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Johno Clemente: How Australia’s youngest NPL senior coach is reinventing leadership

With a number of Matildas thriving at top European clubs and Australia set to co-host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, administrators have the perfect opportunity to establish a sustainable national framework for women’s football in the country.

Despite progress at the elite level, work still needs to be done at the grassroots to ensure the women’s game reaches the heights FFA is aiming for. This means fresh ideas, investment, and buy-in from community clubs around the country.

Jonathan ‘Johno’ Clemente embodies this mantra. The young, ambitious coach has only just started his career, but is already driving change with a bold, new-age leadership style.

Appointed as Head Coach of Heidelberg in 2019, Clemente is only 21, making him the youngest senior National Premier League (NPL) coach in Australia. With wisdom beyond his years, he has built a strong people-centric culture which he hopes will set a new standard in women’s football around the nation.

Clemente joined Heidelberg after leading Essendon to promotion in his first season.

“There’s a good saying in football, male players need to perform to belong, whereas women need to belong to perform,” Clemente said.

“It’s about making everybody feel valued as a person and a player. That’s the way I want to lead, through emotional intelligence and building a culture which promotes that.”

“It’s a move away from that old style of leadership, where most coaches would have that ‘my way or the highway’ approach. I believe it’s a two-way street where we work towards a common goal, so it’s important the players know that I care about them as individuals and that I equally know what they need from me through direct feedback, so I can improve with them.”

Clemente’s has already enjoyed success during his short career to date. Following junior coaching at the Essendon Royals, he was appointed Technical Director before also taking the reigns as the Senior Women’s Head Coach.

“The team had been relegated and a lot of players were wanting to leave. I immediately thought long-term, with the vision of gaining promotion and how great of a challenge that was. It was a real sink or swim situation, but I knew I had to back myself because I wanted to coach seniors, so I jumped at the chance,” Clemente said.

“That’s where I began to adopt my philosophy. I was lucky to have had great coaches growing up. It took some time, but I learned to be confident in my decisions and be ruthless when I had to be. But ultimately, I thought the most important thing was to create a culture of respect and positivity, I knew that the rest would follow.”

After a rocky start, Clemente led the Royals to promotion, leading to him drawing the attention of Heidelberg United.

“As difficult as it was to leave Essendon, when I got the call from Heidelberg, I knew straight away that I had to go because it is a huge club and a huge opportunity to coach in the top division,” he said.

“The transition was seamless. One issue with women’s NPL is the high turnover of NPLW players. It can get toxic as a lot of players move in groups and chop and change teams regularly.”

“My goal is to change the perception of the league by ensuring that Heidelberg’s girls come here to enjoy football and get better as players and people. I set the standards early so that the players enjoy training sessions and want to come back.”

Although COVID-19 hampered Clemente’s first year in charge at NPL level, the foundations he set are already creating massive benefits for the club. Player retention is at an all-time high, vindicating his coaching philosophy and approach to building team culture.

Clemente is a vocal mental health advocate, something he incorporates into coaching.

“Every single player re-signed for next season. They’re all chomping at the bit to play for Heidelberg again which to me is a huge indicator that we are on the right track. I think it’s really important to give the girls ownership of the team. We’ve got a strong leadership group and I’ve told them this will only be as good as you make it and challenged them to set the standards,” he said.

Clemente’s attributes his successful approach having high-quality coaches when he played, but also his experiences outside of football. The young coach has had challenges with mental health and now is a strong advocate for mental welfare, something he incorporates into his coaching.

“It’s so, so important. That’s why I’ve resonated so well with the women players. The same applies for men, players will have off days and it’s important to be flexible and understanding,” he said.

“There are no no-negotiables in football anymore. If a player has to work every night until 6:30PM and needs to arrive a bit late to training, you need to understand that and make them feel welcome and warranted. It’s important to still set high standard but there has to be a balance.”

As part of this mental health conscious approach, Heidelberg FC has appointed Darby Dexter, a Leadership and Culture Consultant to assist player welfare.

The club has also invested in an app, Inspire Sport to help juniors report on their mood and mental wellbeing to assist coaches in understanding the needs of their players and how best to communicate with them.

“Football really needs to invest in mental health and not just tick boxes. It’s important to build a culture of high performance and open communication where the stigma of speaking about mental health is removed,” Clemente said.

With coaches like Clemente reinvigorating the grassroots of female football, the years leading up to the Women’s World Cup will be vital to establishing a sustainable framework.

