Football Coaches Australia unveil Football Coaching Life expansion

Gary Cole FCA

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) have announced that The Football Coaching Life Podcast will make the exciting transition into video format and be available via YouTube from this week.

Since February 2021, The Football Coaching Life Podcast has steadily grown into one of the strongest sources of insight and information for professional, semi-professional, grassroots and aspiring coaches in Australia.

The Football Coaching Life Podcast reflects not just the range of Australian coaches located across the world, but also the variety of talented male and female coaches involved in the men’s and women’s game both domestically and abroad.

Hosted by legend of Australian football and recent inductee into the Football Victoria Hall of Fame, Gary Cole, the podcast has sought to give a platform to some of Australia’s most successful and brightest up-and-coming coaches, with guests including Tanya Oxtoby, Ange Postecoglou and Alen Stajcic.

“The podcast has been running for just over a year now thanks to the significant help of MAKING MEDIA, the podcast professionals. From day one we recorded them initially via Zoom because our intent was always that we would find a home for them. We’ve captured around 25 episodes now and have reviewed what we’ve been doing on an ongoing basis, and we’ve got well over 16,000 listens of the podcast now,” Cole says.

“I think the whole purpose of moving it to video is that it will touch more people – more people will watch and more people will listen. It’s a fantastic opportunity for coaches of any sport to learn because there’s so much knowledge and wisdom about leadership and culture being shared. There’s so much of the coaches telling their story, and we all have different stories. And the reason we started was because most of the stories haven’t been told.

“We believe that there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ for coaching, it’s something that is very personal and you’ve got to find your way. And across that journey, their coaching and approach to coaching changes. Now we have the opportunity to watch and listen, not just listen.

“At the end of the day, FCA was setup to help coaches at all different levels. That includes supporting their mental health, representing them and helping them with their ongoing education.”

Sarah West, Vice President of FCA and Assistant Coach/Analyst for Canberra United, expressed her excitement at being able to effectively reflect the values of FCA through amplifying the podcast’s reach with the new video format.

“One of our goals is to enhance the profile of Australian coaches, and the other is to provide Australian coaches with resources; whether that be educational, professional development and opportunities to have positive conversations about football.

“Effectively, through the work that we’re doing with MAKING MEDIA and Ralph Barba, packaging up those podcasts and having them delivered to our audio channels has been hugely successful.

“The diversity of FCA’s modern media and coach education platforms for coaches is not matched by any other Australian football coaching provider.”

Karen Grega FCA Executive Committee member and podcast editor stated:

“‘The Coaching Life’ provides an insight into the personalities of the coaches, as well as their own journeys (sometimes warts and all). This is something which obviously comes from them being in a comfortable environment. This makes for great viewing and listening for coaches at all levels and the football-loving public generally.  

The calibre of Australian female coaches making their mark (in often challenging circumstances) in the game both locally and oversees is impressive. It’s certainly a far cry from my days as a player and referee. I’m sure the content in ‘The Coaching life’ will resonate with coaches from many other sports as well.”

There are many ‘take-aways’ for those in the corporate sector as coaches share their views and experiences on topics such as Resilience, Leadership, Mentoring and even the impact of social media.

Gary’s own invaluable contribution to both the questions he poses and the coaches responses comes from his own football and teaching experience, empathy and of course, passion for the game and adds to the valuable lessons learned from each episode.

The Football Coaching Life Podcasts and YouTube videos are available now.

Regional stakeholders deliver their feedback in Football Victoria’s Regional Review

Football Victoria (FV) released their Regional Football Review, aimed at giving regional football stakeholders the platform to voice their feedback about the delivery of football in their local community.

FV’s overarching aim for the review is to assess the current health of regional football, and determine its future influence in areas of the regional game, such as governance, participation, infrastructure, and pathways.

These sporting communities battle a unique set of challenges to operate sustainably, but the ultimate goal for FV – like any governing sports body – is to bridge gaps between regional and metropolitan areas.

412 participants took part in the report, including parents, coaches, players and association members (paid and voluntary). In addition, 24 in-depth interviews took place with “key identified” stakeholders.

