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It's an 'emoticon' game

Like any profession, being an AFL player has its ups and downs.  However what’s unique about being a part of one of the biggest sports in the country, is the public spotlight and scrutiny that comes with it – just ask North Melbourne’s Andrew Swallow, Majak Daw, Leigh Adams and Lindsay Thomas.

The players have recently opened up about the physical and mental challenges faced in their time in the AFL system for a new learning initiative in The Huddle.

In a series of video interviews recorded for the brand new ‘Emoticon’ program, the athletes discuss a range of topics with the aim to help children overcome their own obstacles.

Daw talks about being racially abused in the VFL and how the incident shaped him.

“Through that time I learnt the best thing to do sometimes is just move on,” Daw said.

“You feel lots of different emotions at the time but once you have dealt with the initial feelings you begin to realise it isn’t something you should let affect you.  It definitely takes perseverance to get through something like that but it’s important to realise what good people you have around you, the support from friends and family is more helpful than anything else.”

For Leigh Adams his main challenges have come in the form of injuries.

“Having multiple shoulder reconstructions is hard and you can feel very frustrated and disappointed, but  I always find strength in my determination to get back to playing footy,” Adams explains.

“If you don’t stay determined it can be easy to let injuries get you down, but all I ever wanted was to get through it and move on so I could play my best footy again. All those rehab sessions are tough but with help from the coaches, players, your mates and family you get through it stronger than ever.”

Lindsay Thomas had to find self-belief and confidence after battling with goal-kicking accuracy in 2011.

“My mindset was probably the stumbling block during that time and I started to lose my confidence,” Thomas recalled.

“With lots of practice and the help of the coaches and my teammates who kept encouraging and believing in me, I started to have faith in my own ability again.

That’s when I saw improvement and was able to perform at my best again.”

Using the videos as an education tool was club captain Andrew Swallow’s suggestion and it came after he spent time talking to secondary school students in The Huddle.

“Kids often want to know how you deal with stuff.  It's not the incident itself that interests them, it's what happens next. How do you deal with adversity as a player and how can that help kids to do the same? I was really keen to help The Huddle develop something that draws on that,” Swallow said.

“Listening to the boys discuss some of the challenges they have faced can help the young students talk about and consider qualities they can use to overcome difficult situations in their own lives.”

To find out more about The Huddle’s exciting programs click here