A coach does so much more than teach us how to kick or catch a ball as local, state and national level
Do you remember your first coach? Can you recall what they taught you, what little gems of skill and knowledge they imparted? Probably not.
But chances are you remember how they made you feel. That impact and influence can last a lifetime.
Coaches are many things to many people in our community. Whether parents, professionals or volunteers they are also leaders and role models.
World Cup winning Jillaroos coach Paul Dyer also ‘coaches’ coaches in his role as game development manager with the Broncos, and emphasises the responsibility.
“You have complete control over kids and the one thing many of them love doing. They don’t all love maths and homework, but on a Tuesday night they get to train and Sunday they play and that’s what they love,” he says.
“It’s a really powerful thing. Your primary role is to teach – 50 percent is skill and the other 50 percent is to be a good role model, and that’s how you help make them better people.”
That holistic approach is also a hallmark of Brisbane Roar mentor Mike Mulvey, who was advised as a teenager to take a coaching course because he had ‘that something’. An ability to communicate and bring out the best in people.
“You need to give time, to each player. You need to put time and energy into ‘the person’ not just the athlete,” Mulvey says.
Working from grassroots through to the elite ranks taught Mulvey valuable lessons about what works.
“What must always be remembered is the fun! We all want to win, but if you put winning before the enjoyment factor you will lose the kids, and that still applies in the senior game.”
Deion Menzies was almost lost to his sport of Aussie Rules, walking away disenchanted after work and injury ended his playing career. It took his twin sons and coaching to bring him back to the game he loved.
That was 13 years ago. Menzies is now AFL Brisbane Juniors President and the 2013 AFLQ Volunteer of the year. There have been many changes in grassroots coaching in his time, none bigger than the involvement of parents.
“Their expectations are higher and they are more ‘into’ their childrens’ futures than ever before,” says Menzies.
“Some are fantastic, they do anything you ask to support their child to play football, others decide what their kids need to do. These days you have to coach the kids and manage the parents.”
The cost of sport, to play or not to play, is a determining factor for many families. Mum and dad coaches keep the costs down but Menzies says it can strain relationships, and advocates parents not coaching their own, from around age 11.
“We have coaches in our league that don’t have kids in the team but still coach because they love it.”
The Roar Coach would like to go a step further and follow the lead of the German Federation by employing professional coaches for juniors.
But Mulvey also knows how beneficial parental passion can be. He once told a mother of a junior that her son had potential, and needed to be surrounded by the right football influences. That mum packed up her nine children and moved from Cloncurry to Brisbane. Kasey Wehrman went on to represent his country and is now part of the Roar coaching staff.
The grand plan is still working; Mulvey insists his players undertake coaching courses for life after football.
That is Paul Dyer’s specialty. As part of the NRL’s school to work program, he mentors Indigenous school leavers, working with footballers on a range of issues from diet and nutrition, to pre-employment, personal branding and achieving their dreams.
Dyer believes this is all wrapped up in the role of a coach in the modern world. No surprise, his beliefs were shaped by two of the best in the business, Wayne Bennett and Graham Murray.
“I swear by Graham’s three non-negotiable rules. Always be on time, wear your uniform with pride, and your pleases and thank-yous go with you everywhere,” Dyer says.
“Because that’s not related to the way a kid passes, it’s about life.”