Northcote City FC implements digital coaching as part of its long-term strategy

Although the deferral of state-wide football has created an enormous void for Victorians throughout 2020, an unlikely silver lining as emerged. Clubs have used the crisis as an opportunity to implement digital training platforms and build stronger community engagement through virtual channels.

Northcote City FC is the latest Victorian club to take this approach, adopting the digital platform My Personal Football Coach (MPFC) to add its current catalogue of mobile initiatives.

The club is optimistic that its digital strategy will do far more than provide a short-term solution to the COVID-19 induced lockdown and instead become a valuable asset for its football department.

Michael Skliros, President of Northcote City FC, said he was “thrilled” to modernise the club’s processes and that the platform will help to take player and coach development to a new level.

“From our perspective, we are renown for our junior program, and we invest heavily into it. As part of this we believe it is important to equally invest in both players and coaches,” Skliros said.

“It’s not a stop-gap, it’s a value add that is going to form part of the club’s overall philosophy. MPFC will contribute to our coaching program and help the club maintain its position as a leader by continually evolving its methods.”

MPFC contains hundreds of ball mastery skill videos and position-specific coaching drills that cover all ages and abilities. Crucially, the platform is designed to include many drills which allow players to train with minimal equipment and in small spaces, making it highly adaptable and accessible.

“We chose the MPFC because it’s one of the leading global platforms and is used by some of the biggest clubs and academies in the world. It’s run by academy coaches who have experience at leading EPL clubs and deployed at the some of the best academies in the world, like Chelsea FC and Wolverhampton,” Skliros said.

“Despite the lack of football this year we haven’t seen the interest drop off at all – the craving to play is at an all-time high. The people want something there to fill the void and the digital training satisfies that.”

Since adopting MPFC recently, Northcote City FC’s community has responded strongly, with participation rates for training being extremely healthy.

Up to 85 per cent of players in some Northcote City squads are actively using the platform.

“It has been a smooth transition. We are seeing teams with 80 to 85 per cent uptake, which is an extremely high rate for a new platform in any industry. You would think 30 to 40 per cent would be the benchmark to start with but we have had an extremely high uptake,” Skliros said.

For Northcote City’s coaching staff, MPFC is assisting them to communicate effectively with their players remotely. They are able to set tailored, individual training plans which the players can execute and then upload footage, allowing their coaches to provide constructive feedback.

Coaches can further set challenges for their players, track player attendance, and keep training fresh and exciting by tapping into the vast catalogue of specialised drills that are available on the platform.

The value of MPFC is very much a two-way street with players also benefiting from all of these features. Furthermore, the platform allows players to maintain competitive training standards by tracking their training loads and performance on team leader boards.

Along with the practical tools MPFC provides, there is a substantial opportunity for knowledge sharing. Northcote City FC has equipped its players and staff with a ‘Coach’s Pass’ to the platform, opening a world of podcasts, blogs, and analysis that anyone in the club can access to build their knowledge of the game.

“This is another example of the value of incorporating digital training and shows why it will become a part of the overall coaching philosophy. The services we are gaining will provide us resources to benefit every part of the club,” Skliros said.

While MPFC is assisting Northcote City FC to maintain momentum in 2020, the club has invested, and continues to invest in a range of other off-field tools to help its players and staff achieve on-field success.

“Our NPL streams are starting to move towards becoming elite-style programs with education on nutrition and the use of partner medical clinics where our players gain free treatment, physio, performance-based testing, and improved strength and conditioning,” Skliros said.

“We’re broadening out our program to include initiatives that target health and wellbeing and are committed to extend this experience to everyone, not just registered players, but family as well.”

“As part of this we have players in our program from ages four to 55 and have focused on inclusivity, social style competitions, and also begun a campaign for soccer mums.”

Northcote City’s approach to create a well-rounded, holistic program will form part of the club’s strategy to develop elite talent, build the strength of its community, and return to Victoria’s National Premier League (NPL).

Following a turbulent decade where the club won the NPL in 2013 before being relegated five years later in 2018, Skliros is optimistic that the board’s progressive approach will help it to realise its goals both on and off the pitch.

“There are a lot of things in the pipeline that we couldn’t deliver due to COVID-19, but we are still working on. There is a bigger focus now more than ever to get people active again and we are putting a lot of emphasis into the overall health and wellbeing of our community,” he said.

David Davutovic on Preston Lions’ rich history and ambitions for the future

At the recent Preston in Business event, media personality David Davutovic spoke about Preston Lions’ storied history, it’s incredible impact on football in Australia and the Club’s future as one of the eight foundation clubs in the emerging National Second Tier (NST).

The Lions are well known for their incredible fanbase, garnered over 77 years of history and have significantly broadened this over many years. This transition means that for the first time since 1993, Preston will be competing on the national stage of Australian football.

Davutovic, a special keynote guest, reflected on the Lions’ foundation and their growth to being one of the most popular NPL-based teams.

“The club has played a huge role in Australian football. The club had 30 pretty successful years prior to the NSL and there is a truly rich history at the club,” said Davutovic, Managing Director of Bruce Media.

