Edition #21: November 2020

Photo supplied by Richmond Football Club

‘Back yourself’: Shane Edwards’ advice for young people

Shane Edwards has an enviable record. A senior player for Richmond Football Club since 2007, he’s played in their three premiership wins across the past four years, including at Brisbane’s ‘Gabba’ in 2020.

But, as he explained to the excited young people who joined him for an inspirational late-footy-season Zoom session, winning isn’t just about goal scoring; it’s about individual and team values.

When it comes to leadership at Richmond, ‘it’s about everyone being themselves and showing their own form of leadership.

Playing to your strengths

‘Being authentic to who you really are is good for your mental health,’ Shane said. ‘Richmond values are based around being authentic and honest with each other. It’s about playing to your strengths but embracing other peoples’ strengths as well.’

‘Richmond values are based around being authentic and honest with each other.’

Richmond has built a strong culture of care and concern between teammates both on and off the field, with a ready acknowledgement made of people doing things for others; a positive peer pressure to out-do each other in caring for each other.

‘We always pride ourselves on celebrating the little things and they add up to big things,’ Shane explained. ‘It breeds a lot of selflessness.’

Developing young leaders

The Zoom session participants from the Korin Gamadji Institute lapped up the inside information. This education and training facility embedded in Richmond Football Club develops leadership and employment pathways while also affirming identity and culture for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 14 and 21 years.

The Real Healthy Leadership session was part of the club’s partnership with the Foundation through the Love the Game program, and was facilitated by SALT, a sport and life training provider.

Dave Burt from SALT laid out some of the principles of sport: courage, sacrifice, commitment, discipline and good decision making under pressure, and then applied them to life. ‘When we go to a party, when we’re hanging out with our mates … we use the same strengths.’

The warning signs of gambling harm

This talk of values and peer relationships provided solid ground on which to base a discussion about gambling harm. Shane set out the bottom line: players in the AFL can’t bet on the AFL.

More broadly, though, he noted the ‘pressure to bet on sport. I think it’s more a way to fit in and be a part of the group. You feel like you’re a part of the conversation.

‘I feel more comfortable when players talk about it rather than do it on their own without talking about it or doing it in secret. It’s a slippery slope and it can get out of hand quickly.

‘If you don’t gamble, I’d advise you to not start. The risk outweighs the reward, that’s for sure.’

‘If you don’t gamble, I’d advise you to not start.’

Dave questioned Shane on that slippery slope. ‘If you see a teammate going down that path, whether it’s gambling, alcohol or disrespectful behaviour, do you guys have the courage to have that difficult conversation where you pull somebody up if you notice they’re in trouble?’

‘Absolutely,’ said Shane. ‘We constantly have talks at Richmond about what you would do if something like this arises. We’re all across seeing the warning signs, but also talking about it before there is even a warning sign. You don’t want to leave it too late. You want to be open and honest.

‘It’s really important that the person receiving the feedback knows how hard it is for the person saying something; that’s the really hard part. It’s all about how you receive the feedback because someone telling you something [difficult] is a gift.’

As far as Shane’s concerned, the response to receiving tough feedback has to be, ‘Thank you for noticing’.

The whole team behind you

From there, the teammate has the impetus to get their particular challenge under control, knowing that the whole team is right behind them.

Shane observed that players aged 17 and 18 coming into the team often didn’t back their own judgement.

‘Speak up and express yourself about what you know.’

‘A lot of them know the answer,’ Shane said. ‘They have a lot to give but they feel it’s a rite of passage to wait for the older guys to lead. In reality, a lot of the things I know now I knew when I was young. It would have helped if I’d expressed what I thought.’

He urged the participants to have confidence in themselves.

‘People won’t have been through your experiences and you probably know what’s best. Listening is powerful, but back your own judgement.

‘Speak up and express yourself about what you know.’

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