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Football NSW launches partnership with High Performance specialist Dr Craig Duncan

Soccer Coach Talk

One of Asian football’s leading High-Performance specialists Craig Duncan has begun a new relationship with Football NSW. As a world renowned and respected figure in the areas of both athletic performance and preparation, Duncan will work closely with the governing body in an attempt to provide advice and support for players, coaches and parents alike.

Providing a clear and logical path through often complex, competitive and challenging junior football structures, Duncan’s work is based on a simple clarification and a reminder of why the game is played in the first instance.

Highlighting the often vicarious motivations of parents and coaches, Duncan, a former representative goal-keeper, sees football as an activity initially undertaken for the raw pleasure of kicking a ball and the enjoyment of being in the company of peers. He insightfully reminds all those involved in the game that the sheer joy of football can often be high jacked by over-zealous coaches and the lofty expectations of parents, who perhaps failed to meet their own as players some years earlier.

A lecturer at the Australian Catholic University and after stints working with Sydney FC, the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Socceroos during their successful Asian Cup campaign of 2015, Duncan’s experience and knowledge in both the successful preparation for and playing of the game of football make him one of the most respect Australian voices in Sports Science.

Duncan’s formal partnership with Football NSW will involve a collection of informative videos and recorded seminars posted on the bodies’ official website. The content will cover a range of topics relevant to young players and those involved in junior football.

The basics of physical preparation for football will feature; areas such as hydration, sleep and rest as well as successful strategies to look after a young athletes muscles via effective exercise and stretching practices.

However, it is Duncan’s emphasis on creating an awareness of what an appropriate perspective on the career and performance of a young footballer should look like for a parent and/or coach, is potentially the most important part of his work and message.

Such was the basis of his presentation to an interested and enthusiastic audience at the home of Football NSW at Valentine Park in Sydney’s north-west some weeks back. Dr Duncan’s presentation has now been uploaded and can be viewed at;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYXAg3xC1YE&feature=youtu.be

Based on a lifetime involved in the game, Duncan’s words and the effective visual aids used to simplify and enunciate his message, create a powerful insight into the pressures and expectations often placed on young footballers by the adults surrounding them.

Using alarming and dramatic recreations of abusive coaches, anecdotal tales of parents blinded by a personally driven dream for their child and the harrowing effect such behavior can have on a young player, Duncan is able to convey his message with clarity and effectiveness.

Incorporating personal experiences from his own time as a player and coach when involved in the football journey of his own child adds a weight of validity and value to his presentation that would strike a chord with any parent.

Sadly, his message will not alleviate poor behavior on the sidelines, nor immediately eliminate parents less interested in their children’s success that their own reputation in the game. However, as he correctly points out, raising awareness to such issues and reaching out to others, armed with accurate information and a considered perspective is an important step in reshaping expectations and behavior.

The path through junior football can be a difficult one to tread for parents wishing success for their child. Dr Duncan’s advice on the journey is incredibly valuable in mapping a course that benefits not only the mums and dads on the sidelines, those charged with coaching young athletes, but also the players themselves.

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FIFA Technical Expert Karl Dodd: “We need to have a holistic approach to our development”

Karl Dodd

Karl Dodd’s proficient understanding of the nature of football on and off the pitch is unlike many others. Having undergone a playing career spanning the old National Soccer League, A-League, Scottish Premier League, National Premier Leagues Queensland and Hong Kong First Division, Dodd has focused his time since retirement in the early 2010s on mastering his skills and resilience as a coach.

A true believer in knowledge as power, Dodd’s professional post-playing career has seen him take on roles as Head of High Performance at Brisbane Roar alongside two separate stints at the Newcastle Jets, whilst also tackling the challenges of leading Guam’s men’s national team and his current role as a Technical Expert for FIFA.

Having spent the last few months recharging himself after some time away from the local game, Dodd speaks to Soccerscene about his aspirations to embody a generalist professional approach, his learnings from his time as head coach of Guam, and the current state of Australia’s football development system.

You’ve had an incredibly varied career in the footballing world, having started off as a player and then transitioned into coaching and consulting. Was it always an aspiration of yours to challenge yourself in multiple ways rather than just sticking to one field?

