Will Hams is the Co-Founder of Liminal Wellbeing and former AFL player at the Essendon FC.
Highlights from the episode:
- The importance of persistence and working towards what you want
- Influencers who helped with his development
- Practical tips for footballers going through a challenging time whether it from slump or injuries
- Fondest memories out of his highlights
- What Liminal Wellbeing is
- Michael Hurley
- James Hird
- Nick Stevens
- James Burn
- Ben Howlett
To have Jack answer your questions send us a voice message via this link:
Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. My name is Jack McLean. I am the host and in today’s episode I interview Will Hams. He is the co-founder of Liminal Wellbeing and a former AFL player at the Essendon Football Club.
Highlights from this episode: we discuss the importance of persistence and working towards what you want; we will provide practical tips for footballers going through a challenging time, whether it’d be a form slump or from injuries; the Essendon drug saga and how it impacted the club; Liminal Wellbeing, the power of positive psychology and developing your tool shed for health.
Before we start this episode, for those wanting to improve your strength and power and gain a competitive edge this preseason, hire Prepare Like A Pro coach and join our individualized coaching package. For more information, head to preparelikeapro.com and join our email list to receive a free master class.
Let’s get into today’s episode. Welcome, Will. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Will: Thanks for having me, mate. Looking forward to it.
Jack: It’s going to be a good chat. Let’s dive into the very beginning of your journey. The young Hammer, take us back. What age did you discover that a career as a professional footballer was going to become a reality?
Will: That’s a good question. I think as a little tackler, I definitely always loved sport and loved footy and always aspired to play AFL someday. But aspiring and it actually making a reality and whether I could get there or not, it was a completely different story.
I think more just growing up, I just loved playing sport and loved hanging out with my mates and playing with them. Football started probably getting a bit more serious as I got towards more Gippsland Power representative staff. Part of kind of the old TAC cup, and now the NAB League. Getting involved in those pathways was when it really became a bit more serious.
And I’d have to say that I probably sat on the fringes of most teams of Under 15s and 16s. And then it wasn’t really until the end of my Under 16s year that I started to string together some good football, started having a bit more confidence in how I was playing, and had some opportunity back at home, in Southwood, to play senior footy and played at it, and could compete with men. And I think that set me up a little bit from my bottom-age year in the Under 18s. Was lucky enough to play some consistent footy there, which again was another little stepping stone into whether I could get there.
And really making some choices to put myself in the best position to try and get drafted at really the end of my Under 18s year. And was lucky enough to go through there and worked pretty hard and put some good steps in place and played some good football and probably really come as out of nowhere midway through the year. And then following that, we had a pretty good season and I was lucky enough to get picked up by the Bombers after that.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Let’s dive into a little more detail about some of those stepping stones. It sounds like, as momentum built, your confidence in yourself grew, and for young footballers listening in, how important it is to stretch yourself? Like you said, a 16-year-old playing country senior footy, looking back at those moments, did that really move the needle for you in terms of your development, those big step-ups?
Will: I think so. People having confidence in you and then you having confidence in yourself is a big part of it. And I think football more so than anything is such a confidence game. You can put everything that you want, all the stepping stones in place, prepare as best as you possibly can, and get out there and you lose that sense of confidence and your game kind of goes. So, for me, that was definitely a big part of it.
Leading into my Under 18s year, I definitely made a clear decision. I remember speaking to mom and dad and said, ‘I’m going to put everything into getting drafted. This is what I want to do. And this is what I want to spend my year 12 doing.’ They were 100% supportive of that. And I can’t thank them enough for just backing me as a young person to just go after it. And they even took the step then to speak to my coaches, have a chat to my manager about what they can do to support me.
We spent a year really trying to act as if I was already an AFL player. I was doing recovery on the Monday, getting to the beach before school, doing extra touch sessions. We would head down on the highway on a Wednesday. We only had one session without giving up team. And then I’d train on a Thursday back local and sail. And then we would head up to Melbourne on Friday, see my physio and then start the patern again after we played on Saturday or Sunday.
So, there was definitely a routine. And I think as the season went on and I started seeing the results, that was a big confidence booster again. I got put in for the second game in the big country squads and then played the rest of the week and that set my year off like that. It was definitely a process in place and a bit of a clear plan that we set out at the start of the year. And definitely a huge thanks to my parents for really putting the faith in me and allowing me to really go after it.
Jack: That’s awesome, mate. Thanks for sharing that. And that’s such a good insight into your mindset that you had. And, like you mentioned, there’s a team behind the player usually to suceed in such a competitive sport and to play at the highest level. So, the importance that your parents played and we’ll go into influences soon.
But in terms of that intent that you mentioned, it sounded like you were pretty strong on it then. And speaking to your parents, is that the first time that you actually voiced it to someone, that you were like, ‘This is what I’m doing. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got this year to get drafted’? Or at that point was it already something that you were working towards, but you just wanted to take it up another notch?