Female participation rates have steadily increased over recent years and FFA has outlined its goal to achieve 50-50 gender participation by 2027, but while Clemente believes this is achievable, he says it is important to make sure this is done correctly through investing in the right people and programs.

“Women’s football is developing quickly, which is a positive but it’s important clubs are involved for the right reasons. It sounds simple, but sometimes councils give grants to clubs who have a girls’ programs, so it’s important that clubs are genuinely creating these programs to nurture talent and get young girls to fall in love with our game,” he said.

“That’s the challenge for all clubs. To care and invest in both genders equally. It’s all about getting the right coaches in and getting the contact hours in at an early age.”

 

 

Football Coaches Australia announces partnership with Football NSW

FCA College

Football Coaches Australia is pleased to announce that Football NSW has joined as a partner to support the professional development of their Metropolitan and Regional Association Head Technical Directors and Coach Educators.

In partnership with FCA, Football NSW will work with Association Head Technical Directors, Coach Education personnel and Course Instructors to subsidise their participation in and completion of the FCA XV Essential Skills Full Program.

FCA CEO Glenn Warry stated: “FCA welcomes the support of Football NSW in recognising the importance of the essential ‘soft skills’ for their leading state coach educators. The global pandemic has taught us to be more innovative and supportive for our coaches than ever before. Coaches are leaders, mentors and role models to male and female youth footballers and adults within their football communities and the Essential Skills program provides highly relevant PD to support and enhance their expertise within those roles.”Football Coaches Australia Logo

“FCA, in partnership with XVenture, has taken innovation to heights never seen before in order to make professional development accessible to Australian football coaches. These programs allow FCA and Football NSW to continue to develop ‘community and connection’ throughout the NSW football coach cohorts.

“Given the impact of COVID -19 on the coaching world in each State, FCA looks forward to the opportunity to work with other State Member Federations to provide similar support for their respective Football Association Technical Directors and Coach Education leaders.”

Peter Hugg Football NSW Head of Football added: “We have long supported the mantra of ‘better coaches, better football’ and have ourselves invested in many programs aimed at improving the professional development of coaches and technical directors, across both our NPL clubs and Associations.

“Our support to Associations and their key coaching staff, as well as our own Technical Unit staff and our Course Instructors, in subsidising this program is an extension of this philosophy. It is hoped that in time, the take up of this wonderful program, the skills developed and the benefits it offers, will filter down across the broader landscape to the benefit of the whole football community.Football NSW logo

“We recently met with Association Technical Directors and Coach Educators and already there is much excitement and interest in the rollout of this program.”

The program was created by XVenture Founder and CEO, Prof. Mike Conway, who is the emotional agility and mind coach for elite athletes and teams (including Olympians, the Socceroos and many A-League teams) and global corporations & organisations.

This series of modules will be delivered completely online, in a revolutionary virtual world environment aiming to develop the ‘essential skills’ of coaching across 5 modules –

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Leadership
  • Resilience
  • Culture
  • Communication Skills

A new way of learning for our new World:

  • State-of-the-art online learning platform
  • 30 CPD points for each individual module from Football Australia
  • Recognition for prior learning from a major Australian University
  • Each module is approximately twelve hours of self-paced study
  • Fully integrated multi-media style materials in the form of videos, articles, activities, podcasts and assessments with a football theme
  • Multiple-choice test to demonstrate understanding of the materials
  • Real cases and examples from football coaching – from grassroots to elite
  • Receipt of certification on completion of modules

Phil Moss, President of FCA, will welcome enrolled coaches as they make their way through the virtual world of the FCA XV College foyer. Whilst XVenture Founder, Professor Mike Conway will introduce the Essential Skills Program.

REGISTRATION IS NOW AVAILABLE for Module 1: Emotional Intelligence & Module 2: Leadership or for ALL modules at the special launch price.

The Next Generation Sports Academy: Prioritising soft skills for youth development

The Next Generation Sports (TNGS) are a sports consulting company and international football academy that specialise in developing young talents across the world in a high-performance environment.

Participants who have attended TNGS camps have been selected for clubs such as West Ham United in the Premier League, Villarreal in La Liga and Toronto FC in the MLS. Alongside this, players have also been chosen for the England and United States National Teams.

Based in Valencia, the company has developed athletes and coaches over the last 10 years in territories such as Sweden, USA, South Korea, Japan, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Bermuda Islands and many more using their own methodology.

This methodology includes a strong emphasis on educating young talent on abilities that will make them an important player in a team and also on an individual basis.

