Whilst we all enjoy playing and watching football it is often easy to forget the power our game has to improve the lives of people in Australian communities. Football is not just about the 90 minutes played between two teams every weekend. It also plays a significant role in bringing communities together, promoting lifestyle improvement and creating hope and opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds.

In 2009, the PFA is progressively launching community initiatives that mentor young people and focus on improving the health of Australians that live in disadvantaged areas.

Our community program will harness the innate skills and attributes possessed by elite footballers and use them as a method for inspiring Australian communities in a way few stakeholders otherwise can. These skills and attributes include leadership, discipline, courage, adaptability and dedication and are all elements that drive success in life away from the football field – just as they do throughout a long and successful playing career.

In addition to positively influencing the lives of Australians, the PFA’s community initiatives play a vital role in the development of ‘off field’ skills for Australian footballers.  PFA members develop the confidence to use their core skills away from the field of play and this confidence is valuable to them when they are challenged with the task of forging a new career beyond the football field once their playing days are complete.

The PFA Heroes schools program is an 8 week, 8 lesson learning module that uses both PFA members and football to teach fundamental values to Australian school children. Participants in the program learn about values that include fair play, respect, teamwork and pride in representation with PFA members in the role of classroom mentors to facilitate this learning.  Through these mentoring roles, our members can engage with Australian kids in a way that their parents and teachers can seldom achieve

PFA Player Delegate Evan Berger has been delighted with the progress of this initiative to date.

“The PFA Heroes program is a great way to positively influence the lives of young Australians,” he commented.  “Being able to spend 8 sessions working with students on these core life values enables us to engage with the students in a way that is not possible with the more common promotional visits we fulfil. I look forward to making a positive difference to the lives of these students throughout the duration of this program.”

The learning module sees participating students attend an elite training facility to view ‘first hand’ the commitment that it takes to succeed as a professional footballer.  It also includes education on healthy eating, computer skills and the key financial items that are integral to the operation of a football club.  The program culminates with a school football gala day that is organised by PFA Heroes students for their entire school community.
Will Hastie, Manager of Players Services and Community Programs has been impressed with the way the PFA’s Football Mentors have engaged with participating students.

“The determination to make a difference to the lives of our Heroes students is an example of the work our members continue to commit to in Australian communities,” he said.  “Whilst footballers pursue individual success throughout their time in the sport, they also work hard to leave our game in a better position than it was when they started their careers.  Their involvement in these community initiatives enhances the standing of football in this country and promotes the positive values that the game brings to Australian lives.”
PFA members and Melbourne Victory players Evan Berger, Matthew Theodore, Steven Pace, Grant Brebner, Matthew Kemp, Rodrigo Vargas, Glen Moss, Nathan Elasi, Leigh Broxham and Mitch Langerak, former New Zealand international Vaughan Coveny and former Socceroo Zeljko Susa are the PFA Heroes Football Mentors participating in this pilot program.

Hume Secondary College, Fawkner Secondary College and Keysborough Secondary College are the schools that have generously volunteered to be the inaugural participants in this program.