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Millionaires with a Year Ten Education

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

AFL Player Education Standards

The tagline for this blog - Millionaires with a Year Ten Education - has attracted some comment. Well, perhaps I should explain. Subsequent posts will deal with the claim about their wealth, so I will discuss their education. You see, I blame (in part) the current model of AFL player development for their shocking off-field behaviour. Part of that stems from the widespread lack of education.

But first, what are the educational standards of AFL footballers? It's very difficult to get concrete statistics on this, and I would welcome any pointers to detailed studies. What's clear is that it is very difficult for a professional athlete to acquire a decent education owing to a number of barriers:

  • They start young. Typically, AFL players are recruited at around 18 or so. Some at 16 or 17. This means that they have limited opportunity to pursue studies beyond those offered at high school.

  • They're jocks. AFL players (as a group) value physical prowess and don't have much truck with fancy book learnin'. They don't see the value of study (or thinking in general) and do not gain status from peers for acquiring knowledge. They look up to older poorly-educated players and aspire to be like them.

  • They're rich. One motivation for the academically-weak to persist with studies is the prospect of earning a living. It's very hard to persuade a 20 year-old of the benefits of knowledge if they earn more than a professor.

  • Their brains are damaged. (OK, this is only a minority), but all those knocks to the head, binge drinking sessions, drug-taking, Brownlow medal counts, chatting up bimbos ... it takes a toll on the grey matter that many will find impossible to recover from.

So, given these factors, it's not hard to see that your average AFL player - even if he makes it all the way through his high school - will not be able to give his studies due regard. To play footy at the elite level requires total devotion from the age of 15 or so. This is why most have, in effect, a Year Ten education. They just stopped paying attention at this point.

Now, this does not apply to all AFL players. Some actually have acquired a reasonable education: James Hird holds a Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering from RMIT - with Honours. However, I'm sure that most people would recognise Mr. Hird as an exceptional AFL player in all respects. Carlton's Michael Wilson is another player pursuing an education. Additionally, there may be a number of players undertaking short courses in human movement, sports marketing or similar watered-down undertakings.

Still, it's nothing like the old days. While I'm in my 20s, I still remember the VFL days, when many players held down jobs as teachers (admittedly a lot of those taught Phys Ed, but still, they were having a go) and other professionals. Hell, some even worked as architects before going on to become Ministers of the Crown! But that's changed now with the increasing professionalisation of the code. What's the fallout for AFL players from that?

  • Unemployable. Lack of qualifications or experience outside of footy makes it very hard for AFL players to have a life once their playing career finishes.

  • One-dimensional. AFL players are now so focused, so specialised, so lacking in outside interests, that they are probably quite boring to talk with - unless you're a fellow player or star-struck fan.

  • Out of touch. Not having friends or colleagues outside of footy means they lose a grounding in the social reality that most of us enjoy. This makes it hard for them to re-adjust and connect with ordinary people.

  • Spoilt. Earning half a million or more dollars a year by the time you're 21 will set your expectations for life about what's normal. So anything less than a investment banker's salary will seem like an insult. It's very hard to earn above the average ($40K) without an education.

Most of these impacts occur after retirement from footy. With the cut off getting younger and younger (not too many still playing at 35) - and the threat of injuries increasing from the harder game - their post-career life could be fifty years. While an AFL player could do the traditional thing - buy a pub for the free beer and spend the next several decades boring the punters with stories about your seven years of glory - Liquor Licensing Commission requirements of being of "good character" increasingly make that option less feasible for a lot of players. If you can't fall back on a trade or profession, what can they do? They can't all go on to get jobs as media commentators.

Of course, the poor education of the AFL player has a wider impact on society. It's so much easier to use your fists to settle disputes if you've never learnt to how to discuss. So much easier to rape if you've never thought about other people and consider their feelings. So much easier to believe that you and your team and your game is the only thing that matters if you've never read a book. Ultimately, education and knowledge have a civilising effect on people, and it's a shame there's such a massive deficit here, since these guys need it more than most.

*** Update ***

More news on the abysmal education standards of AFL players, with some hard statistics:
As part of its player development program, the AFL Players' Association now offers footballers a range of services including educational guidance, grants, career counselling, work experience and skills programs.

Leigh Russell, the association's career and education manager, says the courses are targeted to whichever phase the player's career is in. "Most players drafted after year 12 have spent their final year of school concentrating on football and not their ENTER scores. There are a few who have scored in the 90s but the average ENTER is between 30 and 40. This is dangerous given the short time that some of them will be in the system," she says.

"We also have a handful completing year 12 while playing and the AFLPA provides funding for tutoring while they complete their studies."

