Is the Australian sports industry growing?‘Yes, it’s growing rapidly and many of the people involved now see sport as a big business. The sports industry is an important part of the entertainment industry, and I think the elite players understand that these days. But at the same time, you can never underestimate the importance and significance of playing sport at any level, and the brotherhood and sisterhood that gets formed on the back of team sport, and the connections that are made. All the lessons and life skills you learn from sport are transferable to any facet of life. That's the great thing about sport and about being involved in this industry today.’
What are some current trends in the sports industry for 2022?
‘A big change is that the women's sports industry is really growing, which is great to see. I know my game of AFL is leading the way. Only recently, there’s been a major increase in wages for a lot of the women players in that sport.
We see various women's sports on TV these days, which we wouldn't have seen a decade or two ago. And there are lots of female role models. To pick one, Sam Kerr, who plays for the Australian Matildas soccer team, is one of Australia's biggest sporting identities. In fact, the whole Matildas team is setting new standards for girls and boys to aim for.
Another trend is the popularity of American sports for young people in Australia, and the growing interest in the EPL [English Premier League] soccer as well.’
Talking about trends among professional players, Simon believes that: ‘The power of the players' group is stronger than it's ever been. It's a player's game these days and each player treats their sport as a business.’
What is the future of the sports industry?
‘With Australia's passion for sport in general, and the ability of our players, our industry will continue to grow even stronger. We've got the Olympics coming up in 10 years’ time, which is fantastic and exciting. Just like we did for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, I’m sure Australia will try to get as many young gun athletes as possible ready to take part in them.’
Simon also recognises ways in which the sports industry will continue to be involved in the health and wellbeing of Australians, especially children.
‘We have an issue with obesity in Australia, and that's something the industry and our students will work on, trying to get young people to follow good routines and habits so they're fit and healthy for life. We've always been an outdoors country, but in some respects, we've kind lost that a bit through the way we use technology all the time. So that will be a challenge for us to tackle.’
The Simon Black Academy and its role in education, sport and business
‘We speak about the three pillars that make up our program, and education comes first and foremost,’ Simon explains.
‘We have a great partnership with Torrens University. Our students can study a one-year Diploma of Sports Development Elite with us, or stay for three years and do a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Sports Management. The students get wonderful support through Torrens University, and whether it's the success coaches or their tutors, they have a really good opportunity to succeed in their academic and sporting pursuits.’
Moving onto the next two pillars, Simon says, ‘With the football component, we have highly experienced ex-AFL mentors, as we call them, and staff who guide and train our students – both male and female – on a daily basis. And our third pillar is personal development. We run a lot of workshops, such as in leadership and business principles, or nutrition, or developing a culture within organisations, and through them our students learn the skills to give and receive feedback, set goals, and so forth. In every aspect of our program, we try to offer a rounded approach.’
How can you turn your passion for sport into a career?
Students at the Simon Black Academy develop the expertise to build careers in sport – whether it’s by playing the game or gaining experience in the business side of the industry.
When considering his own career, Simon reflects on his years playing for the Brisbane Lions: ‘I never thought I'd have an AFL career because I wouldn't be good enough, but the ability to just pursue sport, and have fun with your friends, is the starting point. From there you learn and gain experience, and the opportunities come along. I watched all these amazing players on TV and finally realised they weren’t so unusual – they were people with a bit of talent and a bit drive, and on the back of that, they were able to fulfill a dream, a total dream. That's the way to make your dream a reality, through application and passion.
Once you find a passion for something in your life, give yourself a chance to pursue it. And be willing to work hard, because let’s be honest, anything worth achieving is going to take a bit effort.’
To find out more about the Simon Black Academy visit: www.simonblack.com.au/academy/
For details of the Diploma of Sport Development (Elite) in partnership with the Simon Black Academy visit: www.torrens.edu.au/courses/health/diploma-of-sport-development-elite-in-partnership-with-simon-black-academy