Karl Dodd: I got some advice early on in my career to have more of a generalist approach. That’s why my studies have probably taken me across varying domains so that when I am a head coach or in charge you have a good understanding of the environment and the staff that are underneath you. I just found with my playing career that there was always a disconnect between head coaches or assistant coaches and what other staff did. That was the main reason, I just wanted to know as much as I could to be well-informed as a head coach.

How do you reflect as a whole on your footballing journey so far?

Karl Dodd: I think it’s one that has been pretty expansive. I’ve been to lots of different places and early on playing was about experiencing as much as I could and different cultures and countries. And then as a coach it was getting into the hardest places where I could learn the most. It’s a new journey where you’re developing yourself to a new point as a coach, and I didn’t want to go where things were easy.

I wanted to go where it was really going to challenge me so that I could handle whatever was thrown at me – and I think that’s where I’m at. After recent coaching experiences I feel that – and I don’t want to use the word ‘bulletproof’ – because I’ve been in some of the most challenging places, I’m in a good place. And reflecting on it, I’m glad I did that because now I can handle – especially with the Australian landscape where you’ve got to wear multiple hats and work in low-resource environments – those situations.

You spent over three years as Guam’s National Team Men’s Head Coach. What was that experience like for yourself? What did you learn from it?

Karl Dodd: For me personally, it’s a test of your values and who you are as a person because you get challenged every day when you go to a foreign place and you’re trying to implement change. That was a big one in terms of who you are and who you want to be from a football point of view.

Some of the best learnings came from being involved in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and having Japan – who have a really big push in trying to win the World Cup and being the first Asian team to do so – hold a lot of conferences where they invited experts from all around the world. When you’re sitting in rooms with Carlos Queiroz – who was the head coach of Iran at the time – it’s a massive eye-opener listening to these experts from England, France and Croatia explain their development policies or curriculums and how they go about things. You just get exposed to so much more. I think also understanding the international calendar, that was something I wasn’t really across but it makes you think differently as a club coach. Like ‘what players am I going to sign’? ‘Am I going to see those young boys if they have tournaments this year’? There’s a lot more to it and that was an important eye-opener being exposed to a totally different environment. From a match perspective, the pressure to win and tactics behind each game is very different to club football. For smaller nations, winning a qualifier is massive to future games being played in that four-year cycle.

What was that experience like taking in the values and perspectives of these experts from leading footballing nations?

Karl Dodd: It made me realise just how narrow-minded we are in Australia. I believe we’re very ‘big fish, small pond’ possibly because we’re so isolated from the rest of the world. The fact that Japan wants to invite all of the countries and confederations to these meetings and conferences to try help each other develop and grow without ego and with the intent of ‘how do we become better’ was really interesting and enjoyable.

How did you go about implementing your values and desired style of play on the Guam Men’s National Team? It seems like it required a lot of adapting to and with?

Karl Dodd: It certainly was. We get taught here [in Australia] that you have a philosophy and way to play but it might not fit in with other countries. The playing style in Guam was totally different so you have to compromise because you want to get from this playing style that they’re currently doing – which may be a risk-mitigative one where they park the bus – to a ‘total football’ style where you’re trying to play football and have a go against other teams rather than reducing the scoreline.

There’s a process to that and you’ve got to find an entry point. Those players and the community and the coaches have to come along with that. If you go in too high, they won’t know, because a lot of them don’t know what it looks like and they don’t know what your playing style looks like. So, you’ve got to explain that and where we’re at and how we’re going to transition across and that takes time. It’s not just a one or two-year process, that’s a decade-long one because those kids have now got to come through. There’s a lot to it in terms of trying to implement a new style, but also a way of operating which was a good challenge as well.

Currently you’re a Technical Expert at FIFA, what does that role entail?

Karl Dodd: I was asked to come on board in the women’s game and it’s been really enjoyable. We’re working with a lot of Member Associations or countries in setting up a lot of women’s football development programs. For example, we’re working with New Zealand with their league development as they’re trying to create a new women’s league, same with Mexico and Singapore. There’s a lot of strategy behind it which is massively enjoyable because you can’t be a one-trick pony, you’ve got to go in and be adaptable in order to understand where they’re at and what are the cultural barriers or what are the limitations and how do you overcome this. That’s what we’re working on plus just growing the professionalism of the women’s game.

