Elite Sport Empowers the Community
Empowering Youth is a program facilitated by Power Community Limited, the community development arm of the Port Adelaide Football Club (PAFC). It encourages secondary school students to take responsibility for themselves and others by making positive decisions in relation to their health, lifestyle, finances and career path. The program involves a range of topics which contribute to physically active and socially engaged young people within the community. These topics include health and wellbeing, road safety, harm minimisation, role modelling, leadership, goal setting and decision making. Facilitated by community staff from Power Community Ltd, players from the Port Adelaide Football Club and elite female athletes from various sports; the program provides students the opportunity to connect with and be inspired by elite athletes.
As we arrive for our first session at a school, I always ask myself how we can make a positive change with the young people whom we will meet for the first time. It is challenging to engage a young person initially so the community development team has created a series of interactive activities which enable us to break down barriers that can sometimes be hard to overcome.
At the beginning of the session, our community staff introduce ourselves. We are all from diverse backgrounds, staff members include a 4-time Magarey Medallist, a late bloomer, and an inspiring AFL women’s footballer. Sharing our personal stories start the journey of inspiration and challenge.
The focus of the first session is: taking responsibility for oneself, identifying leadership, and respecting oneself and others. This incorporates healthy lifestyle messages, positive decision-making and we use real-life examples of the Port Adelaide Football Club players. We play a series of activities that encourage the group to discuss leadership in a format that is not intimidating; the exercise helps provide a solid understanding of leadership, the qualities that make a good leader, and good leaders in our society. At the end of the session, our staff encourage students to appreciate that they can be a leader in all areas of their lives; at school, on the sports field, at home and in the community.
The second session is designed to encourage the students to set SMART goals at school, career and finances, as well as techniques to help with time management. The sessions ends with a challenge which encourages mixed teams to display teamwork and leadership, founded on a reflection on how 44 players must join together to win games, and ultimately a premiership. Although the game the PAFC is playing is much bigger, we seek to develop young men away from the football field and encourage them to instil a competitive nature that will drive their success in life beyond football.
The third session is held at the home of the Port Adelaide Football Club, Alberton Oval. As the group sits in the heritage listed Fos Williams Stand overlooking the pristine oval, they have the opportunity to reflect on the past. The history of the club, which spans back 145 years, 135 of those years at Alberton Oval, is apparent. Russell Ebert then passionately reflects on the major land marks around the precinct including the Bob Quinn Grand Stand, the N L Williams scoreboard and Allan Scott Headquarters. Russell then discusses the record attendance of over 22,000 people for a match against Norwood. As the importance of the ground is discussed, information is shared with the group about job opportunities with the football club. The students are also encouraged to think of the many other opportunities involved in elite level sporting clubs, as we move across the oval to Allan Scott Headquarters.
We make our way into the community classroom where students are seated. We ask the students to list the many job roles at the PAFC. They start off slow listing coaches, sports trainers, physios, nutritionist, then the students start exploring the other opportunities; media, events, membership, corporate, hospitality, maintenance, groundsmen, finance, community and the list goes on. During this time the faces of the students light up with optimism as they start to realise ‘’this could be me one day, I could have this very opportunity and how can I get there.”
As we continue on with the tour, the students are taken into the ‘ínner sanctum’ – the players’ training hub, the players’ work space. The students get to see Boaky’s footy boots, and mountain of fan mail sitting in Chad’s pigeonhole. They sit in the lecture theatre and imagine the conversations that happen between those four walls. As we make our way along the premiership walk, past the pool area towards the gym, we bump into Matthew Lobbe who is interested in finding out about the group, where they are from, if they are enjoying the program and the staff are looking after them. We then proceed past the sweat box (cardio room) to the indoor training area where the group has a kick and a catch.
We then proceed up stairs to the player’s kitchen where Ken Hinkley says hello on his way past , and answers some questions. We then move to the administration hub where we speak to a member of the media team about the club’s social media engagements, talk to one of our graphic designers, one of the events team and Wade Thompson, a former Power player, who is now a student mentor and coordinates many of our aboriginal programs within regional and remote communities.
This draws the tour and program to a close. We end by challenging the group to continue with their leadership journey and encourage them to make wise choices in regards to their school and career pathway. We inform the students of the annual Empowering Youth Leadership Forum that we hold where students are encouraged to continue on their journey, as well as gaining work experience and volunteer opportunities with the club.
We could point to many positive outcomes of the program, but one is the top of mind. A young lady who participated in the program in 2014 was eager to learn about the Port Adelaide Football Club and the intricacies of behind the scenes. She completed a week long internship with the club over various departments, as a result of her involvement she nominated to be a part of a Youth Advisory Committee in which the club manages. She admits that the program helped her to identify leadership strategies and help her set financial, school and career goals. She has now registered her interest in a school based traineeship with the football club which would provide her a solid grounding for a career in sport and recreation whilst completing her SACE certificate.
As recognition for her outstanding effort Beyond Bank provided her with a Community Reward Account to commence her savings with her part time job. She has nominated Power Community Ltd as her choice of community partner to support with her savings journey.