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Magarey medallist eyes a different prize

by Andrew McGarry

Magarey Medallist, James Allan. Photo Courtesy SANFL.James Allan has had some notable and very public achievements, including not one but three wins in the prestigious Magarey Medal – the latest victory coming just a few weeks ago.

But the North Adelaide footballer is on the verge of another, less high-profile achievement, as he nears completion of a double degree in human movement and education.

Allan, 26, won his first Magarey Medal in 2007, his first year in the SANFL competition after moving to South Australia from Victoria. He has now won for the third time in just five seasons – putting himself in the same group as five other SANFL players including North Adelaide legend, Barrie Robran.

For most of the five years he has been at the Roosters, Allan has also been studying a professional qualification in middle secondary Health and Physical Education, which he is due to finish at the end of this year.

Speaking from overseas on a post-season trip, Allan told UniSA News that his goal is to teach health and physical education in high school, while adding that “coaching football is something that I am keen to get into once I have finished my playing career".

Asked how he had found the program, Allan said it was both challenging and enjoyable.

“I think that when you are actually passionate about doing something, it is a lot easier to put in the time required," he said. “The biggest surprise for me has been the amount of planning that goes into each lesson and units of work."

Not surprisingly, he nominated finding the right time balance between course work and football as the biggest challenge he had faced at university.

“We basically have some sort of football commitment every day of the week, so it hasn't always been easy," Allan said. “My teachers have certainly made it a lot easier for me to get through by being quite understanding and flexible the whole way through. I can't thank them enough for their support."

He said the highlight of the degree was the professional placements that form a crucial part of the course.

“I was placed at Adelaide High School and Blackfriars Priory School, and it gave me a great understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a teacher," he said. “It also made it clear to me that HPE teaching is something that I am very passionate about and that I want to make a career out of it."

Wendy Piltz, senior lecturer in Health and Physical Education at the School of Education, said Allan had developed greatly as a teacher in his four years at UniSA.

In particular she said the standard of his work was highlighted at a camp at Moana, in Adelaide’s south, where students designed and delivered an integrated curriculum.

“James focused on designing progressive challenges for teaching surfing, integrating the science of wave formation, and raising awareness of changing gender stereotypes in the surfing session," Piltz said. "It was great."

She said Allan was very “unassuming and humble, for someone who is just an outstanding athlete".

She also described him as “one of our best practitioners in the field".

“His capabilities in reading the play in football, in being at the right place at the right time, are characteristics of expertise which he is able to draw into his teaching. The ability – particularly in the area of movement – to read and assess what a group is doing and provide meaningful feedback to people individually is very important."

Piltz said former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams, currently coaching at GWS, and Carlton great David Parkin were leading examples of teaching coaches who were able to use their expertise as teachers to transform individuals and teams.

“James has a chance to be an outstanding teacher and a great 'teaching coach'," she said.