In a career spanning more than two decades, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has experienced everything football has to offer – from the highs of winning premierships to the challenges of rebuilding a club.
But, it was when former AFL coach and player Danny Frawley passed away in September 2019 that the significance of the mental health issues current and former footballers are facing, as well as people in the community, hit home.
Clarkson spoke to community AFL Coaches, via a Tackle Your Feelings webinar, about the challenges he’s faced as a coach, including the unique circumstances of this year with COVID-19.
The four-time premiership coach says quite often it’s difficult to pull yourself out of a slump if things aren’t going great on-field.
“We all go through (these stages) from time to time and we talk about above the line and below the line emotions, but it’s about trying to work out what (support) you can put in your world,” Clarkson said.
Clarkson, who grew up in the small rural town of Kaniva in Victoria’s West Wimmera region, has seen the challenges regional Australians face in particular.
“I have a passion to help people as best as I can… I’m hoping I can reach out to those in rural communities whether they’ve been affected by fires, drought, floods or whatever it is,” he said.
Clarkson was joined on the webinar by GWS Giants coach and foundation Tackle Your Feelings ambassador Leon Cameron.
The two senior coaches – who have had varying experiences throughout their careers – shared what they’ve learnt about football in 2020, the challenges associated with keeping players motivated, and what they’ve found has helped to support their own well-being in a year where they’ve been largely away from the comforts and familiarity of home.