Chris Scott on what the life of an AFL coach is really like
As he prepares to sign on for another three years, Geelong coach Chris Scott has reflected on the volatile and at times “brutal” life of an AFL senior coach.
In a two hour, two-part interview on PickStar’s Off-Field podcast, the Cats Premiership mentor unpacked the coaching caper in detail.
Scott has agreed in principle to remain with Geelong until 2020 but may seek another career path beyond that.
“The best way will be to finish before my daughter gets to school, based on what I've heard from other coaches,” Scott told Off-Field.
“There are a number of people that I know and respect within the footy industry that have almost been, not driven out, but have been left with a bad taste in their mouth because of the way their kids in particular have been treated.
“Stories like ‘hey when's your dad going to get the sack and what are you going to do when your families unemployed … when I say these things, I'm always pretty quick to add on that we're extremely fortunate so it’s not a matter of crying poor, in particular with me, I've fallen on my feet at Geelong.”
Listen to Part 1:
Listen to Part 2:
Scott said managing the human impact of AFL coaching, for himself and his loved ones, is an ongoing battle.
“No I wasn't so good at that and still aren't,” he said. “I'm more aware of its importance now than I was back then (when I started coaching). In a way, my kind of coping mechanism was to accept the fact that I'd get sacked at some point and that I'd be okay with it.
“It's hard to influence the impact that it has on the people around you … I didn't give it enough thought and now I'd give it a little bit more, but again, try to make sure it doesn't consume you because there are some realities that you just won't change.”
For the Cats premiership coach, the fragility of his job hit home when his great mate, Brenton Sanderson, was sacked by the Adelaide Crows.
“I might have said (to my wife) ‘Sando got sacked today, one day I'll be coming home saying the same thing’ and she got a bit emotional about it, not too, but just a little bit more edgy than she would normally be around those sorts of comments, but it sort of hit home that look it’s not personal, I came to grips with it a long time ago that I'll finish at some point, but I think there's such a thing as finishing on good terms. It doesn't always have to be acrimonious, most of the time I think it is, unfortunately, and I think the industry is slowly coming round to the idea that it doesn't have to be that way but even though I had come to terms with it, the realisation that whilst its not personal, it does affect your life completely.”
Scott concedes that, as a private person, he struggles with the public nature of the AFL.
“I feel sorry for the young footballers, I think this is the stuff that they're grappling with at the moment, if they decide that you're going to use the media and use your girlfriend and use your profile to promote life outside of footy or an extra revenue stream, you're kind of on the market and I guess I do subscribe to that idea, and I'm not sure I always lived to it because there are things that blur the line.
“So in some ways it’s a contradiction to say I'm really private and I don't want anyone to know anything about me, which is not true anyway, I just want it to be on my terms.”
Most of the time, the intense scrutiny is driven by on-field performance and Scott said he’s adjusted his approach to elite standards.
“I draw the distinction between being obsessed in a positive way and just being blinded by it, and what I mean by that is getting so entrenched in what you're doing at the extent of everything else in your life, and I admit I haven't always been like that,” he said.
“I've sort of crossed the boundary I think into ‘this is all that matters to me’ … I did go through a phase where I thought ‘the best thing I can do for my life, my family is to just sacrifice everything right now to play the long game’ and now much more of the view is that balance.
“I'm of the view that somewhere along the line, professional footy in Australia changed from this idea that well the players are part time and have to work a job and need a bit of balance in their life, footy is not the most important thing, to professional before we even realised. And I think some clubs, even ours to an extent, kind of woke up one day and said ‘Hang on these guys aren't doing anything else. They're getting paid unbelievable well for the most part, not all of them but most are, and they're not working at least in terms of contact hours the same way that executive is in big business, we've gotta get our pound of flesh here’ which to me is completely the wrong approach.
“If you're talking about performance, surely you're looking for the outcome, so if you can get that done really efficiently in a short period of time, the more the better. If you can do it while still spending time with your family and cultivating some interests outside of footy then surely that's a better thing as well.”
Listen to the full interviews on Off-Field. Off-Field is a podcast and network for people interested in the world of sport outside of the arena.
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