The issue goes deeper than just elite sport. It is not just, for example, the St. Kilda players but points to issues throughout our society. At the elite level the AFL clubs and AFL Players Association have education programs in place to educate and guide players, but what about the local clubs?
One innovative club is the South Barwon Football Club in the southern suburbs of Geelong, Victoria. The club has had success on the field winning many premierships. But they have kicked many goals off the field with their player welfare programs. The slogan "happy people means happy players" reveals the need for local clubs to care for the whole person rather than just the athletic performance.
In a new Victorian government pilot program and in association with an organization called Leisure Networks the football club has run various programs addressing these lifestyle issues. These programs include mental health education, such as suicide awareness, and responsible drinking. The aim is to create a culture that brings success in sport and life.
A critical part of this whole process is the role of the chaplain, Alistair Maddock. The chaplain is seen as the glue to this whole process. The programs change the mind but the chaplain helps change the heart. While the programs run over several hours the chaplain is always present to walk beside the players in their life issues.
The South Barwon Football Club is an important hub of the local community. The club has seen the problems with elite sport and in society. They have responded with this innovative program that addresses not only the behavioural changes needed but the heart changes.