FV sought the assistance of consultancy company Solucio to independently facilitate the review.

Governance and Administration

Regional Victoria’s football landscape includes 12 associations and leagues, and 130 clubs. Some of these clubs do compete in metropolitan competitions run by FV, but remain based in regional locations.

The governance of most regional associations follow a club representative model, which the report describes as “not in line with current best industry practice,” and leads to inconsistencies in football delivery.

The model is favoured because of the primitive nature of clubs within regional associations, and the assistance associations can guarantee from club members.

However, stakeholders believe that areas such as competition management and future project planning suffer as clubs place their own interests ahead of others.

Administration is also considered a problem area, with paid staff members at regional associations stating that a lack of additional support from volunteers increases their workload into overtime.

When volunteers were surveyed about the health of regional football, 25% of them believed the game to be in ‘very poor’ health.

Yet, over 50% of team managers, association board members and staff, and club committee members say the game is in a ‘fair’ or ‘very good’ state.

A lack of strategic planning, and clear assignment of roles between paid staff and volunteers, is likely causing this disconnect between regional football stakeholders.

Contradictory though it may seem, stakeholders continue to support the club representative model.

Participation and Infrastructure

Participation in regional football is slowly growing again, returning closer to levels of growth prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

A reduced player registration fee for regional areas helps this growth, though, FV asserts that a levelling of regional player registration fees with metropolitan rates would create an extra $1.36 million in revenue.

This could be spent on improvements to the regional game, but a rise in registration fees is not in the best interests of growing football in regional communities.

Regarding female participation in football, there was negative but constructive feedback from stakeholders. Regional associations believe there is a lack of funding and resources to help them lead programs built for growing female participation.

FV is in the midst of its ambitious ‘FootballHerWay’ plan that aims to achieve 50/50 gender participation by 2027. Therefore, it makes sense for the organisation to consider more involvement in the delivery of female football programs to regional areas.

Regional school participation represents an area for improvement for FV, admitting in the report that the Australian Rules model (Auskick) is outperforming its efforts in terms of clinics and programs.

Recent investment in up-to-date football infrastructure, though, has been well-received, with most stakeholders considering future developments in infrastructure to be of less importance, despite the high satisfaction it provides communities.

The report acknowledges, though, that a gap exists between clubs and associations that have received upgrades, and those who have not.

According to regional NPL clubs, this gap is illuminated when visiting the facilities of metro NPL clubs.

Coaches

Coaches represent the most disgruntled stakeholder demographic, with 43% of those interviewed believing the health of regional football to be ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

There was negative feedback about pathways for coaches – particularly first-timers – who either do not have the capacity to attend accreditation courses, or are unmotivated to attain their licenses.

Some participants believe the approach to coach education is too metro-centric, citing additional expenses such as travel, food, and accommodation, just to attend a coaching accreditation course.

A wider problem exists in the marketing and promotion of coaching courses, with many regional associations lamenting the fact that courses are often cancelled due to small numbers.

One stakeholder floated a recommendation to subsidise Melbourne-based coaches to partake in regional-based courses to improve numbers.

This issue transcends into school participation, where stakeholders believe opportunities to grow participation are being neglected.

There is an over-reliance on unqualified parents or teachers passionate about the game to pioneer clinics or programs, and whilst participation is higher when this occurs, it is not sustainable in the long-term.

Players

A lack of motivated or accredited coaches inevitably impacts the morale of players, and this trend is consistent with the review’s findings, where 39% of players consider the health of regional football to be poor or very poor.

The pathway to elite football for junior players in regional areas, which is well-documented as being an all-encompassing, often sacrificial experience, that asks players and parents to spend large amounts of time and money.

Most stakeholders surveyed recognise the provision of elite-level football education within their communities as a key area for improvement. This helps to keep players grounded, and less susceptible to burnout at younger ages.

Further to this, Football Australia’s recent unveiling of the National Talent Development Scheme (NTDS) should provide a more level-playing field for players in regional areas to access elite pathways.

Again, better conditions and resources for coaches is recommended to help regional players. Some stakeholders recommend the provision of more metro-based coaches to deliver training to players in regional areas.

