The Decision to Retire
2020 took many of us by surprise, and AFL player Nathan Brown was no exception. He was planning to retire at the end of the year, after a successful first grade career with both Collingwood and St Kilda. But Covid brought those plans forward a little.
Being sent to live in the Noosa “football bubble” made Nathan reassess his future. Six weeks in to bubble life, he realised he didn’t want to uproot his young family and have them relocate to another state. Having just settled in a new home in Barwon Heads, he wanted to give his family stability so he made the tough decision to retire early.
While the decision to retire was a difficult one for Nathan (his emotional letter to team mates made headlines), it was the right one for him. He says he has “really enjoyed being back with the family” and having the opportunity to “have a little bit of a think about what’s next.”
“I enjoyed that side of it. I’ve always had my mind on the construction industry. But I thought I’m missing a step here. The admin side of it is really good, but I want to know the fundamentals of construction.”
Laying the Groundwork Early
There’s a relaxed air about Nathan Brown, retired player. This comes from the fact that although the decision to stop playing came unexpectedly, he’s actually been laying the groundwork for it for the past few years. When he started playing for St Kilda back in 2016, he also began an internship as a project manager with a company in the city. He says, “I enjoyed that side of it. I’ve always had my mind on the construction industry. But I thought I’m missing a step here. The admin side of it is really good, but I want to know the fundamentals of construction.”
At around the same time, a group of St Kilda players had enrolled in the Certificate III in Carpentry course at the Trade Institute of Victoria (TIV). They encouraged Nathan “to jump on board” assuring him he would love it and that it “was a really good set up.” It was exactly what he was looking for so he signed up and hasn’t looked back.
How TIV Supported Nathan’s Dream
Nathan was impressed with TIV, so much so that he went on to also complete his Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building). By the end of this year he also expects to complete his Diploma of Building and Construction (Building). Suddenly, retirement doesn’t seem so daunting and he credits the trainers at TIV for making it all possible.
“TIV was awesome. They understood you and spoke to you as a player, but then they spoke to the clubs as well,” says Nathan. He explains that “instead of butting heads with each other,” the clubs and TIV worked together. “They understand that you really want to do this, you’re motivated and you’re a good fit for the industry, so let’s see how we can do it in the best possible way. That’s why I loved it.”
Certainly, TIV has a reputation for flexibility and working around training schedules. But its trainers are also motivated to get the best out of their students. Nathan says, “They got to know me as a person. So they knew how to connect with me and teach me best.”
Nathan particularly enjoyed the hands on experience at TIV. He felt he could just have a go and ask “stupid questions” if need be, in the process of learning. “You’d stuff things up all the time (at the training facilities), but hands on is the only way to learn and get better.”
“They [TIV] understand that you really want to do this, you’re motivated and you’re a good fit for the industry, so let’s see how we can do it in the best possible way. That’s why I loved it.”
Covid and the Virtual Classroom
Nathan’s trainer was the very experienced Bill Spencer and Nathan has a lot of respect for him. He was particularly impressed with the way he was able to adapt to Covid, taking the lessons online when the pandemic hit without warning.
The virtual classroom has been something that Nathan has really enjoyed. “I can get home. I can put the kids to bed, and then I can just do my thing, and it’s really good.” He acknowledges that while face to face is also great, sometimes the work is able to be done virtually and that’s a great asset in terms of convenience.
Support for Students Beyond the Course
While many education providers say goodbye to students at the end of a course and never hear from them again, TIV is a little different. The trainers are invested in their students’ success so they’re happy to continue supporting them beyond their courses.
Nathan admits he can call Bill Spencer any time for advice. “I can say I’ve been offered this job or ask what should I do? Or how much should I be getting paid, or how should I go about it? Bill’s been awesome with that follow-on sort of stuff. Even if I’m on site, if there’s something that’s just mind-boggling me, I’ll click a picture through to Bill and he’ll call back. That’s pretty rare, and I don’t think it happens with every sort of educational place.”
Nathan’s Advice to AFL Players
Nathan is thankful for a long and successful career playing the game he loves. But he was always aware that it would one day come to an end. He says, “I was really lucky that I played 14 years, and I was one of the lucky ones, but I’m still only 31. You’ve got to start preparing for life after footy, because what you do next after footy is going to be three or four times longer than your footy career.”
Discussing young players, he says, “I guess if you get drafted at such a young age, and then if you’re lucky enough, you can leave the game at age 30, and you grow up so much in that time.”
But Nathan doesn’t think it’s ever too early or too late to start planning for a career beyond the football field. He believes “finding something that you really love is great and for me it was the construction industry. I guess the earlier the better is awesome because you can get your education done (while playing), and then you can start chipping away, working in real life scenarios, and by the time you finish up, you don’t have anxiety about finishing up fully because you have a blueprint of where you want to be in life.”
Nathan also cautions against stressing about the future. “If you don’t know what you want to do, and if you get to the ages of 26 or 27, it’s not too late. It’s never too late.”
While it may take a while for Nathan to get to where he wants to be in the construction industry, he knows he has started off with the best foundation through a TIV education.
With advice like that, it’s no wonder Nathan Brown will be missed among the AFL playing group.
If you would like to start laying the foundations for a career in the building and construction industry like Nathan, check out TIV’s many training pathways.