Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Stan Alves Impact

Today I heard Stan Alves share his story with a group of over 200 Year Nine boys (14-15 year olds). More to the point I saw him share his story and, at the same time witnessed the reaction of these kids.

I am not going to give away the details because you might hear Stan yourself one day... I have worked with Stan numerous times now and I always marvel at how he has been able to turn adversity on its head and be so positive about life, so appreciative of his important people - now and in his past. Stan has a profile... 283 games of Aussie Rules at the highest level... captain of the Melbourne Football Club - the oldest football club in the world if you don't mind! (I think you will find, UK readers, that Melbourne beats your oldest FA team by one year!) Stan played in a premiership, coached a team to a Grand Final and finished a close second in the Brownlow medal - the highest individual Australian Football honour there is. He is a successful businessman and has been a respected football broadcaster for the ABC for many years now.

Stan shared some deeply personal stuff, as he is always prepared to do, to get across a message about how important it is for the boys to cherish their time with the people who love them. There is always the moment when he divulges the unexpected event in his story and the silence that follows is always deeply respectful... you can almost hear the thoughts in the boys' minds... bringing to the forefront of their consciousness the people who are most important to them. He creates a compelling argument for the boys to consider participating in Time & Space - a program for boys and their dads or mentors. (Click here )

There continues to be a media frenzy that unavoidably associates boys with violence. A cloud of fear is directed at young men generally today. We have had some tragic recent moments... a boy died a couple of weeks ago in his own school, allegedly the victim of a knife attack by a fellow student. There is growing attention to the prevalence of knife carrying and knife fights and injuries. Most of the time the knife injuries and deaths are caused and received by young men... but only a few. I'll write some more about the possible causes of this in my next post.

I was lucky to have lunch with Stan prior to his talk. I asked him what he thinks about the media attention on the 'knife issue'... some thoughts are brewing about how Time & Space might be able to offer a program for boys in response to this most recent negative attention on young men. We agreed that most young blokes are good people... we wondered if the young men carrying knives are frightened themselves and that fear builds on another's and we get a kind of 'arms race' amongst young people.

We threw some ideas around... Stan concluded, "we've really got to be able to listen to these boys." There was a sense that adults had been doing most of the theorising on 'the knife issue' in recent times. Good suggestion Stan - let's listen to the young men themselves. I'm now cooking up a way to make that happen for groups who would like to hear what is going on for young males in our society.

Back to Stan's talk... this is what I saw. The session has finished and the boys from this particular school were heading out to lunch. I then saw the impact Stan had made. One after the other scores of young blokes just waited to thank Stan... a handshake, good eye contact and some simple yet profound expressions of gratitude. "You really made me think - thanks"... "That's the most inspirational story I have heard". Some just shook his hand. All of them looked him in the eye. It was an honour to witness close up. The sincere looks of gratitude, the unspoken 'thank-yous' showed how just so many boys there are who can access what is important, who aren't scary and who are just decent and basically good people. I just wanted you to get the good news about young men.

You can contact Stan Alves through his website

Thanks for reading and giving yourself a bit of Time & Space.

Bill Jennings from 'Time & Space'.