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Off-field engagement linked to on-field performance

The AFL Players’ Association has released its annual Development and Wellbeing Report, featuring new research highlighting the positive link between off-field development of AFL players and on-field performance.

View the Development and Wellbeing Report here.

The Association commissioned the research conducted by Associate Professor John Saunders and Researcher Matthew Pink during season 2013.

The research investigated how engagement in off-field activities, perceptions of club support for off-field life and the adequacy/quality of time spent away from the football environment was associated with players’ performance in their football.

Research shows that when these variables were taken together they predicted 13% if the variance in on-field engagement after controlling for confounding variables such as team success that season.

These variables were particularly important for early career players (0-4 years) where they were able to predict 21% of the variance in the way in which early career players engaged with their football.

“Investment in players’ personal development and wellbeing is integral” – Ian Prendergast

Brett Johnson, General Manager of Player Development for the AFL Players’ Association, highlighted the shift of industry perception of players in relation to their football on-field performance.

“This research highlights the change in the more traditional opinion of the industry, which has been that players need to focus purely on their football career to enhance performance. We now have the evidence to suggest the opposite – that the more successful clubs are those that focus on a player’s need to develop away from the game.”

Developing players as people – rather than just as athletes – is a core objective of the Players’ Association and is something that Johnson believes benefits players, clubs and the game itself.

“As the demands of the modern game continue to increase, the Players’ Association will expand its focus on fostering a first-class sporting workplace for AFL players,” Johnson says.

“The key challenge is embedding a player development culture driving greater performance outcomes – developing players as people, not just athletes, to ensure players are prepared and equipped for future personal and professional challenges.”

The Development and Wellbeing report, provides bench marking in the areas of wellbeing and development, including career transition and education, financial education and support, cultural diversity and past player support.

Acting AFL Players’ CEO Ian Prendergast said, “Investment in players’ personal development and wellbeing is integral. This research allows us to work closer with clubs to ensure the development of supportive structures, resources and cultures”.

Other highlights in the AFL Players’ Development and Wellbeing Report included:

  • Implementation of new leave arrangements
  • Development of Best Practice Guidelines for supporting Indigenous footballers
  • Establishment of the AFL Players’ Trust – a fund designed to support past players in circumstances of hardship due to injury or illness
  • First year roll out of the Next Goal Education Pathway, seeing 95 players enrolled in Certificate IV / Diploma partnerships with universities in each state
  • Establishment of off-field development action plans for all first year players.

For more info on the academic research, turn to page 41 of the Development and Wellbeing report, which can be accessed here