Why the Saints believe in AFL SportsReady’s programs

Why the Saints believe in AFL SportsReady’s programs

Why the Saints believe in AFL SportsReady’s programs

St. Kilda Football Club has partnered with AFL SportsReady for over 17 years and in that time, have participated strongly in the Traineeship Program.  Over the years, the club has taken on over 23 talented trainees, with four of those young people still employed at the club to this day. Even the clubs CEO Matt Finnis is a graduate of AFL SportsReady’s Traineeship Program.

Currently, the club is hosting four trainees, and one First Nations Cadet. So, what is it that keeps St. Kilda engaged in the programs every year?

We spoke to Stefan Valerio, St Kilda’s Licensing and Retail Manager, about his experience managing a trainee.

“I think from my perspective St Kilda continues to utilise the many services AFL SportsReady provides because we have had success with the program. Each young person the club has taken on has been eager to learn, passionate and enthusiastic. We can really see the pathway the traineeship paves for them, so that is why we believe in the program.”

“The traineeship works and the benefits for the club and the young person are endless,” he added.

Founded by Kevin Sheedy, AFL SportsReady began as a company that provided education and training to support footballers in order to prepare them for their next career step at the end of their playing days. Since then, the organisation has evolved and has supported over 17,000 young Australians in a wide variety of industries. Within the AFL sector, the program has kick-started the careers of over 3,000 young people and counting.

Stefan went on to say,  “The program matches us with kids who are keen to get their foot in the door of the industry, so they really value this opportunity. This willingness to learn, you don’t always get with experienced people.”

One of the main benefits Stefan discusses, is the extra support the trainees provide for the club. His trainee, Conor Robins, helps to run day-to-day operations, allowing him to focus on more strategic operations of the department.

“Conor supports me with all my retail operations. He manages the e-commerce, he deals with the stock, he helps with customer service plus so much more.  He is also a long-term Saint’s fan which is always a good thing too. I think that this level of support that trainees provide the club gives the staff room to breathe, especially in such a fast-paced environment,” added Stefan.

Having lived through the traineeship experience himself, the club’s CEO Matt Finnis also strongly advocates for the program and thinks it is a great steppingstone for young people.

“I’ve got no doubt that doing a traineeship through AFL SportsReady all those years ago made a significant contribution in getting me where I am today,” said Mr Mr Finnis.

We all need really strong foundations to be able to grow and develop and a traineeship provided me with that great base from which I built my career,” he added.

Over the years the AFL SportsReady program has expanded their pathway programs to also deliver Cadetships and Direct Employment to help support First Nations peoples.

There’s no surprise that St Kilda has jumped at the chance to be involved in these new employment programs and have taken on a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people including proud Wiradjuri man, Ben Cooper who completed a cadetship at the club in 2019 and continues to work there as their Indigenous Program Officer.

“The cadetship program gives First Nations students the opportunity to study at university while at the same time complete 10 weeks of work experience at an organisation,” said Ben.

 So, as I was completing my Sports Management Course, I worked at St Kilda football club two days a week. Now I work as Game Development Coordinator at Rugby Victoria, and I am still employed at St Kilda Football Club.

There are so many benefits to completing a cadetship but I guess the main one for me is that it launched me into a career in sports, so I am grateful St Kilda gave me this opportunity because look where I am today,” he explained.

The club has affirmed that the pathway programs delivered by AFL SportsReady is something they will continue to engage with in the future.

When asked if Stefan would recommend the program to other AFL Clubs, he said,

“Absolutely! It is a no brainer for me! An AFL Club is a great environment to set a young person up in their career. Whether it is a trainee or cadet, it is cost effective, and you can keep them on as long-term employees. With an AFL club you will have no issues in attracting applicants! It’s an amazing program, with talented, passionate young people and the outcomes have always proven a success for the young person and the club.”