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Cult of Personality at the Crows – Part 1

There’s been a lot of talk about what’s going on at the Adelaide Football Club of late. New training and injury management techniques and mysterious mind training sessions have coincided with a spate of injuries and rumours of player discontent at the club this season that have threatened to derail Adelaide’s 2018 premiership campaign. Compounding the matter is a perception of vague and inaccurate communication between the club, the media and Crows’ fans.

So what is actually going on?

It’s unfortunate that, as fans ourselves, we can only try and join the dots based on snippets of information and a little critical analysis. So what follows is certainly not an insight into the workings of the club, but rather a collection of publicly available information leading to questions surrounding the club’s programs. This has been prompted not only by the ongoing injury crisis at the club, but information received by CrowCast and reported by other media outlets regarding ongoing disharmony within the playing group.

Collective Minds

What do we know about the engagement of Collective Minds (CM) at the Adelaide Football club? It’s been reported that the organisation was engaged by the club to focus on strengthening the mental side of our approach. Don Pyke is quoted as saying “The value for us in mind training is we have made a lot of progression on the physical side, but the frontier that hasn’t been tapped into considerately is the mind space,”

It isn’t clear to what extent the Board or senior management of the Adelaide Football Club were consulted in this process, whether the engagement required Board, CEO or GM Football Operations approval, or, indeed what due diligence was carried out prior to engaging CM as, essentially, the player’s psychologists. An investigation into the credentials of Amon Woulfe and his fellow “Mind Training Expert” Derek Leddie, makes for interesting reading and throws up more questions than answers.

Amon Woulfe is a self made man. From humble beginnings and a musical background, his is not the path you would expect a sports psychologist to have taken prior to being entrusted with the minds of elite sportspeople in a high profile, financially lucrative national sporting competition. His formal qualifications are Bachelor of Political Science (International Relations) and a Master of Business, both achieved at the University of Queensland between 1999 and 2005. During his studies he carried out work as a market analyst for Hong Kong based accounting firm HLM and Co and towards the end of his time at Uni Queensland, as a sales and marketing exec with Biokaiser Petronius.

With a business partner, he then co-founded a start up company called “One Village” with a plan to providing converged media services, reportedly gaining $130M in seed capital to commence the business. Unfortunately, funding for the company was withdrawn in 2007 prior to launch, leaving Woulfe, in his own words “a truckload of debt” and commencing a “multi year journey to dig ourselves out of this really big hole we found ourselves in”.

Following the demise of his One Village venture, Woulfe returned to the corporate world in both the UK and Australia, working in Digital marketing and Technology. His CV shows an aptitude for web content management and digital media production, design and maintenance. Recommendations on his LinkedIn profile are positive, as you would expect, albeit mostly from people whom were his direct reports.

Leaving the corporate world behind after righting the financial ship, Woulfe turned his attention to his love of music. Forming a six piece hip hop group Jungle Magic in 2008, he again was on the verge of success before internal disputes scuttled his dreams once again and he returned to the corporate world. A self taught musician, he’s also taught himself photography and film making, following reading the self help book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. During this time, a connection led to shooting a documentary about the Aquarius Festival and one of it’s organisers, Paul Joseph. This documentary would appear on ABC 24 and the 7.30 report. In addition, he has launched various musical projects, including an indie folk duo called “Amon and Audra”.

Returning to the Corporate world, he delved heavily into organisational development and change management. Personally, he immersed himself in psychotherapy theories and techniques in a bid to gain better self awareness. Bailing out of the corporate world again in 2011 following a heavy project, he took a year off and went to the infamous “Burning Man” festival in the USA. Describing it as the “last big binge for me”. He also described it as a “bit of a watershed breaking moment”.

Following his sabbatical, Wolfe appears to have focussed on personal development programs, with a particular focus on men’s health. From 2013, he has been a volunteer facilitator with Men’s Wellbeing, a men’s self help program and also PowerHouse Programs, a 5 day “rite of passage” program for teenage boys. In 2014 he formed self proclaimed “mind performance company” Collective Mind.

A description of the Powerhouse Program can be read here.

An insight into what can go on at a Mankind Project style camp can be read here.

Amon is also a facilitator and direct contact at the Gateway Retreat, where allegedly the Crows players held their infamous pre-season camp in 2018.

Derek Leddie has had a somewhat more conventional passage to sports psychology, although he, too, lacks any formal psychology qualifications. His LinkedIn profile states that he founded and operated the successful market research group “The Leading Edge” in 1990 to 2007, a company which recorded a $6.5M profit in the year of it’s sale. He subsequently spent five years dovetailing his market research background into the study and analysis of non conventional philosophies and applying them to driving mind performance and to “explore the world of neuroscience”.

In 2009, Leddie appeared on the show “Secret Millionaire” interestingly hosted by Russell Crowe who co-owns the Rabbitohs.

Leddie’s research led to the development of a market leading mind training program, working with St Kilda in the AFL and South Sydney in the NRL. His tenure at the Rabbitohs coincided with their breakthrough premiership in 2014. Whilst Leddie has no sporting background, he began mind training sports teams after recognising the results it produced within teams. This program was called “Out of your Mind”. In 2017, Leddie became a co-owner of Collective Minds with Amon Woulfe after winding up Out of your Mind.

In an article by Sam McClure in the Age on 29th March 2018, former head of Sports Psychology at the Australian Institute of Sport, Mr Jeff Bond OAM, has been quoted as saying he was worried that people without formal qualifications as a psychologist “who are very good at marketing themselves and making all sorts of claims” were getting picked up by sporting organisations, including professional football clubs, “without doing due diligence”. Further, when commenting about Mr Woulfe’s background, training and methodologies, Bond is quoted as saying “I’ve got no idea what any of that is and I’ve been in the game for over 40 years now”.

McClure’s article further states:

“Bond, who has worked as a psychologist for Richmond, believes the AFL are also partly to blame for not having enough oversight on who clubs hire in the mental health field.

“I think the AFL should be held to some account here as well. The people who pay these people are the ones that need to hold responsibility,” he said.

He said it was not right to bring in people without formal psychology qualifications who “start messing around with people’s thoughts, feelings and experiences”.

He said it was the practice of psychologists, not “pseudo-psychologists”.”

So how did Collective Minds come to be involved with the Adelaide Football Club? Why has the club entrusted their $10M asset – the playing group – with apparently unqualified people running a program which appears to have strong similarities to other “men’s help” programs, some of which have received much negative press? Why is it that some players allegedly remain disenfranchised by the program, allegedly disillusioned with the club, and allegedly possibly seeking an exit as a result?

We’ve asked the club for comment and will continue our story on the programs being employed by the Adelaide Football Club, including further insight into Collective Minds and the Injury Prevention and Management program KangaTech, in the coming weeks.

References:

Derek Leddie LinkedIn

Amon Woulfe LinkedIn

Amon Woulfe Visualize Me resume

Sam McClure, The Age, 29 March 2018

Sarah Olle Fox Sports 12 October 2017

Caroline Wilson The Age 6 April 2018

Tom Morris fox Sports 26 March 2018

The Gateway Retreat

Men’s Wellbeing FAQ

Mankind Project Australia

TheChiefCast – Amon Woulfe Interview

Collective Mind Website

 

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