The life of an AFL footballer is small in the scheme of things.
I was one of the lucky ones, my career spanned 13 years, but this isn’t the case for the majority of the players who are drafted into the system.
Immediately, players need to think about their futures outside of the game. Some transition into the corporate world, others into the media or coaching but mine stemmed to well before I pulled on the Adelaide Crows jumper.
When I was around 15 years old, I coached an under-12s basketball team. It was my first foray into mentoring other young athletes and I loved it.
You see, well before I was able to call myself an elite footballer, I had the passion for helping others and that’s what it ultimately came down to.
That passion only grew over time as I became immersed in the AFL system.
Some of my earlier mentors at the Crows, like current Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin and current Richmond assistant coach Ben Rutten, had passions similar to mine.
Both Simon and Ben completed the AFL Coaches’ Association’s Next Coach Program and believed that helped them prepare for a future in coaching.
I spoke to Ben again last year and undertook the program with the hope of transitioning into a role at a club after hanging up the boots.
The passion to help others continually grew in my last few years as an AFL player. There’s a good feeling associated with it — there’s a level of satisfaction in helping someone develop in any facet of their life — be it professional or personal and I’m not alone in feeling that way.
There’s also the coaching or teaching element. I enjoyed analysing each drill after training and thinking of other ways to do things. That time spent reflecting on training sessions was a significant part of forming that tactical brain.
I did the Next Coach Program in my last year of footy in 2017. It’s great for refining your own philosophies and beliefs and preparing yourself for interviews within club land.
I don’t want to be a coach who stands there and tells people how to play. I want to be a mentor and someone the players can have open discussions with. I want that strong friendship that lasts a lifetime.
When you get out on the track that’s where you get to put into practice everything you’ve been preaching. One of my values is leading by example — I don’t want to be an overweight coach who’s undisciplined — I want to be organised and practice the messages I’m sending.
During the program, we looked at a few other coaches from sports around the world, they were all great coaches, and it was insightful to read about them and how they manage/coach their own philosophies.
That gave me a lot of confidence to believe in my own and that I was doing all the right things.
The program is also open to anyone from any level of coaching, which can only benefit the pathways and quality of Australian Rules competitions.
I actually think the course could be taught to other sports as well, like basketball and world football. It could help coaches from all different codes.
It’s certainly helped my time at Tigers since coming on-board as a player development coach. I’m there to help the players and they deserve that — I just want to do the role well.
The Next Coach Program is a partnership between the AFLCA and AFLPA. There are 34 graduates from the NCP are currently employed by AFL clubs, including West Coast’s Adam Simpson and Melbourne’s Simon Goodwin. The NCP is open to the public – apply by ensuring you fit the criteria HERE and register via the link HERE.