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By Brent Reilly | My story as a former pro-AFL football player and some tools and methods to support elite athletes in developing resilience

March 29, 2017

Coach Janx has written this blog with help from Brent Reilly.  


I was recently asked to provide a paper to our National Intensive Training Program (NITP) athletes to help advise them on overcoming adversity.   Whilst writing the paper this video was going viral by Geno Auriemma (Head Coach of UCONN Huskies Women’s team):

Geno talks about resilience, enthusiasm, body language and what he looks for that when recruiting athletes.  I agree!  I hope this blog and story helps readers think about the importance of resilience and how those in the public eye that seem to have the world at their feet have almost always faced significant challenges and hardship to get to where they are.


Whilst watching the Auriemma video and writing the NITP paper I began to cast my thoughts to the value of blogging on the subject of overcoming adversity.  I genuinely feel that dealing with adversity and building resilience is a key skill our Featured Athletes have developed that enable them to be at the top of their field as elite, young prospects. 


I also cast my thoughts to who I could discuss this subject with in detail and could not go past Brent Reilly.  Like our featured athletes, Brent Reilly emerged as an elite prospect at the age of 18 when drafted as 12th pick in the 2001 AFL draft to the Adelaide Crows.


I asked Brent about his transition into being a professional athlete;


Brent; “Football didn’t become serious until I was 16 when I made the Calder Cannons U18 TAC Cup squad. It was the best pathway to get drafted for a young man at my age. My second and last year of being in the competition was when I had to show my worth! I had a great pre-season which helped my performance, where I made the Victorian Metro U18 team for the national championships (which we won) and was named All-Australian for the champs. I finished 3rd in the Cannons B&F and we qualified for the Grand Final. But that’s when my I had my experience of adversity. It was the Tuesday night training session before the grand final, where I fractured my collarbone and was ruled out of the big game. Being a 17 year old, with an opportunity to play in the biggest game of the year I had to sit on the sidelines. The boys went onto win, which was great but you still don’t feel a part of the team.


I attended draft camp a few weeks later, where I was interviewed by 15 clubs. It wasn’t until draft day when my dream came true. But it was bitter sweet, as I had to make the move to Adelaide, a place where I hadn’t been to before and know idea about the journey I was about to take.”


 Pictured: Brent in 2001 as he was being drafted from the Calder Cannons in Victoria.


Also like our featured athletes, and others aspiring to climb our sport's pathways, it was his character and values, as well as his skills that saw him have a long successful career in his field. All young, elite athletes, anyone pursuing excellence in their field for that matter, will be faced adversity throughout and success or failure is often based on their ability to overcome adversity, adapt and move forward. 


Likewise, Brent had the need to develop great resilience; moving out of home at a young age, been in and out of the Adelaide Crows side during the Gary Ayre's (former Coach of the Crows) years, a shoulder reconstruction partway through his career and eventually an injury which caused an end to his football career.


To play at one club for a career as long as Brent's speaks volumes about who he is and here is what David Noble of the Crows had to say about him in this article ( .


"To see the transition, I think what [we] saw this morning was just a real class person," Noble said.


"The integrity and the honesty that I think Brent's embedded in the culture of our football club – they're the people that you just love to have around the place"


Brent has had some highs and lows in fairly long professional sporting career and I feel many lessons can be taken from him.  Most of our elite athletes will need to leave home at a