For senior players, there is a greater level of satisfaction among regional NPL clubs based closer to Melbourne than those playing in regional competitions.

Short season length (due to a small number of clubs) for regional competitions is cited as an issue in the review, which is likely to dissatisfy players.

Stakeholders suggest alternative competitions could be organised to lengthen the season and further engagement, but this could exasperate association staff members and volunteers.

Referees

Referees are a more satisfied demographic than players and coaches, and this is reflected by an increase in numbers across regional Victoria.

The review acknowledges that whilst this is positive, it stretches association resources for referee development.

Similarly to players and coaches, there is an expectation that more accessible pathways be provided to referees to upskill.

Specifically, existing referees desire more practical education in the form of officiating more metropolitan NPL games. Not only would this improve their ability, it provides more opportunities for mentoring and promotion to the elite.

Beyond the Review

The qualitative feedback provided by participants will be considered for FV’s regional football plan from 2025 onwards. Head of Growth & Development at FV, Lachlan Cole, reflected further on this.

“The engagement and contributions from Regional Victorians have been invaluable in putting the needs of Regional Football at the forefront of this project,” he told the FV website.

“The Discussion Paper and Survey Results provide a real snapshot of our current landscape, from several different perspectives, and will guide the formulation of really positive and meaningful recommendations.”

The Regional Football Review’s assessment of the health of football in rural Victoria shines a light on the difficulties regional football faces across the country.

There is a growing desire for better pathways and programs for players, coaches, and referees, as well as a greater provision of resources to maintain the standard of football delivery for the future.

Whether FV as an organisation chooses to involve themselves more in the governance and administration of regional football associations will be a topic for discussion in the near future.

The Regional Football Review Discussion Paper can be viewed in full here.

LAFC’s connection with renowned Swiss powerhouse forms long-term strategy

Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC (LAFC), put pen to paper on a strategic partnership between Swiss Super League powerhouse Grasshopper Club Zürich, making them shareholders of Grasshopper Football Ltd.

The two organisations will provide unique platforms for the development of young talent, through a further expansion of LAFC’s network which has Austria’s FC Wacker Innsbruck and Germany’s FC Bayern München.

Having played their first professional season in 2018, LAFC are trailblazers across the MLS, in establishing themselves as a competitive club so early in their existence.

Since 2019, The Black and Gold have accumulated a total of seven domestic titles, also including an appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League Final, in which they fell narrowly short to Mexican outfit, Leon.

High-quality players including Georgio Chiellini, Carlos Vela and Gareth Bale all shared stints in the City of Angels. The partnership LAFC have entered proposes the idea that the American club are looking to sustain a European feel.

Co-President Larry Freedman praised the Zurich-based club.

“Grasshopper Club Zürich is an iconic brand in both Swiss and European football, with an incredible tradition of success and a foundation built on developing top-level talent,” he said via media release.

“LAFC is honoured to work together on this long-term partnership with the GC Zürich community and all the supporters as we begin our collaboration.”

The Grasshoppers are a staple within Switzerland. Founded in 1886, the reign as the longest serving Swiss club across Europe. Throughout their 138 year tenure, the Hoppers hold the most League and Cup Titles respectively, accumulating 51 titles.

However, their most recent major trophy success came in the 2012-13 season. Since then, Their decline has been swift. For the first time in 68 years, the club succumbed to relegation in 2019.

Although bouncing back out of the second tier two seasons later, the club have not been able to reach their past dominance. Financial hardship, the COVID-19 pandemic, and lack of ambition were the ingredients to the clubs spiral out of form on the pitch.

The American acquisition will leave Hoppers fans hopeful.

Given the financial freedom the American outfit possesses, the combination of clubs is a benefit to both parties.

On one hand, The Grasshoppers are able to rejuvenate their youth system, in which it has bred players the likes of Stephen Lichsteiner, Roman Burki and Yan Sommer.

Furthermore, players within their youth academy can gain senior football experience in the MLS, before competing against Switzerland and Europe’s finest.

Given the ambition in which LAFC possesses, the partnership between both clubs can ultimately breed a new plethora of Swiss superstars – helping the Hoppers get back to heights they have reached before.

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