Footballers are often seen as infallible individuals. Whether it’s through emulation or idolisation, people look to them for motivation and aspire to be like them.
As one of the most successful and recognisable faces of AFLW, Kaitlyn Ashmore certainly falls into that category, with the North Melbourne forward turned winger comfortably sitting among some of the competition’s biggest names.
With so many athletes being put on a pedestal by so many individuals, it can sometimes be shocking and surprising to discover they’re just regular people, and as part time athletes, AFLW players have the same day-to-day struggles as so many who look up to them.
With mental health becoming a more open and less taboo topic within elite sport, Ashmore has detailed some her of own mental health battles on the new ‘Happy Dais’ podcast.
“A couple of years ago I was in a really down patch and I didn’t think I’d get out of it. I was actually in a really bad place, but I’ve worked really hard and can finally see the light,” Ashmore said.
“It kind of dragged on for a while and then through the really long lockdown last year I tried to find a way to take my mind off some things, so that’s when I started doing trick shots.
“I did one and it took my mind off it, so I kept doing it. That helped me, and I used the resources through the club. The AFLPA was fantastic as well. I had a lot of support.
“My advice would be to open up, because I kept it in for such a long time. Just letting it out was the best thing for me.
“You feel like you don’t have anyone, but you do. I just say talk to someone, whether it’s family, friends, contacts. You think you’re alone but you’re not.”
As a full-time teacher by day, Ashmore is moulding the next generation of footballing talent, and having been involved in AFLW since its inception, she’s seeing first-hand the impact women’s football has on children.
“When I get to school after the weekend, one of the kids will be like ‘why did you hit the post Miss Ashmore?’,” she said.
“I play for the little girls coming through. Obviously, I love the sport, but I love where it’s going and what it can do for those little girls coming through. It’s so important. It’s vital.
“Even if it’s just a small communication after the game, or handing them something like a little football, that’s massive.
“I think that’s something the girls are really good at, mingling and chatting with the fans after the game. We’re really passionate about them and put all our attention into them.
“They love it and you can tell they love their footy.”
Having started her career under Craig Starevich at Brisbane, and played under Scott Gowans at North, Ashmore has experienced a number of different coaching styles in her time in at the top level.
With Darren Crocker taking the reins of North’s AFLW side at the start of the 2021 season, the North legend is the third senior coach she’s worked under.
While she appreciates the quality of coaching provided by her former mentors, she says Crocker brings a different style to the table.
“Scott (Gowans) was great, and I loved having Scott. He really brought the side together. Something ‘Crock’ brings is he’s been in and around the club for so many years,” she said.
“He’s been a player, he’s a true Shinboner … [and] he’s been really good for my personal growth.
“This year on the wing, I didn’t think I could [play there], but he’s put me up another level which is really exciting, because I know I’ve got more to give.
“He’s just a great guy. He gets around everyone’s family, driving home to Ballarat after one of our functions mum and dad could not stop raving about him, and dad’s a Saints fan.
“It’s not just about us. He’ll get to know our families and what’s important to us as well.”