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Sons of the West pre-season kicks off for 2017

Steve High knees landscape resize

It’s that time of year again, when Sons of the West start their pre-season men’s health program across Victoria. In Braybrook it begins on Valentine’s Day, and in Footscray West, it kicks off on Wednesday, 15 February, and clients from annecto’s David House are always part of it. Steve Gration, part of the Sons of the West Leadership Academy, talks about his involvement in 2017’s program and its rewards.

The late-summer/autumn pre-season program focuses on men’s physical health, with the weather still good enough to inspire the men to get active and involved.

Steve first got involved with the Sons of the West men’s health program in 2014 when he was turning 60 and realised he was getting lazy. Having grown up in the West as a fierce Bulldogs fan, when the Sons of the West program came up, he thought he’d give it a go. He liked it so much, he enrolled in the 2015 season as well, and then got involved in the pre-season in 2016. This year, he was invited to take part in their Leadership Academy. “After three years,” Steve says, “they said, ’you have the knowledge now, we’ll train you in the Leadership Academy’.”

That involves being a mentor to other participants, and monitoring new recruits, making sure they’re not overdoing it. “It’s about gently nurturing the men about dropping down to a lighter load if need be, and not hitting above their weight, or vice versa,” he says.

It’s not just the exercise that the men like, Steve explains. “The information and theory behind the health and nutrition they get after the exercise session was also something they were interested in. There are sports physiologists, occupational therapists and dietitians that provide information, such as what the men should drink, for example.”

Steve had trained as a drama and English teacher, and with his career including freelance acting and involvement in youth theatre in Darwin and South Australia. He enjoys learning, teaching and training – and that fitted in well with the SOTW Leadership Academy.

“I’ve always taken a ‘train to achieve an outcome’ approach,” Steve explains. “Initially, I enjoyed learning about my own health and nutrition, and how changing that can have positive effects. But now I also enjoy mixing with broad age groups and cultures, and with people whose roles have changed within their families.”

One of the things that Steve likes about the program is that men engage in it. “They become addicted to the program, and not just the physical and nutritional side of it, but the social health that it promotes as well. Having happier and more fit and healthy men in the community means it’s a safer place. And you want the men to be able to maintain these new habits outside of the program – Sons of the West becomes the cherry on top, where they’re mixing with mates.”

It’s a safe place for men to socialise and talk with each other about any issues they’re dealing with, and that can be a great relief for the men. “Being listened to is a great help,” says Steve. “They can then be directed to experts if need be. So they’re exercising and offloading in a safe environment that’s not sexist or racist.”

One of the big rewards for Steve is seeing the changes it makes in the participants. “When you get your body moving, the endorphins kick in, and you get a buzz, and it’s addictive,” he says. “It’s fun, it’s full of laughter, the men are so supportive of each other. We all come out buzzing, and you look forward to the next session – even in bleak weather!”

At their first session, participants receive a t-shirt, a baseball cap and a water bottle, and if you stick at it for the season, they’ll also receive a certificate or similar when you finish. “But the men aren’t doing it for the certificate,” Steve clarifies. “They’re doing it because they need to do it – and they want to do it.

“With a safety net like the Western Bulldogs and a network backing it up, it’s a true team effort, and you’re supported by a whole team of experts,” Steve concludes.

For more information and training session times, visit the Sons of the West website.