Buckley: ‘Be yourself because everyone else is taken’

words by AFL Player, Tuesday 8 June 2021

Words by TYF ambassador Dylan Buckley

About six years ago my friend posted a Facebook status on my personal account as a joke. It said, ‘Be yourself because everyone else is taken’.

While my friend had intended to post that as a joke, like all friends do when they have access to your social media, I ended up reading it and thinking, ‘You know what, that’s pretty accurate and something I can implement in my life’.

When you break the quote down, it’s quite simplistic but when you’re growing up and you’re eager to please those around you, it can be a difficult thing to do.

I felt this firsthand throughout my football career and often I found myself doing things just to fit in.

As soon as I started embracing who I was and what was important to me, I felt it was a real steppingstone in becoming true to myself.

When you’re part of a football club you’re surrounded by so many different personalities that it can be difficult to find a balance.

I noticed when I was playing that people often found themselves engaging in behaviours that they weren’t passionate about or overly interested in because that’s what their teammates were doing, myself included.

I didn’t necessarily enjoy that, but you join in because you want to be part of the group.

This is where the role of the coach is so critical as well.

They set the vibe and culture of the club and when they’re transparent and open with players, it helps steer the group in the right direction.

That authenticity also helps formulate strong relationships among the playing group. Senior coaches, particularly at local level, are so important because they’re often central figures in the community beyond the four walls of the football club.

Coaches are always asking for their players to be transparent and authentic, so I think it’s equally important to have the reverse.

As an athlete, you can’t ask for much more than open and honest conversations and knowing that you can trust the person that you’re having those chats with, particularly when they might be challenging.

Throughout my career at Carlton and the GWS Giants I often found myself shying away from my strengths and focussing too much on trying to improve my weaknesses.

Of course, it’s important to improve the aspects of your game that need work but it’s also equally as important to acknowledge the aspects of yourself that are positive.

Being able to do that has been a massive learning curve for me.

It’s important to seek feedback in those situations and that’s why building up that rapport with your coaches and vice versa is critical.

My career taught me many things but the biggest overarching message for me was that it’s not what happens in life but how you react to it.

That’s something that I live by every single day. Good things happen in life, and bad things too, but it’s not what happens, it’s my next step from that.

Whether I use it as a tool to learn from and move forward or as a moment of reflection.

In my sporting career there were more downtimes than not but everything that I did and every experience I had, I got something positive from it.

Whether that was getting delisted at Carlton, which gave me the opportunity to join the Giants and live in Sydney for a period of my life, to then focussing on Dyl and Friends.

For community footballers, or anyone else reading this, it’s important to play your role for the club but it’s as equally important to be who you are and true to yourself.

One thing I always tell myself is that I would rather be respected than ‘liked’.

There are so many different walks of life and backgrounds in football clubs that you’re not going to please everyone, but you can always be yourself.

That’s one thing I love about my football journey.

I made friends with people that I probably wouldn’t have met in the outside world if we weren’t on the same team.

The more you can be authentic to yourself, the better life experiences you’re going to have.