Will: Probably so. Actually I remember it was quite funny. My brother’s best mate was around the house. And I remember we were chatting and talking about footy, and mom goes like, ‘Oh, Will was going to try and play AFL.’ And Luke Carlson, my brother’s mate goes, ‘Yeah. And I’m going to play cricket for Australia,’ kind of slowly taking a piss. And I decided, I remember it so distinct, I was like ‘I’m going to prove you wrong. I’m going to prove you wrong.’
I probably had that mindset. I was very competitive. I’m not a big guy, so I had to make sure that that was my drive and I had to do everything and put everything in place to be able to get there. And I think in that period it was where I felt like, ‘Ah, this could be something that I could go after.’
And to be fair, there was no reason why I should have felt that way. I hadn’t played in the big country squads. I hadn’t done any real representative or shown anything that said I will be a draft pick. But definitely having that confidence and that process in place was a big part of me finally getting there in the end and really that determination just to make it happen.
Jack: That’s awesome. Love that. And that’s a great gem for any of the younger footballers listening, or maybe parents of young kids. I think it’s so important to come from the person themselves, for them to really enjoy it and embrace it and get the full experience in this life that we live. If it’s coming from your heart and coming from yourself, you’re probably going to give it your best shot. I’m opposed to external people putting pressure on yourself. So, that’s, no doubt, an important factor.
Obviously, you’ve got to play good footy. And, like you said, you had those stepping stones and you built and worked and put in the work as well to get that end result. Talk us through how the draft week ended up for you as well? Because I know that was an interesting time for you after speaking to you a couple of years ago about it. Talk us through draft night and how did you venture out to get to Essendon?
Will: I guess post the season, we had a really good year at Gippsland Power. We made the grand final. We, unfortunately, lost by a point. But we really set ourselves to be in the spotlight. From there we went off to draft camp, tested pretty well. I was in the top ranges for running and a few of the skills jewels. And I spoke to a bunch of clubs as well and felt pretty confident going into the draft, knowing that I was going to get picked up somewhere.
I guess along the lines there was a few turns. Adelaide, Lions and Peaks were one of the clubs that were really interested in me. And I guess going in, you start getting a bit nervous. And I remember the night before draft or the day, trying to actually just kill the day, I remember Tom and I just went and did the running session. And we just kept running laps and running laps, trying to burn energy, so I could sit still and get through the night. But we ended up going to the pub, sat with a couple of friends, it wasn’t a big night or anything.
And then it went through and names were getting called out. Unfortunately, my name just didn’t go. And I remember being absolutely devastated. It was probably at the time, probably one of the hardest things that you go through. As you said, you put all these things in place, you put all the effort in there, you feel like you’ve got a chance, and then it just doesn’t fall your way.
Following that, I was tossing out whether to head to school with my mates or stick around to potentially try and get a training spot and, hopefully, get a rookie spot as well, which, I think, the draft was maybe a couple of weeks after. But I’m lucky enough that Merv came from the Bombers, one of the head recruiters at the time, gave me a call and said, ‘Mate, we’ve got a spot that’s opened up. We’d love you to come down, train, see how you go.’
And pretty much that was me. I got in the car, went up to Melbourne, went to Michael Hurley’s place. And trained for the next week with about six boys, who just pretty much went head to head in anything we did. It was time trials, competitive drills, weights, so the whole work. It was good fun, but super nerve-wracking. It just went in a blur. It just next thing, next thing, next thing. And I was lucky enough that at the end of that week I got a call from Hurley saying, ‘Mate, we’re going to pick you up.’ And ended up going pick 5 in the preseason draft.
It was one of the best feelings I had, having that element of against the wall, when you’re competing against others. And it was really that one-on-one, kind of more like an individual sport, when we were going through that process. But to come out on top and then to get drafted and go through, I think was probably better than even getting drafted in the first place. It really gave me that confidence that I should be here and I belong.
Jack: That’s awesome, mate. That’s a great story. Have you ever caught up with those other five guys, the ones you were competing through sport?
Will: I think I might have been the only one from Victoria. I remember Sammy Colquhoun. To be honest, he was probably going to get picked up before me. But then got picked up by Port Adelaide in a couple of picks before I did. I think I’ve dodged a bullet a bit there. And then Dayle Garlett ended up getting drafted to Hawthorn maybe a year later. And I’m not sure about the other boys.
But no, I haven’t ended up catching up with any of them. But the development coach at the time, who was really putting us through our paces, is now one of my best mates. So, we obviously connected pretty well. And I was pretty lucky that I did that. It was definitely interesting time. Loved it.