Improving the ‘soft skills’ of young players, such as creativity, leadership, adaptability, problem-solving and decision making is prioritised across the board by coaches at the academy.

Using an example according to the TNGS website, the creativity of players is tested through various technical, tactical and psychosocial exercises to challenge and prepare them to resolve situations in-game and improve their overall game intelligence.

Decision making is encouraged through visual coaching strategies which are implemented through the use of modern learning tools, to help youngsters immediately understand and learn how to read and interpret proposals to make appropriate decisions.

Adaptability, which is a key factor between being a successful player or not, is encouraged and drummed into players in a tactical sense, so they are aware of when and how to put a certain tactic into practice.

The Academy was forced to be adaptable itself in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and change the way in which they connected and worked with players.

Coaches were not only concerned about players’ physical wellbeing but also their mental skills when it came to self-motivation, discipline and dedication.

In response to dealing with this predicament, through the use of technology, TNGS created innovative NG Virtual Camps. This was a concept that blended sports training exercises and soft skills exercises for new talent to overcome during the challenging period.

Players would conduct weekly sessions, with the TNGS coaches providing youngsters with guidelines through personalised Zoom calls.

TNGS coaches have worked in top clubs all over Europe and have obtained their UEFA Pro Licences. Some of the academy’s coaches work at La Liga clubs Levante UD and Villarreal CF, with others having played at Valencia and Real Madrid.

These aspects make them specialised in high performance training and talent development, with their video calls for the online camp focusing on the following three areas:

  • Soft skills sessions: Organising exercises and providing knowledge on how to develop the mental abilities of players so that they are able to reach their maximum potential in this area
  • Technical sessions: Teaching the concepts of the sport which have defined Spanish football over its history
  • On the field: Initiate team activities that develop challenges so coaches are able to evaluate factors such as creativity, empathetic communication, cooperation and much more.

These sessions, that were completed in the virtual camp, were a perfect scenario to educate young players on a variety of matters, including tactical concepts, game intelligence and technical and physical aspects in multiple situations during a game.

“The TNGS virtual camp was an amazing experience for me. It was informative, well organised…it was not only about football, it was about mentality, how to be a good person, things that are crucial in life, success, and school,” a student of the program explained after experiencing the opportunity with other players of various cultures.

A list of other details from the TNGS website on their methodology for teaching players can be found below:

  • Individualized training to strengthen the player’s effective and quick responses based on the tactical principles of the game.
  • Application of Visual Coaching strategies for reading, understanding and decision making in the field.
  • Match and training analysis to improve self-knowledge and self-confidence.
  • Creation of a profile and individual technical report that is reviewed monthly.
  • Specific plans for preparatory periods, holidays and free time that complement the role of the player
  • Establishment of weekly objectives for the development of self-determination and task orientation.
  • Cater for all specific needs: Physiotherapy, Sports Psychology, Nutrition.

For more information about TNGS click here.

Football Coaches Australia present ‘The Football Coaching Life Podcast’ #7 with Gary Cole interviewing Tanya Oxtoby

Tanya Oxtoby’s amazing football journey began in Wickham, in the Pilbara region of WA, approximately 1500km north of Perth.

Tanya Oxtoby’s amazing football journey began in Wickham, in the Pilbara region of WA, approximately 1500km north of Perth.

She is currently the Manager of Bristol City Women’s Football Club in the FA Women’s Super League, and Assistant Manager with the England U19s, albeit on maternity leave after giving birth to a new son, Albie Kempski Oxtoby.

Tanya captained Perth Glory for 40 games across four seasons after playing in the WNSL alongside Tal Karp, Lisa De Vanna and Nicola Williams. Her playing journey took her to the UK to play in the FA Women’s National League with Doncaster Rovers Belles.

Her coaching journey began in WA at the Football West Training Centre as well as her establishing her own Football Academy. A UEFA A Licence and a Masters in Sports Psychology provides her a strong foundation to help grow and develop players and teams. Tanya worked at Notts County and Birmingham City before taking on the Head Coaching role at Bristol City in 2018 where she works with one of the smallest budgets in the competition.

Tanya was open, honest and willing to share in our discussion around coaching and developing players, the resilience needed to coach as well as coaching at the highest level while suffering from Covid and being pregnant!

Congratulations to Tanya and her partner Alice Kempski on the recent arrival of Albie Kempski-Oxtoby.

Please join Gary in sharing Tanya Oxtoby’s Football Coaching Life.

https://thefootballcoachinglifepodcast.podbean.com/e/tanya-oxtoby/

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