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.
“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.