How did you get into the sport?
When I was 6, friends in my street were joining the local soccer team, so I went home and asked Mum if I could too. I was the only girl playing in the whole junior club and across the league. Credit to Mum that she didn’t blink an eyelid and just signed me up and took me every week to training and games!
My Dad was English and an Arsenal fan and I remember him waking me up in the middle of the night to watch FA Cup finals. I think his passion for the game rubbed off on me as well and when I was a bit older he coached my team for a couple of years.
What inspired you to take up coaching?
When I was about 16 I had a state team coach that planted the idea of coaching in me by suggesting that I would make a good coach one day. Perhaps he saw something in me, or it may have been a throwaway line to him, but to me it was significant.
While I was still playing I started the process of attending coaching courses and coaching junior and youth development teams. When I retired due to injury I jumped straight into coaching.
Who were your biggest coaching influences?
In 1995 at the age of 19, I went to play at college in the US and I would have to say that Jim Rudy, my college coach had a big influence on me becoming a coach. At that time, the US Women’s National team was dominating the world (more so than now) and their Head Coach, Anson Dorrance, was also someone who influenced me. I was impressed with the competitive mentality of the Americans and Anson created what he called the ‘competitive cauldron’, a training environment that was the basis for the unparalleled success of his teams.
He was and still is the Head Coach at the University of North Carolina – a team that has won 21 National Championships and produced something like 75% of players for the US National team. When I was coaching in the US in 2013-14 I was lucky enough to meet him and spent a couple of weeks with him and his program. Its great to see that even now, in his 60’s, he still has a growth mindset, always wanting to learn and improve the way they do things. He talks about this with his players all the time and describes this as the never-ending ascension, meaning, you never arrive – you can always improve.
Have you coached both male and female teams?
The majority of the teams I have coached have been female but I have also coached a boys’ state league team and I worked at Sydney Grammar School where I coached boys from 8-18yrs.
Does your coaching approach differ between male and female?
There are many similarities in coaching females and males and regardless of the gender or age group you are coaching, it is always important to know and understand each player, what motivates them and the best way for them to learn.
When coaching female teams, social cohesion is important and if team chemistry is not built at the start of the season and monitored throughout, off-field issues can quickly effect on-field performance.
Some key things to consider when coaching female players are
- that they are generally coachable and want to learn;
- they may need positive reinforcement to build their confidence, and
- they may take criticism personally.
On the other hand, in general, the boys can be naturally more competitive. You don’t necessarily have to encourage it. In my experience, boys’ teams tend to be more hierarchical, with a clear pecking order, and leadership is more dominant. It can be a problem to get them to work together.
Any advice for female coaches looking to make their mark in the soccer/football arena?
Surround yourself with good people that you can learn from and who have a genuine interest in your development. Seek out jobs/roles that will challenge and develop you as a coach.
Even for the Matildas, soccer coaching is very male-dominated. How do we get more women into the coaching arena?
By being strategic and investing time and resources into doing so. Examples could be:
- providing courses for women
- using resources (pictures, videos, data) on coaching courses that relate to women and the women’s game
- opening up trainee positions within the talented player pathway
- providing mentoring to aspiring coaches
When I was in the US, I got the chance to sit on a couple of forums looking at the ways to increase the number of female coaches in the game and to retain them. One key element from the research they presented was the importance of asking people to be involved. A simple question to a current player, “Have you considered coaching? I think you would be really good at that because of X, Y, Z,” plants the seed in their mind. Then it’s a matter of knowing where to direct them if they show an interest. If I look back on my own journey – that is exactly what happened to me.
Should we be looking to other elite female players to step up in future to the top coaching positions?
Yes! I think we should identify potential coaches and support and mentor their development by providing current players with the opportunity to do entry level coaching courses and assist them as they transition from playing to coaching.
Germany has done a fantastic job at this and you can see the succession of coaches, who were previous players, now coaching with the German Senior and Youth National teams.
What do you see for the future of women’s football?
In the last 10-15 years, the traditional football countries, Germany, Sweden, France, Spain and the Netherlands have put a lot of emphasis on women’s football. Germany has a large number of licensed female coaches who are mentored ex-players brought through their system. Their national league is now arguably the best in the world and France have two of the richest women’s teams in the world.
There are now serious numbers interested in women’s football across the world, and we need to be able to market that and create corporate opportunities to advance the sport further. In Australia, what I see at the moment, is a groundswell of interest and support for the Matildas. It is phenomenal. Even the support for women sport overall is fantastic. There are still gaps to be addressed and these are in the process of being addressed, but we’ve come a long way in that time.
Powerful Stories, Tips and Amazing Insight
Ready, Set, Go! Everything you need to know to start coaching from the legends in the field. As well as the Business and Life coaches, our launch edition features David Parkin (AFL), Lisa Alexander (Netball Australia), Adam Commens (Hockey Australia), Simon Cusack (Swimming Australia), Sean Douglas (FFA) and many more!