THE CONTRAST OF FOOTBALL CODES IN AUSTRALIA AND THE USA.

Its a rare treat for your Coach to get away from the gym at Shire Speed and Strength and go on holidays.

 

Last year, the two weeks off was the first holiday taken in over 6 years; this time, thankfully, the wait was only 12 months.

 

It was off to Texas again to catch up with some athletes, visit with some other coaches, tour facilities and actually do some non-work related rest and relaxation. As a quick summary, some of the events attended were as follows.

 

Warm ups for Temple High School.

 

Organized sport in the USA operates on a vastly different model than it does in Australia. School sport is king in the US, whilst club sport is what we largely work under in Australia. The effects resonate in many ways.

School-based sport minimizes travel time for after school and weekend sport, it hugely influences the culture of the school environment and community and it alters the ability to access higher levels of organization and quality. The consolidation of time, coaching, teaching and facilities is enormously beneficial.

The American system is for high achievement, it also has a significant and predictable fall off in participation and obviously does not cater well for mature-aged athletes. The high school and collegiate sporting system means that by the time you are 23 years old, the likelihood of someone continuing in organized sport dramatically falls away in the United State. In Australia, the club sport system caters well for older athletes; what is relinquished are the higher caliber standards achieved in youth and junior levels.

I’m not aware of any high schools in Australia that have a stadium like this with replay jumbotron. That is somewhat common place in Texas by contrast.

Also not aware of any High Schools in Australia where obtaining a VIP parking pass is necessary.

Little planes fly over high school football games in Texas. Probably because there are crowds that rival poor NRL games in Australia. But remember, these are 16-18 year old amateurs.

 

Ultimately I was there with some other coaches for the football games, and in particular Baylor University as they worked their way through the beginning of their 2015 schedule. Two of our better athletes, brothers Blake and Sean Muir are off to a great start at Baylor and they are ranked as high as #3 in the nation at this stage. Blake was Captain at the most recent game at AT&T Stadium vs Texas Tech.

 

Blake Muir #73 Captain for the Texas Tech game.

 

Baylor University offensive lineman, Australian, and SSS member Sean Muir, walks from the team bus to the stadium. ‘Sailgating’ can be seen in the background.

 

Baylor’s McLane Stadium an hour before kickoff.

Like the High School system, collegiate athletics in the United States is vastly different to Australia. Texas and Australia have very similar populations, both around the 25-27 million mark. Texas has 11 Division 1 FBS college teams: Baylor, Texas, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Rice, Houston, Texas State, UTEP, UTSA and North Texas. This goes with the 2 NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.

Australia by comparison accommodates all the AFL teams (18), NRL (16), Union (5 in Super 14) and A-League (10). Whilst the A League plays at a different time of the year, it means that there is 39 teams in major Australian football codes vs 13 in Texas for a similar number of people. It means there is a lot less money and quality to go around in Australia, and remember, in college football the players are only paid their tuition, food, accommodation and basic cost of attendance: They are not paid professionals.

Once you take into account the multitude of high quality high school teams there are in the Texas equation, where stadiums of 10-15 thousand are not uncommon, light planes fly advertising banners, neighbouring towns empty, communities orient themselves fully towards the game on Friday night, then you can see how the different system influences things differently to Australia.

Also known as ‘JerryWorld’ after Dallas Cowboys owner and stadium founder Jerry Jones, regular season games of 60,000 people only occur in the AFL in Australia.

This is a typical weight room for high level collegiate football in the USA.

It would be easy to gush over facilities. I am not aware of any professional program in Australia that has a fully indoor football practice field; and then next to that one for track and field.

It would appear that there is no down side to ‘all this’. But I have mentioned before quite frequently, that the over-supply of labour in popular football codes has a significant effect on the quality of the training methodologies. Whilst no expense is spared on every last wish that could be desired to impress recruits and allow boosters (private sponsors) to hang their name on something, the false positives are everywhere as is the waste.

 

Texas A&M has 2 indoor facilities, one a full sized field for football, the other for track and field.

The sporting culture quickly becomes elitist and less and less inclusive. There is a significant demand for quality over quantity. There are no B teams in high school and collegiate football; there is a bench. Whilst even in the United States, there is mockery and contempt for ‘participation trophies’ for kids sport, they worry about this for under 10’s where we are still doing it all across the age spectrum. There are plenty of other extra curricular activities for kids to do who don’t play football.

The bands are outstanding, the girls take a sort of gender defined role in the cheer squads and most attractive is the crowd made up of families with little kids, high school students, ex-high school alumni, parents and grandparents. I cannot remember ever seeing a public events where generations so discrepant are all enjoying the same event; not even Christmas Carols can compete.

Next year will be a little different, hopefully. Blake will be graduating from college at the end of the year and trying to make his way in the NFL. Sean will still be at Baylor as a Center and there will be more high schools games and coaching staffs to visit with.

Whilst there are many many similarities to Australia and the United State, when it comes to football, its very very different.