Written by Ali Carle
There is no way these self-important, pampered boof-heads should be role models for our children.
All they do is work on their muscles, chase around a piece of pig skin and get paid too much cash which they blow on drinking, gambling or topping up their mobile phone credit so they can tweet.
And as for the Port Adelaide ones, well they’re the most useless of all.
Clearly I don’t think like this as I live with an ex-AFL player, but I’ve heard it from plenty of quarters, especially of late, so rather than me trying to change your mind and be accused of bias, I’ll let a child do it.
For privacy reasons, let’s call him James.
James had a pretty terrible home life with dad leaving the scene years ago and mum flat out getting out of bed in the morning.
As you can imagine, this boy struggled. He struggled with authority, he struggled with commitment and he battled with his own sense of self and feelings of worthlessness.
All before he reached double digits.
James’ resulting obnoxiousness also made him one of those kids a stranger was more likely to write off, than want to take home and nurture back to emotional health.
So while the majority of kids were heading to school with a full tummy, clean clothes and knowing exactly where mum would be waiting to pick them up, he showed for a grand total of 2 days.
Now enter a Port Adelaide footballer given the opportunity to mentor James through the Kick Start for Kids program.
Someone was finally taking an interest in him, his school work and his fractured family dynamics.
Someone was simply bothering to make sure he had breakfast.
Let’s be clear it wasn’t easy for either party as they battled to break down walls built on suspicion and uncertainty, but just as James was struggling to overcome his fears, so was the player who had to grapple with trying to connect with someone who’s current reality was tougher than any on-field loss.
So they started with a mutual love of football and after time, James stopped referring to himself as a stray dog and starting believing he belonged somewhere for the first time in his life.
Months on and this ‘unteachable’ disruptive has now only missed 2 days for the term and strives to be a valuable member of the school.
More south aussie kids are missing out on breakfast than in any other mainland state, and Kick Start for Kids serves up 6000 per week in over 30 northern suburb schools to students much like James.
To cynics who suggest that it’s just a ploy to tick the do-good box to up the appeal for club sponsors and fans, it was the footy department who’ve been instrumental in adapting this from a simple delivery, to positive mentoring.
And for players who’ve been drafted into the selfish world of peak performance straight from school, the relationships they’ve formed are symbiotic as they learn very quickly that the world doesn’t revolve around them and footy.
Whether you like it or not, these sometimes troublesome and fallible blokes have an inside running with kids that a teacher, counsellor or you and I will never, ever get.
It’s the very fact they play football that gives them huge currency with adolescents and while we might like to write them off as they write off their season, they can always offer an upside regardless of any 100 point thumping.
Kick Start for Kids is looking to expand into schools all over Adelaide. If you want to be involved or can help, please contact us.