Captain King's rise & development
Lismore Swan's Senior men's captain Shaun King returned to lead the side last weekend to the sides narrow loss against the Tweed Tigers after an ankle injury had him sidelined for five weeks. It was great to see the captain back, as we know he has the credentials of a modern footballer, playing with a high skill level, attacking the football, applying tackles, kicking goals and can play in a defensive role if required. However when it comes to how long King has played Australian Rules football, it may surprise you.
"I previously played high level tennis growing up. It wasn’t until I joined the Swans in 2013 that I played my first game of Aussie rules footy (22 years old)" Kingy explains.
Through his first few years, Kingy learnt the basic skills of the game and found the demands of the game exactly the challenge he was after, working hard not just at training, but in his own time in the gym, and on the field pushing himself to improve.
"Initially it was extra training away from the club to get better on the field which was important for me, and having other great captains before me gave me the motivation to improve my leadership qualities on and off the field" says Kingy.
Kingy's leadership at the Swans started in 2015, when he was awarded vice-captain duties alongside Tim Whalen as captain. Continuing the hard work rate off the field, Kingy started to establish himself as the Swans most lethal player on the field, eventually earning himself the club's Best & Fairest award for that year. It capped off a remarkable journey from beginner, to winning the club's most prestigious award in his third year.
The club is serious in wanting to develop its players of all levels, from beginners to experienced players, and states this as its main vision in the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, which aims for the Swans to become the benchmark club, specifically focusing on development. However, this mission should be made easier if everyone is willing to improve with an attitude like Kingy.
According to Swans men's senior coach Joey Mitchell, the answer falls between a balanced approach to training.
"After every club training session or during your own time, you must come away with having gained or improved in at least one of three areas; fitness, knowledge and/or skill. To improve on the training track, means you must invest in your own time outside of club training" Mitchell explains.
Kingy has always displayed this attitude and it naturally allowed him to progress as captain in 2017 as he had improved his footy skills, knowledge and fitness, but also gained the confidence to lead the side. It hasn't been the easiest road for Kingy, with the side only recording one victory in 2017, it meant Kingy had to play a role in piecing together the squads confidence and motivation.
"It is my job to motivate and push the team and individuals further than they thought they could" Kingy claims.
This year presents more challenges and opportunities for Kingy than ever, and with some new players added to the list with lots of football experience, Kingy believes it will lead to positive outcomes.
"The past few years have been hard on the core group of players and there finally seems to be an injection of young new players as well as experienced players joining us, so the pieces are coming together".
Of course, Kingy's rise could not be complete without people around him from the club also helping him develop and excel as an Aussie rules player, and that is a testament to our own club's culture and focus on development. However, if there was ever a template for football development, you need to look no further than the rise and challenges faced by King, who's training commitment in his own time is a prime example of how that extra work leads to rewards.
Is your own training regime and preparation balanced with the club's vision? There is no better time to examine that than right now, and the club has many examples to leverage off to show you the light, but why not start instantly by asking possibly the greatest of all, men's captain Shaun King?
Who knows, you may become the clubs future captain.