In addition, the association identifies players with numeracy and literacy needs, through its educational support program, and, where necessary, funds individual tutoring. (The Age, 2/10/2006)

So even with all those resources - time, money, support - they still have terrible educational outcomes. Why? Because programs like this are just fiddling at the edges. These boys are paid big bucks to run around kicking a ball for a couple of years and the grey beards at their clubs really don't care about anything else. Fortunately, neither do these dim young men.

Citations: The Age, 2/10/2006

Word Count: 1149

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  • Whilst I agree with you in every aspect regarding the absolute adulation and almost deity like worship that these sports stars recieve ad nauseum, I must object to your year 10 education analysis. I would say that most AFL footballers would only have satisfactorily completed year 8 as by the time they turn 14, it is nothing but footy training, playing games and 100% focus on the sport.
    I also have to add that I blame society in general for erecting this footballing false idol. I cannot sympathise with women who attach themselves to these "famous" footballers in order to be seen with them or to be able to claim that they have slept with them. I believe these women are whores and have as much of the blame for intially trying to woo these AFL neanderthals for their own immoral and twisted desires as do the AFL players for committing sexual crimes. These women sell their souls, play with the fire and then cry when they get burnt, consequently they deserve the treatment metted out to them by the AFL meatheads.
    Society, specifically these whoring women and the remaining masses that grant unconditional adulation for these thugs are to blame for the construction of the behemoth known as the AFL footballer. Without these adoring and blinded masses, this false idol would be nothing but a crumbled pile of dirt.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:19 pm, March 03, 2006  

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  • Well, it's finally happened: someone has a more extreme view than myself.

    You see, I don't think that we can divorce the decision of many young women to pursue AFL stars from the overall "vibe" (or meme) in society that says "AFL footballers are awesome. Do anything to be near them."

    That's why I get literally hundreds of hits to this site from search engines where people are asking "Where can I go to meet footballers" and "pick up AFL player" and "pub root footy player" etc. Disturbing? Yes. Expected? Totally.

    These poor misguided women are in thrall to the warped "celebrity" values that infect our society. What's-her-face Twigley and THAT red dress is regarded as some sort of highwater mark amongst a certain type of woman - hot, on the arm of <insert AFL player du jour>, photographed in the Herald-Sun and talked about on 3AW. That is the pinnacle and for lots of young woman. She is living The Dream.

    The attitude seems to be: there may be room for only one Paris Hilton - but there's 450 tickets to the Brownlow Medal count. C'mon! You're only a Brazilian wax, fake tan and blonde dye job from Making It! This is Girl Power gone horribly wrong.

    (This vapid celebrity/raunch culture thing is very widespread now. I was saddened to hear, during a recent public eulogy of a girl tragically cut down at 16, a relative pointing out that this girl's major life goal - apart from uni and travel - was to go to Melbourne and marry a footballer. Hopefully, this was just teenaged fantasy stuff.)

    In short, women who throw themselves at footballers deserve our pity, not our contempt. They lack the inner strength and critical faculties to step back from this odious culture (like most of their sisters) and say "Giving blowjobs to a queue of footballers in the toilets at a dodgy bar is not going to make me happy - no matter how famous the guy is".

    I wonder how many of the old silverbacks in AFL - the coaches, officials, commentators etc - would be happy to hear that their 17 year-old daughter was drinking with a footy club, and spent the night being passed back and forth between them like a wank mag? Maybe some would say "Hey - that's great! You're finally taking an interest in Daddy's work!" But I doubt it ...

    By Blogger Greg, at 12:24 am, March 04, 2006  

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  • This discussion takes much credit from absolutely genuinely lovely players, like Jimmy Bartel for example (and probably many other players), who are lovely in every sense of the word and you don't even need to know them or have met them!

    They may not be educated, but neither is your average tradesman, who has minimal secondary education or institutional vocational training besides on-the-job training, and still can hold many an interesting (not necessarily intelligent educated) conversation. If you can't bear to have a conversation that doesn't draw from academic topics then I wouldn't want to have a conversation with you either.

    You must admit that its a bit snobby to say they wont have a life after 35 because they're not academic! if it is only university graduates who have a "real" job and therefore a life.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:02 pm, October 16, 2007  

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  • The difficulties of AFL players after their playing career are well documented. Even those rare few who get a media gig are not immune from problems.

    Education isn't just for getting a job. It enriches people's lives in so many different ways. This has been denied to these young men and, as a result, they are left stunted, uni-dimensional and largely useless. No wonder so many burn out or find solace in a bottle.

