Port Adelaide AFLW Vice Captain, AFL Schools ambassador and teacher at Seymour College, Ange Foley, is joined by students at Seymour to learn about the new AFL GOALS program. Photo: James Elsby

We’re ready to kick GOALS in the classroom and learn about ‘All the feels’, ‘Who’s in my crew’ and ‘Mind matters’ as the AFL proudly launched its new mental health and wellbeing initiative during Gather Round.

With the power to reach more than one million students, AFL GOALS is a FREE national resource that aims to entertain, engage and harness the power of footy to help teachers across the country educate students about mental fitness and resilience.

Sitting under the AFL’s Mental Fitness Charter and led by AFL Schools, AFL GOALS targets children aged 10 to 15 years old in grades five, six, seven and eight and covers topics such as screen time, emotions, sleep, behaviour and moods, building resilience, empathy, social media and friendship.

Consisting of video-led lessons and in-classroom activities that are designed to destigmatise and increase confidence, the video series is hosted by TikTok sensation JasmineTXO and showcases some of Australia’s most inspiring content creators alongside our footballers. 

AFLW players who feature in the videos include Geelong midfielders Georgie Prespakis and Mikayla Bowen, Western Bulldogs’ Elaine Grigg, North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos’ Mia King and the GIANTS, Kaitlyn Srhoj.

Capturing all voices within the community, the series also features Ned Brewer-Maiga from Hawthorn’s blind football team, Finn Broadbent from the Hawks’ wheelchair side as well as Pala Kuma from Richmond’s VFL team and Joanna Lin from Casey’s VFLW side.

AFL GOALS consists of more than 48 videos, 32 tailored lessons and 24 student worksheets across eight key modules.

The AFL licensed pre-existing content from Matterworks and collaborated closely with their team to create new video content from ‘Decode Mental Health & Wellbeing’ that explores the program with a footy lens.

With modules covering ‘What is mental health?’ and ‘Inside the brain’ for primary students, and ‘All the feels’ and ‘Who’s in my crew’ for secondary students, the program is powered by decades of research from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) – the largest child health research institute in Australia and one of the top three worldwide. 

With the AFL industry in Adelaide for Gather Round over the weekend, 50 teachers from around South Australia attended a Teacher Professional Learning Day to hear about the program.

Those in attendance heard from the AFL’s Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Dr Kate Hall, Port Adelaide AFLW vice-captain and teacher, Ange Foley as well as Professor Harriet Hiscock, Group Leader, Health Services, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

AFL Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing Dr Kate Hall said she was thrilled to see this initiative come to life. 

“We’re incredibly proud to launch AFL GOALS. It’s a highly innovative program that will help change the way teachers educate students about mental fitness, building resilience and enhancing mental health literacy,” Hall said.

“One of the five pillars in our Mental Fitness Charter is using the power of sport to learn the psychological skills that underpin mental fitness. Working closely with the creative team at Matterworks has been a joy – their skill in translating health information, based on decades of research from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute into a digital series that is vibrant, engaging and creative, is truly innovative.

“Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is one of the best child health research institutes in the world, and for the AFL to partner with them and Matterworks to deliver this critical information to thousands of young Australians is a first for an Australian sporting code.

“We know the number of young Australians experiencing mental health challenges is surging and our child and adolescent health services cannot cope with the increased demand. We all have a responsibility to foster the protective factors in children and young people that prevent mental health challenges from arising. We at the AFL believe we have an important role to play in mental health promotion and prevention.”

Port Adelaide AFLW Vice Captain, AFL Schools ambassador and teacher, Ange Foley, said this would be a fantastic resource for teachers. 

“AFL GOALS is awesome for teachers, we’re always looking for new ways to educate students around mental fitness and its importance, so for the AFL to invest in a resource like this is fantastic,” Foley said.

“Being able to show them engaging videos hosted by footballers and influencers that helps drive these messages in a way that resonates is key, and then to head outside and take what they learn from the classroom to the yard provides a well balanced program.” 

In-classroom activities are strengthened by an outdoor component, taking what's learnt inside and transferring that to physical fitness too. Photo: James Elsby

CEO of Matterworks Sarah Wyse said: 

"Our collaboration with the AFL signifies a transformative stride in mental health and wellbeing education and is another example of how Matterworks is bridging the gap between the research world and everyday consumers,” Wyse said.

“Leveraging our proprietary research translation and digital studio capability, we are able to create health and wellbeing communications that are relevant and engaging at scale. With a potential outreach exceeding over one million students, programs like AFL GOALS present a significant step in the right direction towards creating a more mentally resilient next generation.”

Harriet Hiscock, Paediatrician and Group Leader Health Services, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Chief Health Officer said:

“Teachers are grappling with poor mental health and its impacts on children’s learning, play and school engagement. Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, in partnership with Matterworks, has provide evidence-backed, practical advice and tips for teachers and children to proactively manage their mental health and know when to get help and how. This whole-of-year level resource will help teachers and their students, at a time when it is sorely needed.”

Head to play.afl/schools to register as an AFL Schools member to gain exclusive FREE access to the AFL GOALS program. The first 50 teachers to register will receive an AFL Schools gift to celebrate the release of the program.

Head to play.afl/schools to find our more and register for FREE. Photo: James Elsby