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Empowering Players On and Off the Field: Meet the Wellbeing Coordinators of Thunder FCThursday, June 13, 2024 - 8:48 AM

The mental and emotional wellbeing of players often takes a backseat to physical performance. 

However, Peel Thunder Football Club is changing the game by prioritising the holistic development of their players. 

At the forefront of this movement are Jon Perry and Kelsie Clark, the dedicated Wellbeing Coordinators for the men's and women's.

A key initiative that underscores this commitment is the Think Mental Health Round, supported by Healthway, which highlights the importance of mental health and player wellbeing. 

This initiative aligns perfectly with Thunder FC’s ethos, emphasising that taking care of mental health is as crucial as physical training. 

Through various activities and awareness campaigns, the Think Mental Health Round ensures that both players and fans recognise the value of mental resilience and support.

An American, Perry is a Pastor at his local church and brings a unique perspective to his role as the Men's Wellbeing Coordinator. With no prior experience in Australian Rules Football (AFL), Perry's focus is solely on helping players navigate life's challenges and find purpose both on and off the field. 

His 'Thunder Man' concept is the cornerstone of his fortnightly presentations to the playing groups.

“The idea behind Thunder Man is to build up better men,” Perry explains. 

“Men that will take responsibility for their actions, seek ways to transform the world they live in, reject the easy way and do the hard things, and learn to lead courageously. 

“It’s all designed to bring a wholeness to manhood. 

“Who they are behind the scenes, who they are in public, and the athlete you see out on the field.”

Beyond the scheduled presentations, Perry ensures that he is always available for informal catch-ups and chats, whether it's over the phone or at training sessions. 

His presence extends beyond the men's team as he offers valuable support to coaches and staff, serving as a trusted advisor on matters of work-life balance and morale-building.

Perry's journey into sports wellbeing isn't just professional; it's deeply personal. 

As a father who has welcomed adopted children into his family, he understands the importance of creating a nurturing and safe environment for growth. 

His experience in Sports Chaplaincy equips him with the skills to offer comprehensive support to Thunder FC's players.

On the women's side, Kelsie Clark embodies a similar dedication to empowering players both on and off the field. 

With a long-term vision for her role, Clark aims to implement strategies that will elevate the women's team to new heights season after season. 

Her weekly pre-training talks cover a wide array of topics, from mindset to positive affirmations, fostering a culture of self-belief and resilience among the players.

“The key message I have communicated to the team this year is that physical and emotional regulation are at the core of being resilient athletes,” Clark said. 

“Being totally in control of our emotions and actions on and off the field, not only enhances our focus and performance on field, but also helps to manage the stresses of everyday life.

“As WAFLW athletes, balancing life and footy is such an important thing to get right. 

“I’ve kept this front of mind whenever I work with any of the girls, trying to keep a strong focus on skills that will benefit them and enhance their wellbeing both on and off the field.”

Clark's impact extends beyond her role as the Women's Wellbeing Coordinator; she also lends her expertise as a Strength and Conditioning Assistant to the men's program, fostering a sense of unity and collaboration across the club.

Together, Perry and Clark are revolutionising the way Peel Thunder FC approaches player wellbeing, proving that success on the field is not just about physical skill but also about the player’s wellbeing.