Jack: That’s awesome. Do you think you were well-prepared, because of the year of work that you did, it almost felt like you knew you deserved it, you deserved that spot?
Will: Yeah, absolutely. I think I honestly probably couldn’t have done any more whether it was in the gym, whether it was running, whether it was my skills work. I was just putting so much time into it, even leading up to that post the season. So, I really felt like, if it wasn’t going to be then, then it probably wasn’t going to be, and if someone’s going to beat me on the day, then well done to them. So, certainly felt that I was in the right position.
And probably I think you get a feel for it after the first day. We did a lot of tests in that first day. And I think a lot of them were probably more the explosive athletes, where I probably had a bit more endurance. I was getting on top of them in those trials and then when it got down to the competitive stuff, I think that certainly contested ball was one of my strong suits. And I was able to get on top of that and I think that just gave us a bit of confidence really for the rest of the week.
Jack: And you mentioned earlier the importance of having a good support team and those around you that build your confidence. Who were your strong influences early days to help you during your development?
Will: I think, obviously, I spoke about my parents. I think for any fortunate kid they’re the number one supporter. Obviously, growing up in Gippsland and being three hours away from Melbourne, we pretty much spent two years traveling back and forth. We absolutely flogged the Monash Freeway. And they dedicated so much time and effort into supporting not just me, but my brother, Tom, as well in our sporting endeavors. So, certainly mum and dad were a massive influence.
I think in Gippsland Power Peter Francis, who was the general manager there for ever, is an absolute legend. And Nick Stevens, who was my coach in Under 18s year. They put a load of confidence in me as well and really pushed me to AFL clubs, to get on their radar, as well as in big country. And I have lots to thank to both of them. Probably not just in a footy sense, but also just in a personal sense as well, in sense of life lessons that they taught me and understanding discipline and respect. I think it was just a great culture of learning as well as being good footballers, but being good young men as well. So, they were absolutely incredible.
And then James Burn, who I briefly mentioned before, who was that development coach that got me over the line of the Bombers. Again, a massive influence early in my footy career, but post football more importantly. He’s been a huge influence in both my career and life outside of that side. Certainly, they’re the people that really stick out as both in a football sense, but also in a life sense, I think, as well.
Jack: And your dream becomes your reality. You’re on AFL list. Take us through the first year. How tough was it? And what was some of the highlights as well?
Will: I’d have to say probably the first year was one of the easiest years or probably the easiest year that I had. I think AFL clubs are quite good at balancing your load as a young person coming in. And as I mentioned, because post the season I was trying to train to then get a role, I came in really fit and was really strong in preseason. I think preseason was probably one of my strengths in terms of I was quite a good runner, backed up training really well or recovered pretty well. So, all those things were really in my favour.
And leading into the start of the season I was putting myself in the best position I could. I didn’t get close in round one, but played some good VFL games and then ran through our first emergency and then had a string of emergencies and carry-overs after that. But certainly I guess probably that preseason, although you come home and you go to sleep and you’re not used to having a full day at the club, whether it’s way in the afternoon, training in the morning, meetings and all that stuff does tire you out mentally and physically.
But I think for me, it was just kept flowing on from the momentum that I had the previous year. And it really wasn’t probably until my second year where I felt a little bit more pressure on performing and making sure that I could submit my spot and how it was physically and all those sorts of things. But in the first season, you’re fresh, no one knows you, no expectations. Get out there and just have a crack.
Jack: Awesome. And you mentioned the emergency. How challenging is it to prepare and be in that position, particularly when you haven’t debuted yet? I can imagine that would be a real mental fuck.
Will: Yeah, it was a little bit. I remember, so, round two, I think I was emergency six or seven times, like the player for emergency before I played. And it was a couple of times they had to travel. A couple of times I could go to the game then no one’s injured, head back to the VFL and play. Mom and dad and Tom and everyone else would come up. The whole family would come up from Gippsland and hope that potentially someone might get injured. Is not doing that, is going on the VFL.
And then finally cracked it, cracked a gig in round 10 up at Sydney. I was lucky. Again, I was an emergency and Benny Howlett pulled out, I think, the day before the game. And I’ve got my first opportunity out of it. But we had a really good site. I think we won the first maybe nine games of the year that year in the Bowman’s Raps. So, they were flying, and there’s a few things, obviously, going on outside of that. But on-field everything was absolutely flying.
So, it was good to be a part of that as well, and see what these blokes are doing and how they’re getting up and how they are playing. And being in the stands, watching those different patterns and all of that stuff was a really good educational experience as well.
Jack: Let’s go into that. It was a bit of a rare time to be drafted at the club. When did you start picking up on things? Was it post career? Was it a few years in? With some of the drugs out there, what was going on?
