An important lesson in innovation from the AFL

30th September, 2016

Tim Reed

This weekend dozens of young AFL players will be psyching themselves up for what could be the sporting performance of their lives.

Many of them would have been preparing for this moment from the day they developed the gross motor skills to pick up their first football.

Every Saturday morning, kids around the country set out with committed mums and dads, as well as an army of volunteers, to weekly Auskick clinics. Auskick, the national Australian program, develops and promotes skills and participation in AFL football for boys and girls. It has been operating since its beginnings in Victoria in 1988, and is supported by the AFL.

It’s the largest grass-roots sporting association of its kind in Australia.

It’s also an important lesson in the importance of building skills from the earliest levels upwards.

Investing in and grooming talent from the very early stages of childhood ensures a talent pool of future stars.

The AFL makes this enormous investment into building football skills, as well as the associated culture, because it has a long-range vision to build its future business model.

It’s clear that not all young footy players can or will be superstars. But for the few that do it’s well worth it. And those that don’t make it as superstars form part of the footy culture that feeds the pockets of the whole industry – as well as picking up a few good health-promoting habits along the way.

The investment in Auskick is an investment in future-proofing the sport.

Imagine if the government took the same approach in educating Australians in innovation and entrepreneurship from ages 4 to 21. That would be a massive investment in innovation and the business, tech and sustainability brains that Australia and the world needs.

Even for those who aren’t business or tech superstars, a population that has been consistently educated in innovation and creative problem-solving creates a culture of knowledge and innovation that extends to all.

Knowing the positive impact it has on our economy and community, this will mean that the broader population will value, appreciate and support innovation, even if they are not directly involved.

Turnbull’s innovation agenda thus far hasn’t received the anticipated traction within the voting public. To some extent this isn’t surprising – the AFL didn’t come to western Sydney and immediately have crowds flooding to see the GWS Giants play their first games.

But the AFL is in for the long haul. It has community programs that target young kids, and it’s accepted that it will take a generation to really see traction.

Our politicians could learn a lot from this.

The innovation agenda is a long-term vision. To ensure it doesn’t fall on deaf ears the government might need to take a leaf out of the AFL’s book and invest in ‘nurturing’ the population with an entrepreneurial/innovation/tech mindset from the early years.

This could be the federal government’s ace up its sleeve to future-proof Australia’s role as a global leader in innovation.


MYOB is a proud partner of i-Manifest, an NGO that educates teenagers, the Wade Institute for Entrepreneurship and SheStarts, a startup program that supports ambitious female entrepreneurs.