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The Power of positive role models

Ashleigh Ebert  February 21, 2013 11:33 AM

Ashleigh Ebert and Port Adelaide defender Tom Jonas during a Power Community Youth Program visit to Blair Athol North Primary School.

Ashleigh Ebert and Port Adelaide defender Tom Jonas during a Power Community Youth Program visit to Blair Athol North Primary School.

We ... gain the satisfaction of teaching valuable lessons to school children, but along with this comes our personal development

Welcome to the Power Community Youth Program. My name is Ashleigh Ebert and I am in my second year of involvement with this successful initiative within the Port Adelaide Football Club and its community development arm Power Community Ltd.

It is remarkable watching the school children’s eyes light up as their favourite Port player walks into the classroom. Other athletes – particularly female ambassadors including myself – make our own unique contributions, but it’s the AFL heroes who light at the room at first.

They represent the children’s very own role models, players whom they watch on television and at AAMI Stadium, skilfully running around the field and contesting the ball. So fast, hard and tough.

We all have role models, each and every one of us. For the majority this comes in the form of our parents, who instil in us as children the values of right from wrong, good from bad and basic life lessons.

But on-top of that, it’s not unusual to find yourself looking up to heroes on television or in movies, on stage performing or in a sporting match putting on an athletic display.

Today, these other role models - especially in sport - provide a strong influence on children, even those who themselves emerge as elite athletes, including Port Adelaide vice-captain, Brad Ebert. (Yes, he’s my brother so I’m just that little bit biased!)

“My parents have been and always will be my role models,” Brad says.

However at a school age and aspiring to play at the highest level of football, Ebert would watch and analyse an AFL legends’ every move.

“James Hird was definitely someone I looked up to, and other than my parents, I guess you could say he was my biggest role model,” he says.

Like Brad, so many other school-age children see role models as people they adore and whose actions and qualities they can strive emulate.

The Port Adelaide Football Club has taken this idea and packaged it around athletes and key positive lifestyle messages into an educational experience known as the Power Community Youth Program.

Recognised as being the first educational schools program administered by an AFL club, the PCYP is managed by Port Adelaide legend Russell Ebert.

It involves repeat visits to South Australian primary schools, reaching 30,000 students across the state each year.

Russell is particularly proud that it is not just footballers, who attend the school visits. 

“Female athletes involved in netball, cycling, soccer and football, along with inspiring individuals including Australian wheelchair basketballer David Gould, are also involved,” Russell says.

This combination, he believes, is important to ensuring the program resonates with all students and not only those influenced by male athletes prominent in a single sporting pursuit.

“The female athletes provide messages aimed at young girls, giving them someone to conform with,” Russell says.

While David’s story of becoming a paraplegic and failing to realise his able-body sporting dreams is a sad one, his courage and determination is remarkable and an outstanding example for young people to learn from.

David continued competing in the sport he loved, captaining Australia’s gold medal- winning basketball side at the 1996 Paralympics. His achievements are a true testament to his character and a demonstration of the spirit and resilience of a young achiever deserving recognition and reward.

This variety of role models helps to promote simple yet strong lessons, skills and habits that together can provide a positive foundation for happiness and success.

Port Adelaide forward John Butcher has been involved in the PCYP since he first came to the club around three years ago. He declares the satisfaction of delivering positive messages and encouragement together with his own personal developments are reasons he remains actively involved in the program.

“I enjoy the school visits and think that by promoting the positive messages focused on healthy lifestyles and being a good sport, it really is important in a child’s development,” John says.

The themes of the program includes:

  • Eat Well
  • Be Active
  • Don’t Smoke
  • Harmony
  • Respect
  • Teamwork

These themes aim to promote healthy living and respectful behavior - basic life lessons that are emphasised to the school kids, but are often undervalued and can fail to properly sink in.

They do, however, pay attention and take on the messages the PCYP role models are promoting, while the presenters also gain so much from the school visits. 

John highlights the skills he has developed through his own experience through the program.

“We as the presenters gain the satisfaction of teaching valuable lessons to school children, but along with this comes our personal development in public speaking and the social skills we gain,” he says.

The success of the PCYP is achieved through funding from major sponsors, BHP Billiton and the Government of South Australia, along with Adelaide Airport Ltd as the regional partner.

The PCYP is an all-inclusive initiative with proven success, which becomes clear as the presenters leave the classroom, and the students’ eyes are even wider than before.

But this time it’s with valuable life lessons in mind, which will no doubt have a positive impact on the future generation.