Will: It was a weird time. I mean, for me, I got there the following year. So, I think it was maybe my second week and we had a meeting to say that there was an investigation going on. I didn’t really know what was happening, but it seemed to be pretty big at the time. And then you jump on the news and there’s plenty going on and really for the next four years that was it.
It was twist and turn and everything else in between. But I guess draft group probably did sit a little bit separate to that, but also part of it in a really strange way. It was certainly a challenging time for everyone involved, particularly the boys that were part of it, and I’d certainly feel for them. But also indirectly everyone else around staff and supporters and everyone involved, it was just a crazy four years.
I guess for me, that was the four years I was in the system. And by the time it cleared out I was retrospectively looking back and thinking, ‘What the hell just happened?’ But when you’re in the moment, you just, again, it’s a cliche, but you do take each day as it comes and like, ‘Okay, whatever,’ and focus on the next thing. And you really are in a bit of a bubble. So, that was what it was. And I was just focusing on making a career and playing games and recovering from injuries and whatever else was going on.
Jack: Okay. So, it certainly wasn’t a distraction for you personally coming in and being drafted into that time?
Will: I don’t think so. Not in that first year. It was actually a really inspiring year the way that a lot of the players were just galvanized. And as I said, I think the boys were on the first nine games in a row and played Geelong who had also won nine games in a row. And we were going really well. So, it was pretty inspiring to be a part of that.
And, as you know, you can’t forecast what’s going to happen in the next few year. So, no one knew that it was going to drag on the way it was. But that’s definitely a galvanizing experience to be a part of. And it was certainly an interesting first year, for sure.
Jack: And you mentioned other challenges. So, I guess, start with injuries, for players that maybe there might be some listening that are currently going through an injury. Obviously, it’s probably one of the hardest times as an athlete, because your body’s taken away and you’ve got to do the things. You signed up to play the game of footy and suddenly now you’ve got to spend more time in the gym, doing the things that you potentially didn’t sign up for. How did you go about approaching rehab and what was some things you learned along the way that made rehab more successful?
Will: It was a tough one. So, as I said that first year you come in, your eyes are open, you’re just having a crack. And then the following year you want to make sure that you improve on what you’ve just laid out. And for me, I felt like I had a pretty good year, played a couple of games in the seniors, played good VFL, played a good final series.
And so, I was like, ‘Ah, it’s my time. I want to make sure that I submit my spot in the senior side. So, I’m going to do everything that I can in the preseason to make sure I’ve come back and ready to go.’ And that was pretty much what I did. I didn’t go away. I went just back home and just trained as much as I could. And got back to preseason…
Jack: More than the club program? When you say as much as you could, did you do extras and that sort of thing? Or you just really brought maximum intensity to the program?
Will: It was probably quantity over quality, I think. And that was certainly something that, looking back, you want to take back and you do understand that putting the quality in you don’t have to do these ridiculously long sessions. If you have the quality in there, then you’re going to see those benefits. And for me, that wasn’t the way that I approached it, and probably not the way a lot of young people approach it. Because you just think more is better and that’s what you do.
As I mentioned, I came back really good, I tested really well, trained really well up until the Christmas break. And then probably a week after the Christmas break when we got back I went down with what was pretty innocuous hip injury. I essentially lost all strength in one side and got some test done and ended up seeing that I had a swelling in my hip. And from there I got to cortisone, it relaxed. I went to training again, started running again and three days later it just blew up again.
And that was just his pattern for I don’t even know how long. It just kept flaring up, flaring up. We couldn’t work out what was actually causing that flare up. And unfortunately for me, it didn’t matter how much rehab I did and all the strength work that I did around my glutes or groins or everything else, it just wasn’t fixing. So, I ended up having to go into surgery. And in the end I missed the whole year just through that trial and error of trying to fix that hip.
And that was definitely a frustrating and challenging time, as you said. I think as an athlete all you want to do is perform and play and do what you’re paid to do and what your job is. And also probably what you love. Definitely being in the gym wasn’t something that I loved. It was just something that came with the game, and then you want to celebrate at the end on a weekend when you’re winning and all those sorts of things. So, definitely a challenging time.
And something that I’ll kind of look back on. I’m not sure what I’d do different. As I’ve mentioned, definitely that quality over quantity. But in my third year I ended up playing a few games early and then I think it was around six my other hip did the exact same thing. And that put me out and I respectively missed two middle years of my career. Pretty challenging time. And as you said, when you’re an athlete and you really rely on your physical health as the tool of your trade and not being able to do that was something that was really challenging.
Jack: And did you develop things outside of football at that stage of your career? Obviously, you were focused on your rehab, but that’s the two years of not playing a lot of footy. Were there other things in your life that you started to focus on to help yourself mentally get through it?
Will: Yeah. And probably the fortunate thing about getting injured is that you can have a think about what else you are doing outside of football. And I definitely feel that I’m one of those people that does want to stay busy and always wants to learn as well.
