develop a plan for their lives off the field in consultation with club’s player development managers.
Ball, 30, admits he’s not the poster boy for such thinking.
Such was his focus during his outstanding career that he is a little uncertain what exactly he’ll do next season. He’ll finish his commerce degree; perhaps mentor a few footballers when required; become a father and maybe advance a few other work interests.
But Ball also knows the new model will give players a chance to make the most of what football offers, without sacrificing the dedication needed to succeed in the game.
“As always, it’s a two-way street,” Ball told AFL.com.au. “We’re hoping the players buy into it.”
Hawthorn, Geelong and the Sydney Swans led the way in their player welfare programs and were also successful on the field, which gave the program impetus.
“Strong clubs are showing that if you get this area sorted, it can only have a positive effect on the field as well,” Ball said.
Player development officers have been attending the program this week to understand how best to engage players in off-field roles that might develop into something significant outside of the game.
“As you get on in your career, you realise playing football presents a fantastic opportunity,” Ball said.
“Half the trick is to get away from saying “enrol in university, tick that off and see you when you’re finished”. It’s about identifying areas that you like or you think you might be suited to, and also getting organised and making sure you’re mentally in a good space.”
Clubs will pay a salary cap of more than $10million for the first time this season, while the players’ annual leave has been extended and is now regulated, allowing them to explore new opportunities on scheduled days off.
Ball said the industry should not take for granted that players will have been successful at school, or had academic ideals drummed into them at an early age.
He said he might remain president of the AFL Players’ Association beyond the organisation’s annual general meeting in March for another season, even though he is now a former player.
“We will wait and see,” Ball said.
He has been AFL Players’ Association president since 2012 and played the last of his 223-game career in round 23 against Hawthorn.
This article was originally published on afl.com.au and can be accessed here