Why football character is so much more important than just being skilful?
Gone are the days when recruiters look solely on footballing ability when monitoring potential draftees. They want to know everything about you and will seek out answers from coaches, teachers, family, team mates, competitors and friends. Some of the questions they will ask are: What’s their work ethic like? Is he coachable? How does he accept honest feedback? What’s their preparation like? Do they train with intensity? How do they react when things don’t go their own way? What do they do in their spare time away from football? What are they like at school? What’s their attitude like? Are they a leader or a follower?
Every time that you pull on the boots and play a game of Australian Football, you are always being judged, whether it is team mates, coaches, recruiters, supporters, opposition or just the general public who have no interest in either side, but just love watching football. You need to represent yourself accordingly and continue to make the right choices, both on and off the field. Many of these situations require discipline in that you do not find yourself in situations that may come back to haunt you e.g. getting reported, social media, alcohol, drugs etc.
Peer group pressure is a huge problem for young adolescents as many great footballers have ruined their chances of a successful football career by making the wrong choices and not being strong enough in saying no. In saying this, there have been many success stories where players who aren’t blessed with the greatest amount of skill, have etched out successful careers purely based on their football character. In some cases, they are even more respected in football circles.
When coaches talk about football character, they often refer to your actions which guide you. It is an adherence to a strict approach to training and playing or simply doing the right thing for the right reason, even when no one is watching.
Your character is unique. It should be built on the basis of your own attitude, set of rules, and principles. Self-assessment and self-evaluation are important, as is the realisation that you will not always succeed and how you deal with failure is also part of your character. Be conscious every day of the decisions you make, however big or small, and how close they bring you to the person you really want to become.
How can you develop ‘football character’?
- Set Goals: set goals for your life. Not just football. Goals affect your lifestyle outside of football and will put football into context for you.
- Practice Discretion: lead with the example of how your own good behaviour does get good results. Be a role model for others.
- Own Your Choices: take responsibility for the outcome on decisions you make. Think about the consequences before you act and don’t do things if you don’t want to accept the consequences. Use self-control and always do the best you can. Remember that you are always being judged by many footballing sectors, so make the right choices. With every choice comes a consequence: positive or negative.
- Take Initiative: volunteer to be first, be daring, bold, brave, fearless, and willing to fall down, fail, and get up again for another round.
- Be Humble: giveaway the credit for a good performance.
- Respect Yourself: show this by the way you dress and act.
- Respect Others: be considerate of other people’s feelings and beliefs. Some beliefs are not right, not wrong, just different.
- Have Integrity: tell the truth.
- Be Ethical: do the right thing.
- Be Honest: finish the things you agree to do and go where you say you will be. Be strong in your beliefs and do not get easily mislead.
- Be Innovative: continually look for better ways to do things.
- Learn from others: surround yourself with mentors and people smarter than you. Seek to be continually inspired by something, learning what your triggers are. Be a lifelong learner. Accept feedback and act upon it.
- Control the Controllables: do not think about things that are out of your control. Do not dwell on the past, but rather live in the present.
- Find a Balance: Find a balance between football and other outside interests. Do not neglect your academic studies, whether that is University, TAFE or an apprenticeship. You need some form of qualification to fall back on.
Practise what you preach and remember that with every choice comes a consequence. Let’s hope that they are positive consequences?