So, through what the AFL and the AFL PA have set up, I did a number of pathway courses and then started my Bachelor of Business while I was still playing at the Bombers, which was probably because I just wanted to do something. And then when I finished the game, I was pretty thankful that I did, and went on, finished that Bachelor of Business. And it really helped me with my professional career post the game. So, that was something that really helped.
But again, I love to surf. I love to stay physically active. And all those things that I wanted to do, I couldn’t do. So, it was really about finding other stuff that stimulated me mentally and socially, and other ways to keep my physical strength up as well. And that was really a discovery time for me. I felt I was just exploring what I liked and what I didn’t like.
Jack: And going back to the highlights, like first game, being drafted, playing finals, and then obviously post Essendon you were in a premiership side and had played a ripping game, mate, at Box Hill. Looking back now, what is the fondest memory out of all those highlights?
Will: I definitely think that that final series that we had at Box Hill in 2018 was probably, I get goosebumps thinking about it now. And you were a part of it, and it was just a crazy, crazy rollercoaster coming into that final series. We finished sixth, we won in overtime. And then the following week, we had a good game against Geelong, and then we won by point in the Prelim, and then came from behind and won in the Granny. And that whole kind of come from behind victories that we had was insane. And it is a bit of a blur, but it was definitely the most highlight that I had in footy by a long stretch. It was absolutely awesome.
Jack: I can only imagine the connection amongst those weeks. It was bloody crazy week after week, every time, like you said, coming from six, you can’t lose. And the team really stepped up, the highlights near the end was fun to watch. When you look back on those memories, do you guys catch up a year post when you turned 19, or is it more a five-year thing, 10-year thing? Talk us through for premiership group, what is the connection like after?
Will: It’s a tough one because a lot of us left and we were all going to leave at the end of that year. So, it was really the last for us, anyway. I told Box Hill that I wouldn’t be playing the following year. I was going to head away traveling with my girlfriend Grace and go away for six months and really take that opportunity. I just finished studying, so it was just a really good time to finish up.
Obviously, winning the flag and going out on that note was just at an all time high. But we definitely go to a group chat and we try to catch up. COVID, obviously, hasn’t played a great role in that, like many others. But I’m looking forward to a good reunion and a good catch-up with the boys one day.
Jack: Once the rain is gone, there will be summer festivity. So, that’s awesome, mate. Talking about the positives with the game of football, those moments of winning finals and winning premiership as part of a team, what does that do going into the following year? From a confidence point of view, but also from a team connection point of view for team success, how important is that to be able to have that experience as a group?
Will: I think it’s everything. I think you see in the AFL, and it’s no coincidence that Hawthorn get a gel from winning one and they go to win three in a row, you see Richmond do what they do, and you’re probably going to see Melbourne and the Doggies be right amongst it. Team success breeds that confidence for everyone to step up and keep on that train and keep going. And you don’t want to miss out as well.
And I think for us at Box Hill, we lost in the Prelim, got absolutely smoked by Richmond. But still, we were building something and I think that group really galvanized after that. And we had a bit of a run, just started slow and then built and got our momentum back and finished really strong.
But I think getting that connection with your teammates for me, I was only there two years. The first year was kind of feeling everyone out, learning how do they play, how does this work, where am I. That second year I felt comfortable where I’m positioned in this team, where I’m running, I know what he’s going to do. And you start building that game awareness with your teammates. So, that was something that I really felt in that second year to get us over the Prelim hump and get us into the Granny.
Jack: Although there’s a lot of talent in aligned clubs, with a lot of the VFL top players that make a game come from an AFL list half the time, or they’re seriously good state league players, and then the rest of the team is made up of AFL full-time professional footballers, not always are they most successful in the state league. How important is that connection? And for VFL or stately players that are listening in, how do you build that connection between the two groups, between AFL and VFL?
Will: It is hard. I come from one system, where Essendon was the VFL side as well. So, it was really a strong continuant of Essendon listed players. And we really ran that show and that’s how I felt anyway, sitting on that side. I’m not sure how the VFL boys felt. We definitely had some good senior boys, but probably for me on the AFL list as well it’s really always thinking not just on my personal performance, but how can we win? How can I play well? How can I get into the senior side? There was a different motive there.
Where moving to Box Hill, I think they just developed such a great culture and respect between the Hawthorn Footy Club and Box Hill and what Box Hill boys delivered. And having not your own club, but it did feel a little bit like you’re in clubs. You still had the same rooms and that sort of stuff. And the boys would come in and they were super respectful of the VFL players. And I think that was just really good mutual respect. I think Casey seem like they do it really well as well.
