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What is MAX360?

The AFL Players’ Association is excited to be formally launching MAX360 at La Trobe University’s City Campus on Thursday, November 13. What’s it all about? Read on to find out.

The first definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is to ‘continue to repeat the same behaviour, but expect different results’.

As the newest support area in the AFL industry, Player Development and Wellbeing staff are working to elevate and embed this area of the industry as an established part of the football program at clubs. In order to do this it is time to rethink the way we approach this work with our players.

AFL players are people first, footballers second. As an industry that drafts players directly from secondary school, we have an obligation to develop these young men on and off field.

‘As an industry that drafts players directly from secondary school, we have an obligation to develop these young men on and off field.’

Player Development is also the least understood in regards to the impact work in this area can have on both performance, and on the lives of players. Traditionally a lot of the work done in this area has focussed on helping players ‘prepare for life after football’.

Whilst this language is noble and well-intentioned, young athletes hell bent on carving out a long career in their ‘dream job’ can actively rail against thinking about what might happen if they don’t (or even if they do) have the proverbial ’10 year career’, and therefore have been reluctant to meaningfully engage in development programs outside of football.

This single-minded focus on football has seen expending energy thinking about what might happen next as at best, a distraction from the job at hand, and at worst too far down the track to be of relevance to them.

Additionally, the industry has not in the past thought broadly enough about what ‘off-field development’ actually represents. Too often the sole mechanism to assess performance in this area has been percentage of players on a playing list engaged in some form of vocational pursuit, commonly study or work placement.

Whilst still a highly important component to a player’s learning and growth off-field, at the AFL Players’ Association we believe that individual development needs to be looked at in a much more holistic and individualised manner.

Max 360 image MF article
At the recent Player Development Manager Forum conducted by the AFL Players’ Association, industry leaders in this space were encouraged to centre their discussion more around changing the ‘preparing for life after football’ narrative, to ‘assisting players to maximise the opportunities that an AFL career provides’.

This philosophy incorporates both their on-field performance and also their holistic growth and development as people, and has benefits in both areas as recent research conducted by the Australian Catholic University can attest.

But how to truly engage the player in this process? A player who takes real ownership over his own development path will see far greater benefits than one that is ‘phoning it in’, so to speak.

More dynamic language that sparks the interest of players and positions this work as something they would be crazy NOT TO do, rather than obligated TO do, is a good place to start. An AFL career provides rare opportunities for players to access stakeholders, corporate expertise, programs and resources not available in other industries.

By harnessing these opportunities and aligning them to a player’s passions, skills, goals and dreams, we have the making of a really meaningful growth and development strategy for each individual player. One that he truly believes in and will drive himself, rather than be directed or even pushed.

The AFL Players’ Association’s MAX360 resource aims to do just that. An industry-led framework whereby players can assess their current skills and status, needs and passions, in line with industry norms, but provides them the freedom within this framework to access the opportunities that an AFL career provides to help them work towards their goals. It’s a resource that four clubs – Western Bulldogs, Sydney, North Melbourne and St Kilda – are piloting in 2014.

The resource provides a framework for a powerful conversation regarding a player’s progress off the field, leading to the development of an off-field development action plan.

‘The player is engaged and empowered in all decisions regarding his off-field progress, ensuring greater ownership over his path’

This powerful conversation leads to an enduring document that allows a player to track his progress off-field, to hold the industry accountable to assist him on his journey, and to progress along his development path in a meaningful and targeted manner.

The player is engaged and empowered in all decisions regarding his off-field progress, ensuring greater ownership over his path, and therefore more meaningful engagement.

Brett Johnson spoke recently about the need for a greater strategic focus and direction in the Player Development space. As with all other areas of a football business, club Boards should set the strategic imperatives in this area and require their staff to report back in on progress and performance.

MAX360 provides an excellent starting point to more strategically direct endeavours in this important area. The identification of trends and needs across a playing group, as well as a mechanism to track the progress of individuals in line with their goals, is an excellent place to start.

In our highly competitive marketplace this will lead to self-regulation by clubs always looking for that performance edge, and therefore greater outcomes for players involved in work environments where holistic development is embraced and embedded as a valued part of a football program, rather than an unwanted ‘add-on’.

MAX360 is currently being piloted in four AFL clubs, with a view to a National roll-out to kick off 2015.