Before games I would find myself throwing up and being sick

I have always loved football and was brought up in a football family. My dad was a successful Premiership coach for Kilmore and my mother was a champion netballer, so sport was a major focus. My journey started with St. Mary’s Junior football Club in Seymour as a 9 year old and I was fortunate to have had outstanding junior coaches. I can remember riding my bike down to the local barber shop to see the teams up in the shop window and being thrilled to be picked in any position. However, when playing in an under 16’s game I was hit hard from behind by a ‘cowards’ punch. This incident changed the way I played football and in some aspect my personality. What had been a fun game saw me hospitalised for a week and diagnosed with a cracked skull. Looking back at this incident, I feel that it lead to me being very anxious each time I played the game, I wasn’t scared, but I certainly was going to protect myself.

I was lucky to play for Assumption College and graduated to senior football after year 12, playing in Ballarat, Bendigo, Perth and Sale. Before most games I would be physically ill and often again at half time of matches. The pressure I put on myself to perform was not healthy and as soon as one game finished my thoughts and anxieties would turn to the next week’s game. As a teacher, I was confident that I could coach and undertook that journey in 1995. However, this added another layer of anxiety to my playing duties.

After retiring at the end of 2007, I made some cameo appearances including one last season however, coaching came calling again and I coached the Echuca Football Club from 2009-2011. We lost both Preliminary finals in 2010 and 2011, with a star- studded line-up that included current Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell, Ex AFL and VFL players such as Chris Egan, Joel Perry and Kristen Height. I was then fortunate to become a Development Coach at Williamstown where I coached their Development team for 3 years. I cannot speak highly enough about the Williamstown Culture and I was lucky enough to coach a couple of Premierships. I had always wanted to be Full-time Coach and the next stop was Head coach of the Bendigo Pioneers.

I felt that I had done a great job with the Pioneers and I had formed a good friendship with the Regional Manager. However, I was ‘sacked’ and I found out via a third party and was never told by the Manager and still haven’t been given a reason why to this day. What hurt most was that I trusted everybody in the organisation and it turned my world upside down when I lost my job. I lost my car, wage and dignity all at the same time as there was significant publicity. This led to me losing confidence and becoming isolated from everybody. Within a few months I was finding it tough to meet my financial commitments, however some of my good friends got me work in schools to make ends meet. I even went and worked on the harvest at Mitiamo to make enough money to keep the wolves from the door.
I basically had to rebuild myself and my reputation. Fortunately people at SEDA (where I work now) and Outside the Locker Room have had faith in me. I have been offered other Coaching roles which I am grateful for but up until now I just haven’t felt like it’s the right thing to do. I will coach again and I’m going to make sure that when I do I go back to being like the younger me riding down to the barber shop, excited, enthused and ensuring that I have fun. After all, I know that whist I might become anxious doing it nothing beats the feeling of chasing and obtaining success with a group that is united, disciplined and above all enjoying themselves.

I love my work with Outside the Locker room and going to Community clubs to share the resources and information we support them with. Above all else it has allowed me to regain faith that most football clubs are filled with good people and that as a community Ambassador, I have an important role to play.

Written by Brett Henderson, OTLR Community Ambassador