From the Program Manager’s desk… for the final time

words by Tackle Your Feelings, Friday 29 October 2021

We started 2021 hitting the ground running.

As a program, and a nation, we were fortunate to escape COVID-19 for the early parts of the year, which allowed us to deliver our program to new regions.

One of the highlights from this time was our trip with King Island alongside AFL Tasmania, to deliver the program in Tassie for the first time and visiting the Adelaide Hills.

Despite the challenges we were presented from May onwards with COVID-19 hotspots, lockdowns and everchanging restrictions, we were able to deliver 162 workshops to 359 community football clubs and over 4,000 community coaches and committee members.

In 2021 we expanded our ambassador reach, introducing former Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and Bulldogs AFLW captain Ellie Blackburn to the program.

After three years in the program, I will be leaving Tackle Your Feelings to pursue a role with St Kilda Football Club as its High Performance Manager.

I have loved every minute of my TYF journey, the people who I have met, the towns I have visited and the coaches who continue to play a vital role in their communities.

I am incredibly proud of the program and look forward to seeing how it evolves over time.

As I begin my transition out of the role of program manager, we have recently completed the process to identify my replacement.

I am delighted to share that Adam Baldwin has been appointed as the TYF Program Manager.

Adam has worked closely on the program in the past three years in his role at the AFL Players’ Association as the TYF program lead, in addition to his duties as Head of Communications.

Adam has a strong background in community sport, as a player with Old Ivanhoe in the VAFA for many years, as a coach with the Northern Knights NAB League program, and currently with Melbourne Grammar School.

I have full faith that Adam’s understanding of the TYF program and his vision for its future will ensure continual growth and development in the coming years.

As I reflect on my time working with TYF, I am most proud to have watched the program evolve.

I have been afforded many opportunities in this role to connect with great people at community clubs and to visit metropolitan and regional towns where the program has had a lasting impact.

Seeing the program take the next step with the support of our ambassadors, state and community leagues, and Regional Sports Assemblies, is something I have great pride in.

Without doubt there were several challenges as we got TYF off the ground. Most notably, COVID-19.

Like any business or organisation we had to quickly pivot to virtual learning and continue to deliver our program to coaches in a time where mental health awareness is more important than ever.

For me personally, the biggest learning was understanding just how big Australia is!

Growing up in Ireland, everything was always a short distance from each other.

As I began travelling around Australia and organizing program deliveries from Cairns, to Perth, to King Island, I quickly learnt that hotel rooms and jet lag would become the norm.

In saying that, it also demonstrated how far-reaching our program is. We’ve been able to deliver 61 per cent of our sessions in metropolitan clubs, 23 per cent in rural townships and 16 per cent remotely.

I would like to say thank you to the people who contributed to the program in my three years.

Our funding partner, Z-Zurich Foundation, the leadership of Zurich Australia, in particular Linda Griffin and Caroline Hendra, and former Zurich employee Kristine Brooks.

The AFLPA, including CEO Paul Marsh, GM of Player Development Ben Smith, and all of the staff who contributed to the program.

Former AFLCA CEO Mark Brayshaw who was heavily involved in bringing TYF to life and the newly appointed AFLCA CEO Alistair Nicholson, who has embraced the program. To Gin McInneny who has been my sidekick on the program for the last three years, I couldn’t have got through the admin without you.

The guidance from the SteerCo was particularly important to help shape the program, and also to my own personal growth and development.

To our state league and community partners across the country, our e-Learning partners, NTF and Monash University, the AFL and in particular Julia Lawrence and Josh Atwood from CoachAFL, thank you!

To the Australian Psychological Society and the 147 psychologists that work to safeguard our program from a facilitation point of view, thank you. We could not deliver our sessions and know that each club has ongoing support if it wasn’t for you.

To our incredible ambassadors – you have been the perfect champions of positive change and incredibly giving of your time and personal stories to help us remove the stigma around mental health.

Finally, to the community clubs, coaches and volunteers. Your willingness to proactively raise awareness of mental health within your club and communities, and your passion to break down the stigma that is associated with mental health is the key to changing behaviours within our communities and the reason we operate this program.

I look forward to watching the program grow from the sidelines and see what more Tackle Your Feelings can achieve.