29 June 2023
The Next Generation in Schools Program
The Next Generation in Schools (NGS) program, developed by the North Melbourne Football Club, is an initiative aimed at igniting passion and participation for Australian Rules Football and the North Melbourne Kangaroos among young people in Melbourne, Wyndham, and Tasmania. With a focus on increasing football participation, fostering brand awareness for the club, and promoting the values of The Huddle, the NGS program has emerged as a launchpad for inspiring the next generation of football enthusiasts.
Eddie Ford returns to his old school, Point Cook College P-9, to help run an NGS session with The Huddle team.
The NGS program targets children aged 8 to 12 (Grade 3-6), both males and females. The program aims to address two significant challenges: the limited availability of free introductory football programs that offer a positive first experience in a safe environment, and the need to enhance brand awareness for the North Melbourne Football Club within schools.
The Next Generation in Schools program provides primary school-aged children with a unique opportunity to learn and experience Australian Rules Football within the familiar environment of their own schools. Through the program, young participants not only gain fundamental football skills but also have the chance to develop teamwork and leadership qualities through engaging game-based activities. The program aims to create a positive and inclusive environment where children can build confidence and explore their potential.
For some, the NGS program is their first and, in some cases, only exposure to the AFL. While delivering the program at Bellbridge Primary in Hoppers Crossing, there was one student who initially seemed disengaged, playing with the footy by himself and not fully participating. The teacher revealed that he had recently arrived in the country and didn't speak English, making it challenging for him to comprehend the activities and understand AFL. Understanding the situation, the program facilitator took the initiative to play one-on-one with the student, witnessing the joy he experienced in simply chasing and kicking the footy. As the session progressed, it became evident that he was reluctant to finish or return the football. Recognizing the impact it had on the young boy, the facilitator approached him and explained that he could keep the footy and take it home. From then on, the student brought the footy to school every day, becoming an important tool for him to feel a sense of belonging amongst his new friends.
The NGS program has yielded numerous positive outcomes for its participants, including increased physical and mental activity levels, opportunities to connect and learn from The Huddle staff, volunteers, and peers, and the development of confidence to try new things. Additionally, the program has fostered greater trust in external services and support systems.
The Next Generation in Schools program has already made a significant impact, reaching almost 20,000 young participants across over 100 schools in the Wyndham, North Melbourne, and Tasmanian regions. The program has extended its influence beyond school grounds through North Melbourne player appearances, which have engaged 2,200 students from 29 different schools and fostered connections with 11 community football clubs. Notably, these initiatives have resulted in 47 new football registrations within the Wyndham area.
Educators involved in the NGS program have expressed their enthusiasm and appreciation for the initiative. They recognize the positive impact the program has on their students, providing opportunities for growth and enjoyment.
We love having North Melbourne come back every year, the kids absolutely love learning and playing footy. For many of our kids, it's the only time they will play footy, and they love it.
- Educator from participating school
Looking ahead, the NGS program aims to continue running clinics throughout Terms 3 and 4, engaging more young people, schools, and educators in the world of Australian Rules Football, The Huddle, and the North Melbourne Football Club. The program's ongoing commitment to inspiring the next generation highlights its dedication to fostering a love for the sport and nurturing future football stars.
To learn more about NGS, or to register your school’s interest, please click here.