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Claire Mitchell-Taverner - Career Development Manager, Australian Football League Players' Association (AFLPA)

Claire Mitchell-Taverner
'We provide an opportunity for players to balance life and sport – it's a program that is second to none in helping Australian professional athletes find the balance between their sporting career and their life.'







What does your job entail?

I look after the AFL Players' Association career development program across Australia. I have hands-on contact with six clubs in Melbourne, and our AFL Players' Association consultants around the country manage the other clubs in Melbourne and in each of the capital cities where we have a team. My role involves anything from career counselling and career planning to study skills and tutoring. Managing the literacy and numeracy program is another big part of my job.

Do you focus on a player's career development during their playing career or after they retire?

We look at their holistic career – something for them to do while they're playing, to help prepare them for life after football.

How did you get the position?

I've been heavily involved in the media and PR side of sports, but I wanted to get on the 'other side of the fence' and be involved in the industry, instead of just generating publicity for the game. I came from an empathic position, as I was involved in elite sport myself, and I understand how hard it is to juggle the whole lot   career and playing. Also, I have an interest in sports, as well as qualifications in career development and sports welfare.

How has your background in sports help you in your role?

I played hockey for Australia, so being an experienced elite sportsperson, I understand the level of commitment involved in playing professional sports. I think this experience is a strength I bring to the job   that I've been there and done it.

Do you give career advice to players?

Not so much. We're there to help players make the decisions. We're like a resource for the players. They can come to us to get as much information as they need to make informed decisions and we ensure that they're well supported in pursuing their goals. We help players workshop what they would like to do. It's not just about them ticking boxes – we want them to be doing something that's going to help them be a better athlete.

What other support services are available to AFL players?

There is quite a raft at the AFL Players' Association – a broad range of services to help the players leave the game better educated, better informed and potentially better people than when they entered.

There are transition services to help players enter and exit the AFL system smoothly. New AFL players are involved in an induction camp and, possibly, a football apprenticeship (a set Certificate III in sport). We provide education in finance, property and business, and help players with their work placements. We have an Indigenous support program as well as offer grants and scholarships.

There are also psychology services which all AFL players have access to   it's completely confidential so it's a good place for them to go to talk about any issues they come across in life.

What do you like about your job?

We provide an opportunity for players to balance life and sport – it's a program that is second to none in helping Australian professional athletes find the balance between their sporting career and their life. It's a useful and beneficial program because it offers AFL players the opportunity to pursue interests outside of football, so when they decide to leave the game, they have the skills and qualifications to start a different career path. It's a crazy environment they're in so we want to help them make the most of it.

Do you have any advice for people interested in a career as an elite sportsperson?

It may look like a pretty cruisey job but it certainly isn't. People don't really appreciate what it takes to be a successful sportsperson, both physically and mentally. It's a six-day-a-week job, maybe even seven. It's definitely a lifestyle choice   if you're not playing, training, or rehabbing, you still have to look after yourself. Some starting players are surprised by the level of commitment needed, both in terms of time and energy.

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