Everyone hopes to find a sustainable job in a field they love, but few people manage it. Sport-crazy since he was a child, John Leyden is one of the lucky few who turned his interests into a career. Caitlin Ganter writes:
As a child, we all have dreams of what we will be when we grow up. Be it a doctor, a fireman or a veterinarian, very few of us realise our childhood dream job. However, John Leyden has managed to do what most strive for: he turned his childhood passion into a profession.
Now working for Geelong Football Club’s Fitness Department in sport science, John considers himself a lucky man. “I’ve always had an interest in sports. Growing up as a child and throughout my high school years sport was a subject that was always a high priority,” said John. “It was an obvious choice to find a degree and career in this field if I could manage it.”
Geelong, or the Cats as they are affectionately referred to, is a professional club playing in the Australian Football League (AFL). The club has been the Victorian Football League (VFL) /AFL premiers nine times and has won nine McClelland Trophies, a record it shares with Essendon.
“My role at the club is in the fitness department for the AFL. I predominantly work with sport science and global positioning system (GPS) data analysis – this involves a lot of different activities such as monitoring training loads, developing training reports, and developing rehabilitation reports from the GPS data for each training session.
“I am also involved in strength and conditioning with the Geelong VFL club which, involves developing and implementing the conditioning and rehabilitation side of the program.
“I’m really fortunate to have my current role at Geelong. Being so young in the high performance industry, this role allows me to learn and continually develop myself in the sport science realms. I also get to work with extremely experienced and knowledgeable individuals who are experts not just in Australia, but internationally.”
It was in his final year of studying a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science at Deakin University that John had the opportunity to undertake a placement with the Cats. “We were required to undertake a placement in the sporting industry as part of the degree, and Geelong Football Club had advertised a placement opportunity for the whole season.
“It was more hours than I was required to do for the course, but I recognised it was a great opportunity. I was lucky to be accepted, gained great experience and developed some good relationships at the club whilst undertaking the placement.”
To build on his undergraduate degree, John enrolled in a Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology at ACU.
“I decided to study my masters to continue the interest in rehabilitation that I developed during my undergraduate degree. Also, one of my lecturers recommended I continue my study, especially if I was interested in working in rehabilitation. I chose the Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology at ACU because it was highly recommended.”
The industry is highly competitive, and John says he needs to work hard to keep on top of things. Nevertheless, he loves his job.
“It can be a challenge to keep up with the ever-changing sport science realms – it is a very competitive industry so you always have to be looking for what is ahead and what may be of benefit to your organisation to keep that competitive edge.
“But the rewards are worth it. I love seeing how athletes develop – even in my short career I have been able to work with young players and watch them mature. It’s great to see how their abilities develop to manage the training demands of AFL football. In the end, seeing the team succeed is always a big reward.
“I wish to continue developing my skills in this industry. I have been lucky to start at a club that has such a great reputation and plan to take full advantage of this opportunity to develop my knowledge.
“Ever since I was a child, the sporting industry is something I have always had a passion for and I aim to continue in this environment. Whether it is sport science, rehabilitation, or strength and conditioning, I believe having a background in all facets holds you in good stead for a healthy career.”