Life In The Fast Lane

Clubs have made a terrible mistake. In a bid to validate existence and under the guise of improved performance they have made players fully professional. 

I am yet to hear proof that the move has worked.

Sports science guru’s have taken control of the game. Staff and team support levels are horrendously high. The guru’s use their qualifications and penchant desire to be a part of the seducing system to convince unknowing coaches and executives that their roles are vital. In a vain bid to be seen to be improving or doing something they appoint qualified and unqualified support staff. In essence throwing resources at the group and hoping something works.

What we now have is an over-developed, over-managed full-time system that is painstakingly boring for every player. 

Here’s the kicker: On the downside we have players with little or no skills outside the unsophisticated, unrealistic, protected environment called AFL. 

Further to that and as an extension we have coaches with not a single skerrick of real world experiences or normal (practical) working skills or abilities. Their own lifelong experience revolves around a playing career, followed by an assistant coaching role for a few years. This leads to insurmountable problems.

You will not hear a player speak encouragingly about their weekly activities and I have first hand references. Players refer to their week as boring, uninteresting, draining and demotivating. They are particularly savage on coach meetings which seem to be constructed for the development of the large entourage of coaches rather than the benefit of the players. Player/coach game video analysis is dreaded. The coaches go through the vision forensically – because they do not have much else to fill their week with. Assistants I have spoken to all relate the same problem; “too much time not enough things to do”. 

Every disposal is analysed, ever contest discussed. It leads to paralysis by analysis. We often wonder why players take the safe sideways option, well the answer is still ringing in his ears from the Tuesday review – “don’t turn the ball over”. Coaches are rated on their specific areas and kicking efficiency is very high on the bragging board. 

Coaches always promote taking risks until the risk causes a turnover. The player is then ridiculed. Coaches wonder why he becomes safe and measured and refuses to take risks?

There are too many coaches, too many assistants, too many development staff (I’m yet to understand the difference), too much sports science, too many everything. The only element there is not enough of is life skilling, the real world, working in a job with community people, understanding how Jenny and Chris go about their working day. Dealing with situational management, being part of a sales team, learning how a budget works, stimulating their minds with problem solving, working in a project team or a call centre.

The AFL environment has exploded with consultants, with specialists, with guru’s all of which who take up valuable player time and effectively – on exposed evidence – lead to very little improvement.

Players should still be in the workforce – at least partially. I understand this will be seen to be radically off the mark and a ridiculous opinion however I am convinced it is right. Over and over again I am being confronted with players approaching the end of their career completely pannicking about life after football and what they can do? If they were working throughout their career – even a few days or hours a week – they would be connected to society (humility), learn about something important (experience), get a skill (knowledge) and have a better idea about what they want to do after football (confidence and direction).

The wasted time at football clubs is horrenderous. Players’ enjoyment factor is at an all-time low. The system has decreed that players should be able to be accessed 24/7. So they have made them full-time professional and filled the time with wastful, irrelevent, debilitating sessions to validate the decision. Its called player control.

What we have is “life” uneducated, wealthy, bored, unstimulated sportsmen who sit around twiddling their thumbs in the down time waiting for another assistant coach to concoct a meeting as to why a certain piece of the ground wasn’t protected from a fast-break forward 50 entry or where a player was standing at a clearance in defence.

The “real” issue here is that most of the guys constructing the sessions or providing the advice have little knowledge or skill apart from having been in the same situation recently as the player in front of them reputedly learning. Lets be clear about this – AFL coaches learn on the job ( at the playing lists’ expense). The week is more around coaches (read all support staff) developing their own skills (career’s) and learning on the job, than it is about what is best for a naturally talented footballer who has experienced two things in life; school and football. This is hardly the level of experiences and development that conjures up a lot of confidence in maturity and decision-making.

These are the reasons we have so much gambling, drinking, illicit drug-taking in the AFL and amongst elite sportspeople around the world. 

AFL players have only ever been to school (usually praised and lauded) then at an AFL club (more of the same). You give people heaps of adulation and praise all their life, give them loads of money and heaps of spare time – there can only be one outcome.