Education or regulation: Managing behaviour change in the AFL

Year: 2007

Author: Hickey, Christopher, Kelly, Peter

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Amid the increasing commodification of sports, the off-field practices of elite performers are the source of considerable public scrutiny. Barely a week goes by when we do not hear about elite male sports stars behaving badly. Of course, when elite sportsman behave badly they not only tarnish their own reputations, they bring disrepute to their club and sport. To this end, there is a growing industry awareness of the need to manage and develop professional sporting identities via a variety of education and training processes.

This paper reports on research undertaken into the professional development activities of AFL footballers, and how they are organised, supported and practiced. Drawing on extensive interview data, the research reveals a number of tensions and contradictions between the aspirations of different players, their coaches and mentors, and a range of competing industry practices and processes. In the paper we explore the possibilities for modifying behaviours and attitudes via risk management practices that centre on the provision of compulsory educational seminars and workshops. Drawing on Foucault's later work on the care of the Self we focus on the ways in which new expectations of a professional footballing identity are being constructed and managed.