I think that was something that was probably built long before I got there, but I definitely felt it when I arrived. That was a really good respect between both. And even when players are coming back from injury, and we’re talking about our senior players at Hawthorn at the time, they were again very welcoming and inclusive, wanted to be there, wanted to support, wanted to play well, so the team could play well.
So, I think, if you can build that culture, it does build success, not just in the VFL program, but in the AFL program as well. I strongly believe that. By helping those players get better and becoming better than you’re only going to succeed as well.
Jack: And going back to how you mentioned at the start of the year, that Box Hill premiership year, this will be your final year at the club, and then you’re going for half a year trip, which was very well-timed, retrospectively, mate, with your partner, Grace. So, well played there. What was your thinking at the time and did you know you had enough of playing professional footy? Or was that the idea and you were going to give it one last hooray before moving on to your next chapter?
Will: Yeah, I think so. I’d probably already subconsciously realized that footy is probably not going to be there and was starting to really have a look at myself and what I want to do and what drives my passion and drives my purpose and who else was I without the game of football. I think for a long time as a kid, and then obviously getting drafted, I felt like footy was really my identity and who I was. But it was only really something that I did. So, it was a real defining moment around finding out who am I and what do I love doing outside of what was. A great time.
I was still very hopeful. I was putting everything into that final year and I spoke to a couple of clubs, but certainly it didn’t go in with a lot of confidence that I would get drafted or anything like that. And as it turned out, I certainly didn’t. And we had one of the best experiences in my life, getting away and traveling through Central American states and meeting new people and having new experiences and something that I’ll look back on for the rest of my life. And I think it was a pretty defining moment in terms of the work that I do now as well.
So, certainly, leading the game, I love what I do, I’ve loved the kind of the journey that I’ve had since, and it’s been awesome. I certainly can’t take anything, I wouldn’t change anything or anything like that, or stayed in the system for any longer. I think for me personally, that was my time to call it a day on that and look at other things that I loved and drive me, as well as my partner Grace.
Jack: That’s awesome, mate. You can tell the way you go about it and your mindset that you’re not someone that has regrets. I love that. But we’ll go into the next chapter, using the degree. Probably exercise science is a broad topic that everyone does because they love sport, then business manager would be a close second, I reckon. But you’ve applied it. You’re a co-founder of Liminal Wellbeing. For those that don’t know what Liminal Wellbeing is, can you give us a bit of an intro into the company you’ve created?
Will: So, essentially Liminal Wellbeing is a management platform designed for schools, youths programs, sporting organizations, helping to support young people in seeking support, but also developing skills around their mental health and wellbeing. And we look at that in terms of their mental health, their physical health and their social health as well.
What we’ve done is designed an app, a mentioned platform that works part and parcel together. The app’s a resource for young people to check in, as I said, seek support, but the more importantly gain inspiration, education and skills around how to create a preventative behaviors to support their mental health and wellbeing.
Jack: Amazing. And how did you come to create that? Was that while you were away, the creative juices were flowing and you started to come up with the idea? Or is it something that once you came back, you started to work on?
Will: I think it was probably one of by-products in my own life. As I mentioned, when I was injured, I did so many different things to support my mental health and my physical health. And then obviously that connection that I had socially as well was a big part of that. And I really experimented with different things, whether that was affirmations and positive self-talk, whether it was yoga, meditation, cold therapy. I was really big on finding a real toolkit around what supported me.
I guess the other side of things was that I’m happy to say that we have a lot of mental health history within our family on both sides of the family and that’s mom’s and dad’s side. And so, growing up, it was extremely prevalent around doing the right things to feel your best and whether that was the food that we put into our bodies, or there was exercising, ot it was looking at drinking and drugs and that sort of stuff. Mum was very strong in making sure that we were doing everything that we could.
So, I think all of those things combining, and then going away and traveling and looking at all these different experiences and the different ways that people live their lives, just combine myself in this passion for positive psychology. Coming back, I ended up getting a job with a student travel company where we facilitated international programs for schools, taking young people to developing countries where they’d have that backpacker type experience: live at a local community and do a project, trek around, explore and lead the whole trip.
And I just found it such an empowering experience, having that alternative learning outside of school. And school wasn’t my thing. And I found that with these young people, providing them this kind of other opportunity to learn in a real concentrated environment and put them outside their comfort zone was something that I was really excited by.
Unfortunately with COVID, that put the nail in the coffin of that job pretty quick. And I was toying around with this idea of being able to provide that on a platform and being able to combine what I’d learned in positive psychology, what I’d learned in professional sport and the health and fitness industry, and how you could combine all of those to be a really great platform for young people to seek support easier, but more importantly, work out the strategies that work for them.
Jack: Like you said, build a tool shed. I love that, that concept of playing around and almost experimenting and having fun with it. There’s no one answer, but if you’ve got that sort of curious mindset to play around with. And just like the physical side, the mental side is no different. So, playing around and trying different methods, yoga, meditation, cold therapy.