“The club has been in the top division, in the NSL for 13 years and before that from 1947 onwards there have been some great players come through and represent the country.” he said at the event.

“More recently, Sasa Ognenovski came through in the post NSL era and was a product of this club. He was voted the best Asian player in 2010 and won an Asian Champions League over in South Korea then went on to play for the Socceroos.

“There’s no doubt this club is right up there in its contribution to Australian football, and we are all very excited to see what the future holds.”

The NST has been an attractive idea for many years but with very little action from Football Australia, it never really came to light until recently.

Preston Lions were one of the biggest drivers and immediately put their hand up to become one of the foundation clubs. The club’s strong performance in critical revenue streams like sponsorship, gameday ticketing and membership have helped the club get into a position to take on this financial hurdle with an opportunity to dream of achieving the impossible.

“It’s really exciting for the sport and it’s interesting as to how it’s all come about,” Davutovic said.

“It’s a bit like the A-League expansion project of five or six years ago. It happened somewhat organically because there was this groundswell of support, and Preston as a club have (arguably) played the biggest role in kickstarting this momentum that triggered the second division.

“When it kicks off next year it’s going to be huge. Preston had the courage to step forward and immediately say yes and obviously it’s a massive financial commitment for the club but they said ‘we’re doing it’ and credit to the club for that.

“The current situation is eight clubs in the second division but my understanding is that they are looking at an expansion to 10 or 12 teams, maybe more from Victoria and they can really grow this second division.”

Australian football cannot afford to waste the momentum gained from fantastic performances on the pitch in international tournaments.

With the fast-growing rates of participation and attendance at the national level, as well as the emergence of a few amazing young talents hitting their stride locally and in Europe, there has never been a better launchpad for growth within the community.

Davutovic spoke on the future of Australian football after fantastic Socceroos and Matildas international campaigns – adding to the emergence of the ever-important NST.

“The future of Australian football is really bright, evidently in the results from the Socceroos at the last World Cup then the quarter final exit at the Asian Cup to a very decent South Korea side,” he said.

“Of course, the Matildas with a brilliant campaign are growing women’s football, even the representation here at Preston is great.

“I can actually see football taking on the other codes, because all of a sudden, teams like Preston and all the other state league and NPL clubs are getting recognised. They have been treated disrespectfully from around 2004 onwards.”

“They are part of the system and have just as much of a right to compete in the top division and in the Asian Champions League as the A-League clubs because at the moment it’s a pretty closed shop.”

The opportunity for Preston to make an even bigger mark on Australian football has presented itself with the NST and the club clearly has every intention to grow because of it.

Preston Lions FC President David Cvetkovski on National Second Tier: “The key is to surround yourself with the best people with a real passion”

Preston Lions FC recently held their Preston in Business (PIB) event for the 2024 season to show their appreciation for their dedicated sponsors, to network and get an insight into the future direction of the club and their inclusion in the National Second Tier (NST) – commencing in 2025.

Taking place at Mystique Bar and Lounge, the special keynote representative was none other than David Davutovic – the producer behind the famous Optus Sport documentaries and also a football presenter, with a range of coaches and leaders also on the footballing panel providing information for the men’s and women’s teams.

A panel of coaches and leaders also shared their views on what Preston fans can look forward to.

President David Cvetkovski introduced the audience to a captivating evening of insights and networking. He discussed the significance of the sponsors have on being the backbone of Preston Lions in the past and into the future, NST progress and the impact Preston Lions has on the broader community.

“To our sponsors, we are so grateful to what you do and for what you do because without you there is no club and that is the reality,” he said.

“Our sponsors have been the backbone of this club over the last 10 to 30 years and longer than that – we’ve got a sponsor who is coming up 44 years, that’s an amazing effort.”

2024 will be a massive year for Preston, who are ready among other teams for the highly anticipated NSD.

Cvetkovski spoke about the core values and the secret of how a club from NPL2 got to be one of the clubs to be involved in the NST next year.

“To have good relationships and strong attendances, the answer is pretty simple and there’s a philosophy that l like to keep,” he said.

“Whether in business or in the business of football, the key is to surround yourself with the best people with a real passion – we have the best people, respect each other, and make logical decisions with a shared vision.

“It’s passionate people who aren’t afraid to roll their sleeves up and stand by each other when the going gets tough, that’s my measure of people.”

Cvetkovski finished off his speech with a special message about how Preston is more than just a club with the influence they have in the community.

“We are a football club, but we are more than that – we have had to see the human side – the impact that this club has on the people and the broader community,” he said.

“With the passing of lifelong supporter Jason Milosevski and the way the club has wrapped their arms around from supporter groups, everyone at the club has been touched,” he said.

“This is the fabric of our club, these were Jason’s last words – ‘Preston is not just a club, it’s a way of life.”’

Preston Lions have commenced their VPL 1 season, ahead of a huge year for them.

Events such as these are the entrée to what we should expect from NST teams when the competition is up and running.

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