    By Blogger Greg, at 9:30 pm, October 16, 2007  

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  • Since this site's "success?" *totally* relies on singling out individuals, make sure that you include in your list of "exceptions" the highest paid player (the most obvious candidate for your smear campaign), Chris Judd, who achieved a Year 12 score that would put any moderator of a shabby site like this one to shame. Also, make sure you provide a list of "exceptions" that have gone on to achieve impressive educational and/or employment outcomes after the restrictions of their full time role of being professional sportsmen have been removed. Of course there are some uneducated yobbos in the AFL - AS THERE IS ACROSS THE WHOLE OF AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:07 pm, January 09, 2008  

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  • I admire your opinionatedness. Good on you for repeatedly pointing out what I "must" do on my blog. Takes a lot of chutzpah.

    I reject your (repeated) argument that the AFL players should be compared with other 20 year-old men, or indeed the general population.

    A fairer comparator is other highly-paid "professionals", childrens' role models and entertainers. How do footballers stack up against our Olympians or school teachers or even stockbrokers? Poorly, by anyone's standards.

    Yet they continue to thrust themselves forwards as heroes and something to aspire to. Disgusting.

    But, anyway, you clearly have ideas on how an AFL scrutiny site should be run, so why don't you toddle off and get cracking on your own.

    When you're done, post a link here and I'll publicise it for you.

    By Blogger Greg, at 6:43 pm, January 09, 2008  

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  • So what I gather from this is you are a jealous ass? Just because you have no athetic ability and there for can not take advantage of the sports money tree you feel the need to bash them?

    Jocks are supid? Kind of a blanket statement sort of like, Nerds are pussies?

    Now guys dont stay on the here too long, You might be late for D&D.

    GO HROTHGAR!!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:44 pm, March 04, 2008  

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  • Let me make a few observations.

    Firstly, your use of "ass", "jocks" and "pussies" and (the baffling) "HROTHGAR" tell me that you are an American. This entire blog is nothing to do with American sport. AFL refers to Australian Football League, as indicated throughout this page. You must have missed that.

    Secondly, I did not assert that "jocks are stupid". I make the point that AFL players are, as a group, under-educated. I make the point clearly, I define my terms and I offer evidence to that effect.

    Thirdly, my motivations do not stem from jealousy. They're spelt out in some detail in the sidebar of every page.

    So, adding it all together, we have someone who reads the wrong article, offers an instant opinion despite total ignorance of the topic, posts the same comment three times in a row within a minute, can't comprehend what is written anyway and assumes that everyone must want to be an athlete.

    You are an idiot, and an overly-sensitive one to boot.

    By Blogger Greg, at 4:51 pm, March 04, 2008  

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  • i cant say i disagree about football player sbeing mostly uneducated i myself being one it isnt like everyone out there is a retard or as i may not be a proffesional i am still in a football league and working my way up i have to admit i did drop out of school at the age of 17 at the time it was to be a boxer now later down the road i have decided a imay as well use my abilities to play a sport i wont be brain dead form when im done i started playing football i am a normal guy just like everyone else i have freinds and a family outside of football i am even taking classes now to become a personal trainer..while you are right as most of us arent what you would call book smart we arnt stupid we can carry on a inteligent conversation and i mean lets be frank why would you need to have a degree if you are making millions doing something you love and afterwards most poeple do go on to become sports broadcasters or open a restraunt some even open programs to help out youth trying to make it into while i do agree that most players dont reciver the proper education i dont think it means they are dumb

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:49 pm, March 06, 2008  

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  • I find your frank honesty refreshing. However, you seem to be a perfect example of the problem outlined here.

    Firstly, you are not an AFL player. Presumably, you'd like to be one and talk as if it will happen soon. But I'm betting you will never make it. (Sorry, but that's just the stats.) What else will come of your life?

    Secondly, you talk of the pointlessness of education when you'll "be making millions". Since you almost certainly won't make the AFL (see above), this is a dangerous view. Further, the average tenure in the AFL is four years, and the average wage $250K. This means your entire career earning would be $1M - assuming you even get drafted. What happens after you're bundled out at 26? By definition, there will never be enough coaching and admin jobs to go around.

    Which raises the next point. You're suggestion that "most people" go on to become broadcasters is absurd, naive and incredibly telling. There are over 600 AFL professionals at any one moment and several thousand former players floating around. How many have broadcasting careers? All up, maybe twenty? Thirty? Arithmetic and probability may not be your strong point, but the conclusion is - you're well-rooted if you're banking on that career option.

    The third point is that education doesn't just set you up for a job, it sets you up for life. By being exposed to ideas and a wider range of people, you become, well, more humanised. Professional footy robs men in the 20s and 30s from moving beyond that tribal 16 year-old mindset.

    Throwing away all of that on the pipe dream of playing AFL and then calling matches is a dumb move made by idiots. Footballer players aren't dumb just because they don't get educated; they're (collectively) idiots because only idiots would take that decision in the first place.

    Please kids, stay in school.

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:13 pm, March 06, 2008  

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