I’ve had the pleasure of looking at the app when we caught up for coffee and it seems like it’s really seamless in the way that it works and it communicates and triggers to teachers to alert them on a particular student that might not be feeling so well. Almost makes it a little bit easier for young kids to communicate how they’re going. And then for teachers or coaches, it makes their life a bit easier to be able to look after a big group, which it can be hard to get across to everyone at times.
So, take us through the purpose of it. What are you trying to achieve with Liminal Wellbeing?
Will: Yeah, exactly, what you said. There are a lot of barriers in young people seeking support. And just like anyone knows the earlier that you do that and the earlier you get on top of things, the better.
And for teachers, they’ve got a bloody tough role, super tough. Even more tough throughout COVID, particularly with online learning and these sorts of things. It’s one, they’ve got to teach the curriculum and help young people learn. But also, they have their second on, how they’re traveling and cannot be that care supporter as well. So, what we really tried to do with Liminal is make that easier for schools, but also organizations as well.
The way the platform works is essentially with the app. Students do a quick check-in or the individual does a quick check-in on their physical, mental, and social health on a one to five scale, but it’s designed a little bit differently. And that information then just goes through the management system, just to see how broadly the group is going. But just a quick idea around how that individual is going and flag anyone that might be struggling across those three areas.
Really from there the app is what I’d like to call a combination of what a lot of meditations apps are, like a calm and in your headspace. And then you might have a center app that’s your physical health. And combining that all into one to then be an organization tool as well. So, we provide all of those resources to young people, whether that’s yoga sessions, whether it’s fitness sessions, whether it’s meditations, whether it’s goal setting. All these things that they can try out and find what works for them.
As well as providing a content management platform for organizations to use where they can upload different inspirational videos, different resources that they have available, guest speakers if they come there. And it’s all centralized within the app.
And then finally a support function. So, if a young person is struggling with anything, whether it’s school-related, whether it’s home-related, whether it’s physically related, then they can reach out to the wellbeing team simply through their app. And it’s definitely an alternative solution for them. We certainly encourage to build that rapport with their teachers and with their wellbeing teams. But it is something that they can fall back on, because they don’t know who to ask and they don’t know how to articulate their feelings.
And going back to the toolkit analogy I certainly look at that wellbeing and what we’re trying to do, is really provide them with a suite of resources. And we refer to it as a tradie. Tradie is not going to rock up to the site to build a house with a hammer. He’s going to have a bunch of different tools in his shed.
We’re thinking about wellbeing in a similar way. If you’re relying on fitness and you break your ankle, then you’re probably going to struggle and you’re not going to expect your wellbeing to be great. But if you have a bunch of other stuff that you can rely on while you’re recovering from that, then you’re going to put yourself in the best position. That’s really what we’re trying to do is cover those three areas of physical, mental, and social quite broadly, so they can build a bit of a wellbeing toolkit around them.
Jack: Amazing, mate. Love that. No doubt, it’s going to be doing big things. And I know the launch date is fast approaching, which is super exciting for you. So, schools, football clubs and organizations as well. Potentially a modern business might look into this as well to look after their staff from a wellbeing point of view. Is that a possibility?
Will: Yeah, I think that certainly is in the track we’re going. We’re certainly looking at youth, so looking at different youth programs that they have within the community, YMCA and that sort of thing. Really being able to empower them. So, that’s our avenue at the moment. And potentially going down organizations that allow the stage. But I think our passion from our team and our mission is really about supporting young people at this point in time.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Congratulations, you’ve transitioned into the entrepreneurial world just seamlessly, mate.
Will: Thanks, mate. As yourself.
Jack: We’ll go into the lighter side of the podcast, the get-to-know-Will-Hams side. So, first one off the bat, mate, is which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why? We’ve had plenty of time for these lately. You probably have it as much as others, but the last couple of years Netflix must have popped up at least one.
Will: Yeah, big time. To be honest, I was trying to think of one and I don’t have anything that really stands out for me. Big TV series, I love TV series over movies. I think probably my favorite all time TV series, I don’t know if it’s impacted me in the best way possible, but I could smash ‘Entourage’ when I was a young fellow about three times in a year. I love that show.
So, that’s definitely my all time favorite, but I don’t know if I’ve had too many impact me. You certainly walk away from some movies with some goosebumps and pretty pumped up. Al Pacino’s speech and all those things, but I couldn’t really put my finger on one that really got me going.
Jack: In your work life, what makes you angry? What are your pet peeves?
Will: Ah, pet peeves. Again, there’s probably not too much that really annoys me. I think I really try and treat everyone equally and it does probably annoy me when others are disrespectful to people that they may not know or for whatever reason. So, that’s probably something that gets on my nerves a little bit. But again, there’s probably not too much that annoys me, really.
