PFA members have accessed nearly half a million dollars worth of education grants over the past 18 months, as players continue to balance their playing careers with education and vocational pursuits in record numbers.

In September last year, a record 215 grants were accessed by PFA members across the 2017-18 season, while 139 have been allocated to players in the past six months, demonstrating the positive trend of players balancing football with education and skill acquisition.

Chief Executive John Didulica said the PFA’s record commitment was an encouraging sign players are pursuing personal development opportunities in increasing numbers.

“The best football programs in the world preach balance; developing the person and the player in an integrated way and not one at the expense of the other,” Didulica said.

“The sport’s investment in our players is crucial to its long-term success. It will create more rounded footballers who can navigate the inherent complexities of the game more effectively and create leaders for the future who understand the game in a deep way.

“The power of player education has never been more important than at this time of year, when a number of current players and Alumni commence a new year of study or could be coming off contract.”

PFA President Alex Wilkinson continued to encourage players to invest in themselves by utilising the PFA funding available through the CBA.

“Players must continue to invest in themselves and find balance during their careers. There is no shortage of research that demonstrates the huge benefits and value for players pursuing formal or informal study. For any player, study and training provides improved life balance, psychological benefits and universally assists transition to life after football,” Wilkinson said.

Clare Hunt of Canberra United tore her Anterior-Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in training last January. While sidelined through injury, Hunt has turned her focus to study at Sydney University, undertaking a Bachelor of Science with the aim to eventually study medicine.

Hunt is an example of players recognising the importance of dual careers.

‘Study has been so important for me during my rehab. It has provided me an alternative focus away from football, where I can challenge myself academically and pursue exciting pathways, that football alone, cannot provide. I am extremely keen to continue my tertiary education, with the ultimate ambition to study medicine. Without the PFA’s support, it would be difficult to be able to pursue this study outside of my football commitments.”

“Having recently returned to training, I feel much more grounded as a result of sharing my focus across more than just one pursuit.”

Of the new uptake of grants, 67 members have taken up a new course, while 72 are continuing a course. The range of players who have accessed grants has grown, with 79 W-League players opting in for the first time; all PFA full members have equal access to funding.

In addition to education grants, players have accessed PFA funding to complete C and B coaching licences, placements through ‘With You With Me’ – a service which assists athletes to find new career opportunities – and other more practically focussed courses, such as barista training.