Throughout your journey you have no doubt experienced a variety of football cultures and technical approaches. Comparing your experiences overseas to here, what is Australia’s development system lacking and what are its positive aspects?

Karl Dodd: To be honest, maybe I’m biased here, but I didn’t think there was too much wrong previously it just needed some fine-tuning. Perhaps more from a coaching side in terms of methodologies and the way it has gone, but I think we threw out our main strengths which is our physicality and also our mentality.

I think we need to have a holistic approach to our development, not just the football training. We go off on tangents and go too far and forget about the other stuff. Maybe there’s a lot of misconstrued information from the sports science field where it feels like the focus is all about monitoring, rather than the fundamentals of building the capacity of players. If we want to get players overseas in to the top leagues – Japan train 8-10 times a week and our players at the same level are training four times a week and one of them is an ice bath – we have to build the capacity of a player in a safe-manner. Otherwise, how are we ever going to compete with these top European or Asian nations? There’s too much focus on recovery rather than the periodisation or the building of a capacity of a player in a safe-manner. And that’s probably been lost, but that’s just one example. Again, having a holistic approach to the development of a player is key and we just go off on tangents too much instead of doing the basics well and then adding to it.

For many Australian football fans and casual sporting fans, there is arguably a degree of misunderstanding about the time and planning it takes to nurture a country’s growth as a football nation. What do you feel is essential for Australian football to get right over these next few years?

Karl Dodd: Well, that’s the hard thing because there’s no real quick fix. The reality is the situation we’re in is because of what’s happened in the past. What we need to get right is that we’ve got to start somewhere getting it right, you’ve got to start implementing a holistic approach but then it takes time for players to come through that process. If you’re looking for a quick fix, I don’t know how we’re going to do that. The only way is exposure. The more games the national teams can play the better, but then that comes down to a cost and availability of players, doesn’t it? It’s the million-dollar question.

I think one of the main things is getting the right people involved at all levels of Australian football rather than repeating the same dysfunctional processes. If you’ve got people involved that probably shouldn’t be there and those that don’t have a good enough understanding, it will keep going around in circles. It’s why you find a lot of good people aren’t involved because some find it difficult to have the current system and way of doing things challenged. You want a progressive system that’s going to be one of the best in the world, rather than remaining stagnant.

Northern NSW Football set to continue its Multicultural Settlement Program

Northern NSW Football

Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) has announced the continuation of its MiniRoos Multicultural Settlement Program into term three.

NNSWF designed the free program to build social inclusion and connections with the community for new migrant families.

It aims to introduce organised football to new migrant girls and boys aged between four and 11-years-old from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Participants and their families will be encouraged to join local summer competitions at the program’s conclusion with the intention to join a local club in 2023. This is to help ensure a more gradual transition to club football for those playing for the first time.

NNSWF Programs Co-ordinator Joe Wright outlined the program had a number of benefits following its successful roll out in term two and was excited to see it continue heading into term three.

“The Multicultural Settlement Program is a great way for participants and their families to be involved with football in a fun, safe and inclusive football environment,” Wright said in a statement released by NNSWF,” he said via Northern NSW Football.

“This will help with their transition into club football where they can make new friends from a variety of backgrounds. Our goal is to transition 200 players from the program into club football.

“By helping them transition into a football club we hope it will help integrate them into the wider community even further and build that connection.

“The program is a great way for kids to be introduced to organised football in Australia because it uses game-based training to create a fun and safe environment where kids can meet new friends and find their passion for football.”

The program will run for eight weeks and be held at Jesmond and a new hub at Coffs Harbour, with each hub hosting manual registration days.

The Coffs Harbour hub will be delivered in partnership with RISE. Rise have been working with newly arrived members of the Coffs Harbour community for the last two and a half years. They are a not-for-profit organisation that have delivered football programs for boys and girls aged between five and 18-years-old.

Existing coaches at RISE will deliver the program in collaboration with NNSWF staff as part of the partnership.

The program features one-hour sessions run after school hours, with coaches and equipment provided. Coaches will also be from CALD backgrounds.

Each participant will receive a MiniRoos pack including a football, backpack and lunchbox at the end of the program.

For more information on when the program will run, click here.

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