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How Jay learned the secret to disciplined study from freestyle football

Jay’s sporting interests not only taught him about keeping balls in the air – literally – but also gave him the discipline he needed to complete his studies.

Study | Lifestyle

Between being a pro freestyle footballer, a childcare worker, a law student, and an art curator, Jay Hennicke knows a thing or two about juggling.

Having graduated from his Bachelor of Laws at the University of Tasmania last year, Jay is about to embark on his new career as a solicitor.

But he has also recently returned from Europe, where he competed in the freestyle football world championships, Super Ball 2023, in the Czech Republic, ranking 16th in the world.

And back home in Hobart, he has been working flat out as co-curator on an art exhibition about freestyle football, “Our Side of Things,” which opens at Contemporary Art Tasmania on Saturday, 26 August, running until 2 September.

“There’s a bit happening, but you just have to stay organised,” he laughed.

University of Tasmania Law and Criminology graduate Jay Hennicke (picture supplied by Jay Hennicke)
University of Tasmania Law graduate Jay Hennicke (picture supplied by Jay Hennicke)

Growing up in Hobart, Jay played soccer as a kid. But as a teenager he discovered freestyle football, which is essentially the art of juggling the soccer ball and doing tricks and movement in a performative way.

“I was blown away by it. I started watching videos of it on YouTube when I was 14 and learning some tricks and moves that way,” he said.

“And in 2016 I quit soccer and started pursuing freestyle full-time. I did my first competition in 2016 and met a lot of the local guys, we became friends and started sharing tricks and methods and it all grew from there.”

Jay’s strict freestyle practice regime allowed him to incorporate a strict study schedule into his day as well, with the discipline to actually stick to it.

“It was a matter of developing good habits around work ethic and routine and I learned not to procrastinate at all through final the couple of years of my degree because I just couldn’t afford to!

"I allowed an allotted amount of time for everything, it was very structured, and even kept that balance when I was working in childcare two or three days a week.”

Currently the Australian champion for three years running, Jay trains for three hours every day to keep in form. He was also accepted into the University of Tasmania’s Elite Athletes Program during his studies, to help him improve his skills even further.

And if it wasn’t for his sporting obsession, Jay said he might not have even been able to study his degree.

“In high school I didn’t really have very marks in anything. But that started to pick up once I discovered freestyle.

“It made me realise that getting better at something was all about discipline and work ethic, rather than just some innate talent that I didn’t have.

“So it gave me the self-confidence I needed to push myself to do better at school. I had a friend at college who was going to study law and that idea appealed to me, so that’s the path I chose.”

University of Tasmania graduate Jay Hennicke showcasing his freestyle football skills (picture supplied by Jay Hennicke)
University of Tasmania graduate Jay Hennicke showcasing his freestyle football skills (picture supplied by Jay Hennicke)

And in January this year, while hosting an informal gathering of freestyle footballers at his house, Jay was introduced to Feras Shaheen, an artist working in choreography, performance and installation.

In the conversations that followed, Feras mentioned his residency at Contemporary Art Tasmania, and “Our Side of Things” was born, with the pair co-curating the freestyle football-focused exhibition.

“It will include some more typical installations like you would expect to find in a gallery but there will also be a competition, live demos, a workshop, and a jam session for the freestylers.

“it’s been difficult, I’ve never curated something before. But it’s also been really interesting and I love being in this space and learning something new.”

The exhibition ends just in time for Jay to start his new career as a solicitor.

“In my first year it was all such a foreign concept to me, but the more I got into it, the more I understood, and began to enjoy it as well.

“So, I decided to do legal practice in my final year and it led to a job. It’s just like my freestyle football: It’s not a sacrifice, it’s a choice. If you want to do something better, you put the time in and make it happen.”

Our Side of Things runs from 26 August – 2 September at Contemporary Art Tasmania, 27 Tasma St, North Hobart.

The University of Tasmania has lots of ways to help you combine your studies with your other commitments, whether that means work, family or other passions. We can help you start your study adventure.