Is it Time to go to 9v9 in Australian Football Juniors and Youth? Yes!!! But, It'll be Hard, Part 2

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The representatives of many Warrior Women feature under some interesting vocabulary...

The representatives of many Warrior Women feature under some interesting vocabulary...

In my undergraduate education degree, I had two shared majors, English and Physical Education.  I was better at PE teaching...  Yet, today I started thinking about my time teaching Shakespeare to year 10 classes and  'The Taming of the Shrew', for two reasons: 1) Yesterday's announcement of the AFLW competition being stifled to seven games despite considerable outcry by players and fans like myself a few months prior; 2) Plus, the ceremony and adult rules/values that had one of my daughters posing in the above photo, and the other with three peers, supposedly not allowed to sing the national anthem next to 'official' players, or receive medals on stage...  All may be solved with 9v9 and a revolution as we will see!  And, we will also see how the kids themselves find ways to cut through the 'red tape'.

But now The Bard, William Shakespeare, in the supposed comedy, Taming of the Shrew, describing the once strident Katherina, now subdued in a relationship she never wanted: 

“Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee...

And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience...

Why are our bodies soft, and weak, and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world..."

Unfortunately in this alleged 'comedy' of its times, Shakespeare never got the chance to meet some of the Warrior Women, I've coached or taught...

Now, I'm never going to say that teaching critical literacy was easy, especially with year 10s!  Thank goodness for Baz Luhrman and friends... But without boring you, you'd go through the texts looking for examples of the dominant discourse, or, the values, language, actions etc that positioned the reader to accept meaning.  It's pretty obvious that the excerpts I used above shows that the femininity being presented is rather dated???  But I ask once again has the corporation that is the AFL moved into modern times yet?  I suggest no, and, the more that us 'tamed shrews' stakeholders like Katherina above accept this, nothing will change.

The first photo above with all of the captains of AFL Brisbane Juniors is rich in meaning.  The 'values' of the Brisbane Lions, a professional team are clearly positioned above them, and the 'staged' positions of the young women connotes that 'together' they live these values through their efforts in the game.  Now, I'm not going to bore you further with my interpretation of body language, and the like, but will say that it's a little presumptuous of the AFL corporation, as once again it goes against research on young people, let alone what I have experienced personally as a coach and teacher in wide and varied contexts for many years... For example, just three reasons:

1) The Trophy and the ceremonies - The stark reality is that I have one child captaining her team whilst another was allegedly not allowed to participate (along with many others).  Thus back to my English teaching days you'd ask, "Whose values and beliefs are being supported through these actions?"  Well in this case, those in power, and, it isn't the kids despite all of the reminders over the weeks leading in to the epic U/13 grand final between Sandgate and Wests Juniors, that it's all about 'the kids'.

Maybe it has everything to do with ceremony???  You see, there are no right or wrongs in English as long as you can justify:

a) Four shadow players not allowed on the field with the anthem (sorry is this Australia)??? 

b) Also, the shadow players were not allowed on stage for medal presentation which also featured a 12 year old making a speech.  My students possibly could inquire and then come up with a thesis statement around the idea.

For example, they could reason that maybe it's about 'tradition', adult posturing, or, simple marketing, and then look for other evidence. 

Now my own opinion of it all as an experienced educator: If anybody in their right mind thinks that any of these girls play for medals, trophies and speeches is crazier than me even!!!  In any case, Amada Visek's (2014) major research showed that medals etc were number 61 in rank of importance of 'fun' determinants in sport participation for young people!!!  In particular, does anyone really think that this kind of traditional fare is ever going to compete with computer games?  This is for the dignitaries who make money out of administration gone wild... 

2) The professional team link myth (the Lions connection) - Well we have known for a very long time that a very small percentage of young people aspire to play professionally, and of those, a ridiculously small percentage actually do!  From David Kirk (1996) to Amanda Visek again, and, many others, we know that children and youth play sport (and remain in it) for reasons like fun, friends, learning and feeling competent.  Thus, the photo with its positioned connection to the 'pros' has me again, like in an earlier post, wondering if the AFL just wants viewers in the main rather than players...  Again look at a previous post of mine or hear PD's that I present with influential experts like Kelvin Giles.  In any case, the drop-out figures in all sports in this country by our teenagers are alarming!!!

3) The values - In the end I could continue to take an axe to these words but in previous posts I've suggested that AFL cultural traditional behaviour is generally not: a) innovative in coaching; b) inclusive of women coaches; c) respectful of young umpires etc etc… The only way I know this is through observed actions, not 'words'!  Thus best move onto 9v9 and how it will help!!!

