Cutting edge Cunningham: Balancing football and his future

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Image source: North Melbourne Football Club

Football is a game to many but a career for others and with so many new faces in the VFL this year it can be hard to keep score with who is who. But one to keep an eye out for is 20-year old Louis Cunningham.

The player from Balwyn has always had a passion for Aussie rules. He started out playing through the junior system and this year has been part of the North Melbourne VFL club. Louis is an example of what hard work and dedication can lead to, especially with trying to juggle footy, studying and a social life at the same time. 

“I have always had a love for footy, when growing up I was surrounded by a family who loved footy and that’s what got me interested in playing. Once I started playing I never looked back and have enjoyed it ever since” said Louis.

Louis worked hard to be part of and represent the Oakleigh Chargers in the TAC cup under 18’s competition. When playing for them, he endured rigorous training to set him up for the next level in his career.

This has seen him play 16 games for the North Melbourne VFL club this year, with a count of 186 disposals over the season.

“It has been a difficult process but I am proud of where I am and what I have achieved. However, I am still looking to take my game to the next level and play AFL.”

Source: Robert Prezioso/AFL Media/Getty Images AsiaPac

Becoming an AFL player is a dream that many try to chase, however it is a fierce competition to get into, so much so that plenty of time must be put aside for training. After completing an AFL traineeship straight after high school, Louis went back to study a Bachelor of Exercise Science and Teaching at La Trobe university to keep his options open. However due to the pressure of training so constantly, he took a semester off university that has been valuable for his football career – balancing both can be a struggle at times. 

“Playing footy does take up a lot of my time. Normally the training is Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a game on the weekend. So those afternoons are basically dedicated to footy. I think it is healthy to have a good work-life balance, so I try and get out and catch up with as many people as I can, as well as go to work, so I don’t have to concentrate about footy all the time.”

There is a substantial importance to keeping a strong mentality when training so hard for any sport. There are many obstacles and tough challenges that can test your capabilities to play at a good level every week.

Louis is no stranger to receiving criticism, which has only driven him to train harder and not give up on playing football at a higher level.

“The biggest criticism I have received would be from a coach saying, ‘you aren’t fit enough’ or ‘you don’t have what it takes to get to the next level’.

“Nobody likes being told they aren’t good enough to get to where they want to go or that they haven’t played well, but I just use this as constructive criticism. I target areas of my game or physique which I can improve on, then I have to go back and work on those areas so that instead of them being flaws in my game, they become strengths”

This is not the only criticism that he has received, as each week there is a 50/50 chance of losing the game. North Melbourne’s season ended in round 21 after losing to Werribee by 50 points.

“Taking a loss in footy always sucks, because you put so much effort into training and games that you just want to win. But the good thing about footy is there is always a game the following week and a chance to redeem yourself as a team and an individual. Being part of a team is important because after a loss everyone is in the same boat.”

Image source: North Melbourne Football Club

Playing professionally is like a full-time job as it is a form of employment for Louis. There are no long breaks and pre-season is tough, which is why it can be hard to have a good balance in life.

“Now that the season is over, we get a 2 to 3 week break and then get given an off-season weights and conditioning program to do before pre-season. Then pre-season will start in the middle of November and we are straight back into it from there.

“Footy is such a big part of my life, it is something I love doing every day. The good thing about footy is that there is always something you can work on and an area you can improve in, and I love that side to it.”

Louis definitely has not given up on his dreams of an AFL career and won’t be any time soon, as he continues to train and get back into studying next year. Louis will continue to strive to do what he loves though hard work, determination and his ability to never give up hope on his dreams.

“My goals for the future are to get drafted, be on an AFL list and finish my course for university.”

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