AFL part of Shalom’s healthy mindset

By Joel Preston

Pictured: Shalom College Students Elijah Dhamarrandji and Gordon Garawirrtja

Joe Christensen, teacher and AFL Coach at Townsville’s Shalom Christian College plays an important role in encouraging young Indigenous men and women to get involved in the local AFL competition.

Joe says that Shalom’ students get a “tremendous amount out of playing sport” with AFL being an important part of the sports program.

“The way Shalom AFL within its Sports Academy and school program provides a lot of the essential tools for the students to succeed in life,” he said.

“The student’s gain self-confidence, an increased awareness of hard work and self-sacrifice… leading to improved performances in themselves.”

“The students also get an immense amount of discipline out of the program due to a very strict set of rules Shalom places on its players,” he said.

Students come to Shalom from across remote areas of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia and many speak English as a second, third or fourth language.

Joe said that a lot of the students will be the first in their families to graduate high school and that AFL was an essential tool in helping students to engage in their school work.

“By playing AFL in the local Townsville competition our male and female students have grown up through a program which focuses on creating a healthy mindset for our students,” he said.

“Shalom junior teams while still playing to win, focus on self-improvement through an achievement level system based on their amount of involvements in a match.

“This helps focus the students on things that they can control, do and achieve and helps build their work ethic.”

He said that the systems employed by Shalom have been extremely successful in building up “resilient, confident, successful and employable young men and women”.

Shalom’s emphasis on female involvement in the local AFL competition allows girls to compete against their male counterparts.

“(The girls) act as role models for other young girls who may wish to try AFL by successfully competing against boys in the under 14 competition,” Joe said.

He said that the fast, unstructured and athletic style of football that Shalom brought to the competition is enjoyed by spectators because “it is so entertaining to watch”.

Joe said that this year Shalom was working with one of the local clubs to design a new Indigenous AFL jersey to where for the annual Indigenous round in the future.

“Shalom students generally don’t always focus on the one round of AFL which is designated as the Indigenous round,” he said.

“Our students celebrate their culture everyday they go to school or step on the sporting field.

“They respect the game and the enjoyment it brings.”

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