Jack: And favorite inspirational quote or life motto?
Will: So, ‘Shit always works out.’ I say this whenever I have a crazy idea or try and go over something, that’s probably looking a bit dodgy. I always say to my girlfriend, ‘Grace, shit always works out.’ I’ll probably rephrase it a little bit. Shit always works out if you put the dedication and the determination to make it do so.
And I believe that out of that motto, I do it with my work. I’ve done it with footy. I’ve done it with everything. You just take each day as it comes. Don’t try and stress too far ahead because things will just work out. And if you do so, then you’ll find out that they do a few days later.
Jack: I’m with you there. That one resonates with me. Another one that clicked in my head for whatever reason, I think listening to someone else’s podcast, is ‘What will be will be’, which pretty much is the same thing.
Jack: That’s a great one. What’s your favorite way to spend your day off? You mentioned surfing. If you’ve got the day off, if tomorrow you don’t have anything on, what do you like to do? How do you start and what are some activities?
Will: Big time, getting in the water. I’m still not a hundred percent sure why I live in Melbourne. It’s not on the coast at all, and there’s no waves within an hour and a half. But get me back home to the water. I grew up on the coast. Mom’s down in Inverloch. I love getting down there. Every opportunity that I possibly can, I just love to get in the water, get surfing. If it’s flat, still get down in the ocean. I think it’s my place to reset. Especially the COVID, it was so challenging being stuck indoors. And I do get a bit weird when I haven’t been down the coast for a while. So, I think that’s definitely my happy place.
Jack: So, if there’s the Liminal retreat one day and I sign up, there’ll be surfing involved.
Will: Big time. I can guarantee you that. Maybe multiples of it.
Jack: Awesome. This is a COVID-free world and you’ve done a bit of traveling, mate. So, favorite holiday destination, and why?
Will: COVID-free? I’d probably get back to Mexico in a heartbeat. Absolutely loved it there. Both sides, west and east coast. I haven’t really explored the middle, it’s a bloody massive country. So, I’d love to go back there and explore some more of Mexico, but absolutely loved it. And as I said, we had a great opportunity to travel just before COVID, which is, retrospectively, quite fortunate. And I did about three months traveling around Central America, but I’d get back to Mexico. I loved it there.
Jack: And we’ll start wrapping up the podcast. Thank you so much for jumping on and sharing with us your journey so far. You’ve lived a full life. And I know I’ve got plenty from it, but also the listeners, whether you’re a footballer or a businessman, you’ll get plenty from it. What’s on the horizon for you, for the 2022 year? What are you excited about at the moment?
Will: As you mentioned, we’re launching Liminal. So, we trialed all last year and now we’re officially launching Liminal across schools and football clubs, particularly around the VFl. So, that’s going to be a really exciting start of the year, getting all of those going.
And, hopefully, it’s going to be a big half COVID-free, normal year that we can get out and about. We’ve got a lot of exciting staff, whether they’re talks, different partnerships and getting out there and trying to spread what we do as much as possible. So, fingers crossed we can do that in person, otherwise we might have to get on a few more podcasts with yourself.
Jack: The same, mate. And for those that want to hear more about Liminal, where’s the best place to get in touch with you?
Will: Yeah, definitely. We’re on all the social. So, LinkedIn and Instagram, Facebook. But jump on our website, liminalwellbeing.com.au, explore around and reach out. I think my details would probably be on the show notes after this. So, if you are a teacher, a parent, if you’re part of a football club and you’re interested in what we have to offer, please do reach out. We’d love to chat and tell you more about it and, hopefully, get your organization involved.
Jack: No doubt, I reckon there’ll be some people that will. We’ll definitely chuck your details in the show notes. We have equal values in terms of a holistic approach to mental and physical wellbeing and performance in life. So, hopefully, some people will get in touch, mate.
Thanks again for jumping on. And thank you for all the listeners that have tuned in life. This episode will be released very shortly on our podcast, but for the time being you can watch it on YouTube. Thanks again, Will, mate. Have you got any last messages for the listeners?
Will: I reckon everyone’s probably heard enough from me. But thanks a lot for having me on, mate. It’s been a blast. And thanks to everyone for tuning in.
Jack: Awesome. And our next live chat guys will be next Thursday. It’s actually our first collaborative event. So, super excited for this one. We’ve got five AFL sport dieticians joining us. They’ve all been on a podcast individually. So, Jess Spendlove from GWS, Rebekah Alcock from Melbourne, Ben Parker from Gold Coast Suns, Pip Taylor from Brisbane, and Simone Austin who worked at Hawthorn. If you’re interested to hear more information, subscribe to our newsletter, which you can find that on ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ website. Thanks, guys. We’ll see you on the next episode.
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