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11:19am  Apr 21, 2018

Youngsters take a holistic approach to football

Michael McDowell  December 20, 2017 12:19 AM

SUNS TV: Shaun Hart Interview Head of Development Shaun Hart shares insight into the Elite Development Program.
“It’s about helping our players understand that both on-field and off-field that we represent a great brand and we’re going to build that brand to a really successful brand.”

Gold Coast’s first to third year players recently took part in their annual Elite Development Program (EDP) Camp at Lennox Head in Northern NSW.

Over the course of three days, the group worked with the club’s Development Coaches on a number sessions activities that went beyond what happens on the football field.

Prior to being drafted, many players spend the bulk of their development time focusing on on-field outcomes whereas the EDP takes a more holistic approach.

“The Elite Development Program is something that has been going down for a few years…it’s a terrific program because what it does it introduces our younger players, our 1-3 year players into what life is like to be a professional athlete,” Head of Development Shaun Hart told SUNS TV.

“They come with some idea of that but certainly we are able to equip them with on-field and off-field lessons and opportunities to make sure they continue to build a professional lifestyle 24/7 as well as the behaviours and habits that will help them have successful AFL career.”

As players progress further in their career, there is an expectation for them to take on more of a leadership role within the EDP.

One such player who highlights this is Touk Miller, who recently graduated from the program.

In just his third year on an AFL list, the young midfielder displayed maturity beyond his years and was named in the SUNS’ player leadership group.

“I think without doubt you see leadership within guys that have come through the EDP and are now bringing that leadership to pass it on to other players within the group,” Hart said.

“We are maturing leaders and every player that comes through EDP needs to leave as better leader as a first priority and as a person that can help the club go to where it wants to go.”

The program isn’t just restricted to the pre-season period, however it is this stage of the year when a lot of time is invested in the younger players.

It is here where standards are set, with the club’s leaders sharing their expectations of the group and vice versa.

“They’ll talk to the leaders tonight and share two ways about what they expect from leaders and what the leaders should expect from them,

“And also have a conversation about what do you want from us and what we want from you so it will be a really powerful conversation.”

Moving from junior football into the AFL ranks is a daunting task, but the work of Hart and fellow Development Coaches Aaron Rogers and Nick Malceksi aims to lessen that burden.

“It is really focused on the key things that is going to take this group quickly, fast track them to become not only terrific, consistent AFL players and to exhibit all of the elite talent they have been given but also great team players, great characters in the community and great contributors to the community,

“That’s what we’re about as a football club, it’s all about the SUNS community, the Gold Coast community and beyond, not just the Gold Coast but wherever our fans may be,

“It’s about helping our players understand that both on-field and off-field that we represent a great brand and we’re going to build that brand to a really successful brand.”