One would be forgiven for thinking that professional footballers in Australia have never been to school, because apparently they are not prepared for life after football.
Almost every time a player is caught in a scandal and nominated for The Fronwlow Medal Hall of Fame, someone blames the player’s actions on the lack of preparation for life in the real world. Surely that is the purpose of school, to prepare children for life in the real world.
The Frownlow Medal is awarded to the player whose off-field demeanour epitomises the values of the modern-day footballer and draws attention to the status of footballers as role models to young Australians. It covers Australia’s four major football codes; the National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Football League (AFL), the A-League (Football) and Rugby Union’s Super Rugby competition. NRL player Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015, while NRL star Jarryd Hayne is the most recent recipient.
The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame honours former players and players who received media attention in previous seasons, for similarly scandalous behaviour, and its inductees include Ben Cousins and Julian O’Neill.
So, if professional footballers have been to school, even if they finish school aged 16 or 17, why are so many of them not prepared for life after sport?
Blame the schools.
That’s not fair, because most of the footballers’ classmates avoid scandals once they enter the real world.
Blame the teachers.
Many people will, and they’re not just footballers. Australian society loves blaming teachers for all of the ills and failures of its youth, but teachers are not to blame.
Blame the players.
Perhaps the footballers themselves are to blame for their inability to cope with life after football. Many school teachers will be familiar with the following scenarios:
Young footballers don’t listen to their teachers.
They don’t study.
They don’t do their classwork.
They don’t do their homework.
They disrupt classes.
They distract their classmates.
They disobey teachers.
They swear at teachers.
Teenage football stars say they don’t have to work hard at school because they are guaranteed a career in professional football. So they don’t work at school. The future footy stars are already earning more than their teachers because they are contracted to a club’s development team and believe they don’t have to study.
Teenage football heroes are notorious for their poor attitude at school, so much so that footy legends joke about their school boy antics during commentary. England international and former NRL player James Graham recently joked about skipping school to watch State of Origin as a child in England. Perhaps the attitude and actions of teenage footballers during their school years explains why they are not prepared for life after sport.
Roger Bannister was possibly the Usain Bolt of his generation. When he broke the four minute mile he was elevated to hero status for achieving the most sought-after feat of that era. At the time, the four minute mile was equivalent to the 10-second barrier for the 100m, the 2-hour barrier for the marathon or the 6-metre barrier for Pole Vault. Bannister was a global superstar, and even though he competed before the creation of the internet, professionalism, sponsorship and social media, he was surrounded by the fame of his achievement.
What did Bannister do after retiring from Athletics?
Did he get caught drink driving, assaulting someone, abusing alcohol, selling drugs or harassing women?
No, he returned to university to complete his medical degree.
Perhaps the ‘role models’ of today could use Bannister as their own ‘role model’. They don’t have to complete a medical degree, but they could follow his lead and devote themselves to something constructive which sets them up for life, instead of blaming their club or their sport for their scandalous behaviour.
Setting themselves up for life begins at school.
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