Before I start, I note that the newly launched NRLW is being played during the NRL men's finals campaign.  You can be curious and wonder 'why' this is possible when AFLW play in a 'time window' during the heat of summer up until the start of the men's game... Also, what has this to do with 9v9?

Now, I've heard many excuses as to why the AFLW has to play in this small window of time that are flawed in my opinion.  For example, that the short AFLW season is because the players' bodies may not be able to handle it!  Say that to warriors like Kate Lutkins and others who I saw constantly put their bodies on the line at the QWAFL winning Wilston Grange this year whilst juggling full-time jobs... All the while, after the earlier AFLW mini-season. 

I've also heard it's about ACL injury prevention.  Yet I have pointed out previously that AFL training even at 'elite' level is often unrepresentative of the game!  The PEP ACL program stuff is very important but having taught skill acquisition at university level, I simply can't understand the lack of groundwork with real congestion (not bags) in the women's game's training paddocks.

No, my thesis statement would revolve around space which costs money...  Yeah, playing on cricket fields upsets cricketers in the summer!!!  And, I assume that with the length of AFL games etc playing women's games in men's season is thought problematic due to financial or marketing reasons.  Well, this is my guess only!  From here an English student would back this up with evidence which I'm not going to do.  Rather, I'd like people within the AFL or AFLW to think about this solution.

Therefore, whilst space seems to be the issue, and with many other shaped, non-cricket shaped ovals abundant in Australia, like soccer and rugby fields, I'd suggest that AFLW will get a better deal if they dabbled with something which to me seems a really good initiative, an AFLX type movement.  Particularly, I can't see the dominant male driven discourse being pacified at this stage in any other capacity. 

Anybody read 'Taming of the Shrew?'  Are you AFLW players and supporters going to submit and be obedient and beaten down like Katherina?  I personally believe that AFLX is an exciting form of the game anyway and one that the many traditional 'naysayers' are wrong in mocking.  Thus, AFLW could claim a version for those of us who refuse to be 'tamed' by tradition and restrictions.  Indeed, many like me are new to the game and hale from rugby league families in Queensland.  Tradition is not important to new fans I'd guess who prefer the women's game.   

As for 9v9 and kids and youth, again, I implore you to look at the research, like this from Cross, Pill and Williams (2018)  Whilst not 9v9, read and think about what happens when 12v12, 15v15 and 18v18 versions is compared.  Even last week's dissenter I posted about, who when I mentioned less numbers and space retorting with an, "Everybody gets a medal?" type response, must confirm that the research above supports my drive for more ball interactions, meaning more learning, and meaning happier kids. 

Of course, the AFL industry when trekking overseas to learn, instead of learning from great practices like above that is home-grown, could go to Belgium and other European soccer revolutions where number reduction is all the rage!  Yet, in any case Australian football fans, let alone AFL corporation, have you ever actually asked the kids what they want?  The PE teacher in me says that they want to compete for the ball, not wait around practicing cartwheels.  And let me remind everyone, that most of the great teachers, like our nation's first people, through Jesus Christ to Sir Ken Robinson have taught us that kids are not 'mini adults'...  But there is hope!

The 'shrew's last night were not tamed.  Sandgate's, towering 'Harry the Hawk' mascot in the national anthem, proved the distraction that meant our four non-playing girls could be snuck on the field to sing with their teammates and opposition (next to the very marketable Harry of course).  Scroll down for evidence... 

And as for the medal celebration, watch what happens when our 12 year old fullback no. 31 refuses to be tamed!  Of course the corporation didn't provide enough medals, because the other four were 'snuck' including no.8 were snuck on the stage.  Our hero no.31 selflessly goes  without... A 12 year old refusing to be 'obedient' because of LOVE for the GAME!!!  Her four team-mates were simple not allowed to be on an extended bench and drew the short straw for this weekend only.  But tradition, adult norms and actions etc meant that players like no. 8 were anything but 'included'. 

Harry the Hawk on far left, mutineers scattered arm in arm in club polos with 'official' mates in jerseys.

Harry the Hawk on far left, mutineers scattered arm in arm in club polos with 'official' mates in jerseys.

Thus my fellow logical peers, as we have all been told repeatedly through our formative years, 'action speaks louder than words'.  Thus I implore all of us to constantly consider whose interests are being served by behaviours in organised sport and recreation.  Research from around the world shows that is usually us 'adults' who are being served.  And you know, the figures are showing that this is not working anymore... 

Happy to hear your thoughts!!!  By the way, if you thinks I enjoy seeing kids playing finals, when so much comes down to genes, date of birth, and upbringing, then you'd again be wrong - but culture, safety and love shown through adult behaviours helps heaps!!!

Yours in learning,


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