Lions.com.au caught up with the Club’s Head of Welfare, Leadership and Culture, Manny Lynch, during the AFL Players Association’s Induction Camp in Melbourne.
What’s the main purpose behind initiatives such as the AFLPA Induction Camp?
It’s all about support. It’s about getting the guys to understand that what they’re going through, a lot of people have done before them. It’s also about learning from the lessons that have made them successful or otherwise, and putting some building blocks in place to mitigate potential risks.
We need to build their capability to not only exit the system a better person, but also build their capability to stay in the system.
The AFL Players’ Association are an amazing group who really work hard with the Player Development Managers from each club, and we’re all on the same page to support the young fellas coming in.
How important is it for young players to learn directly from past players’ experience?
They’re footballers, so they learn by hearing stories. There are a lot of different examples in these sessions the AFLPA are running. Some are success stories and things that have worked, and others are things that haven’t worked, all coming from the mouths of the guys who have actually been through it.
When should players start thinking about life after footy?
Every kid who comes into the system probably thinks they’re going to have a 10-15 year career. But the reality is the average life-span of an AFL footballer is less than five years – which means half have to be below that for that to be the average.
In saying that, footy is something you do in your life, it’s NOT your life. To have these guys up-skilled to transit out of the AFL is a terrific situation.
We believe that if players stay busy and build their own capabilities, it will help them stay in the system longer. It gives them an outlet from footy. So when footy doesn’t necessarily go so well, they’ve still got something else to sink their teeth into.
They also have something to fill in their time outside of footy. So when they’re away from their family and there’s down time, and most other people are at work, then these guys still have something else meaningful in their lives, and they can see progression in that.
When they do eventually leave the system, the AFLPA continues supporting them for a number of years, by playing for University studies and the sort.
We’re not necessarily saying get a degree now, we’re just encouraging them to start thinking about building some of those capabilities going forward.
In their first year, my suggestion is not to get too carried away with studies – just cool your jets a little bit. Just being in the AFL system is a massive knowledge dump in itself. We do an apprenticeship program with the boys in the first year, and it’s a high performance education process.
From a Lions point of view, we want to get them through that tough first year, and then get them starting to think about what their ‘real’ job might be down the track.
Four of the Lions’ most recent draftees – Sam Mayes, Marco Paparone, Michael Close, and Nick Hayes – will move into a house together this week. How did the Club come about facilitating that living arrangement?
We made that decision after getting feedback from host families over the past couple of years. The overwhelming desire is if they’re going to flounder, then they have to do it in a supportive environment.
They’ll be supported – very much so. The house is close to my home, I’ll have keys, and there are lots of rules surrounding it, so it will be very well supported. But there will also be times where they will have to just lean on each other, so it’s a really good opportunity for the four of them.
If you didn’t have the right type of characters, it would probably be a bit more difficult. But these guys are all very well grounded and get along with each other. I think they have complementary skills and will maintain the house beautifully.
What can you tell us about the Maleny Camp that was held in the first week of the New Year for the young Lions players?
The Maleny Camp is for the first and second year boys only.
It’s designed purely for the second year boys to tell the first year boys what it was like in their first year. It’s a sense of belonging. It’s expected that first year boys will deal with insecurities, uncertainty, homesickness and anxiety at times, so it can be reassuring to hear that the second year boys went through exactly the same thing 12 months ago.
The second year players won’t cure anything simply by sharing their experiences, but it at least shows that they can empathise with what the younger boys are going through, and will be there to support them.
So the players come out of Maleny feeling a stronger sense of belonging, and know they have a lot of support.
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