Pararoos Head Coach Kai Lammert: “We want to leave the place better than when we found it”

Kai Lammert

Australia’s Paralympic National Football Team, AKA the Pararoos, are Australia’s only male representative national football team for athletes with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms acquired from stroke.

Alongside the recently launched ParaMatildas national team, the Pararoos compete in a modified 7-a-side format. Matches consist of two halves of 30 minutes each – there is no offside rule, throw-ins may be made with just one hand, and the field’s dimensions are reduced.

Currently, the Pararoos are ranked 10th in the International Federation of CP Football’s (IFCPF’s) World Rankings and are due to take on a USA side ranked equal fourth at Manly’s Cromer Park on February 4, their first home international since 2019.

Speaking with Soccerscene ahead of a significant 2023 for the Pararoos, Head Coach Kai Lammert discussed how the team has progressed since his start in the role from 2015, what the next steps are for the side, and the legacy the team is looking to leave for future generations of the Pararoos.

Kai

What does your role with the Pararoos involve on a day-to-day basis?

Kai Lammert: We all currently have other jobs besides the Pararoos. It’s a big commitment for all staff and players, but we all have a true passion for the players and the program. Besides the tactical, technical, physical, and mental preparation of the team, I have sponsorship commitments and media commitments, planning, and lots of video analysis of our own and the opposition team as well as going through player injury and fitness reports. All of this is a huge team effort and I am lucky to have the best staff any Head Coach could wish for. The most important work is the player wellbeing though. All our staff work around the clock to make sure the players can perform at their best in the Pararoos shirt and in their private life.

Currently, we are preparing for the upcoming home games against the United States, so it’s a big job but again I couldn’t do it without a super team behind the Pararoos.

How has it been for you seeing the team evolve and grow since you became head coach in 2015?

Kai Lammert: It’s the most exciting thing for me as a coach to see the players progress on and off the field. What stands out is that it’s a professional setup, but most players have a full-time job to support themselves and their family. In order for us to break in the top four, the players need to be able to devote the full day to the Pararoos similar to the top teams in CP Football at the moment. We’ve been able to add things to the program without it being overwhelming, and there were already a lot of things in place when I started that we’ve just carefully built upon.

As I said, the players have jobs as well and their individual programs need to be catered for their needs. We have school students on our team who probably have a bit more time and players who are married with two or three kids and that time is a very precious thing.

The Pararoos recently raised $80,000 to support their program going forward. How has that financial support helped the team over the past year?

Kai Lammert: It had a great impact – it got us to Spain for the World Cup so that is a start, and then it got us prepared for that tournament because we don’t want to go to a tournament just to make up the numbers. We want to go to a tournament to progress and be better. Currently the top 6-8 nations have got a financial advantage on us, and we want to close the gap. Every dollar that is raised helps because it costs $30,000 to get the team together for a camp; that’s a lot of money. Some of my counterparts in Europe can do 4-6 camps with that sort of money because they don’t have to fly everyone in.

So predominantly that money goes to preparation and getting us there, and the more we raise the more we can do.

Footballer

What facilities and infrastructure upgrades are needed to help take the Pararoos program to the next level?

Kai Lammert: I think a home of the Pararoos would be something significant. Obviously, that would need to be a top-standard, purpose-built place. Full-time players and full-time staff would allow us to devote more time to the game and improve the team overtime. We are very creative with our time and try to use every minute in and out of camp as effective as possible.

Play more games; we need to have more games. Obviously with a pandemic we had a long time without a game, and we’ve identified the need to play more international games, but everywhere we go we must fly. There’ve been some fantastic improvements, particularly now that the naming rights sponsorship has gone to Commonwealth Bank which is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Our fundraising team led by Katrina Hicks is doing an awesome job and the support from the whole FA team has been fantastic.

It’s obviously a significant time for Australian football with the Socceroos and Pararoos having been to World Cups in 2022, and the Matildas set to co-host a World Cup this year. How are you feeling presently about where Australian football is at?

Kai Lammert: All this excitement around Australian football is great. That’s what we need, we need to have Australian football on the map. This is the buzz we need as we compete against the rugby’s and AFLs of the world in Australia. I heard the ticket sales are going crazy for the Women’s World Cup, so these are the sort of things we need. With that, our game (CP Football) will get more recognition and those who go to a game or tune in will appreciate the game because it’s an exciting game to watch. At the end of the day these guys are doing the same hours as the Socceroos and the Matildas, but they’re doing another job or Uni on top of it.

What are the next steps for the Pararoos?

Kai Lammert: For us we’ve got the home game against the USA in February, which is exciting because now the USA is still 5-6 goals away from us and we want to close that margin. That’s our main goal, to get closer to them. I felt over the years that we did get closer but it’s obviously we want to be really competing.

And then we will fine tune the way we play in two more camps. And then hopefully we’ve secured the Asian Cup in our country in November. That would be a great way to finish 2023.

What legacy do you hope to leave during your tenure with the Pararoos?

Kai Lammert: ‘Legacy’ is very important for us, that’s one of our core values of the team. We want to leave the place better than when we found it and want to make sure we keep raising our standards. That’s certainly one of mine, but when I say what legacy, I want to leave I have to say what legacy we want to leave, we are a team, and this team can achieve big things on and off the field and they can have a huge impact on generations of young boys and girls living with a disability. The program did and will continue to change lives.

Personally, I believe that every person with a disability should have the same opportunities as everyone else. We want to be named alongside the Matildas and Socceroos because the current and former Pararoos and ParaMatildas deserve exactly that.

Assessing the path of A-League Women to become full-time

To ensure there is a deep-rooted legacy from the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the A-League Women becoming a full-time profession should be a matter of importance to develop the Australian game.

As the competition improves, the expectations on individual players increases, whereas the careers provided to them are not yet adequate for most players to financially support themselves merely through football.

Until the players are provided with full-time year-round employment structure, majority of the sportswomen are in the firing line juggling the physical and mental aspects of their commitments to football and part-time employment, of which three in five of those players work outside of football.

This topic of discussion was raised back in February during a two-day women’s football congress that was hosted by the players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).

Under the 2021-2026 A-Leagues Collective Bargaining Agreement, the base limit was $20,608 in 2022-23 season for a 29-week contract for the ALW, with most of the players earned at or close to the minimum that season.

However, the remuneration for the past season rose to $25,000, which for the very first time it was transformed to a full home-and-away schedule, the current athletes are under contract for a 22 round regular season for 35 weeks, along with four extra weeks for finals.

Former Matilda and PFA executive member Elise Kellond-Knight expressed her opinion on this matter.

“We need aspirational leaders. We don’t need a long-term, 10-year strategy to get to full-time professionalism. Like, this is 2024. We need it tomorrow. We needed it yesterday,” she said.

“It’s important that the girls understand where we’ve come from and how much hard work we’ve had to do. Things don’t get handed to female athletes you have to stand up, you have to ask for it, you have to fight for it.

“It’s really important that we embed that philosophy in the next generation to come.”

In contrast to the A-League Men, just 15 percent had some type of job outside of their football commitments, 93 percent of those individuals worked less than 10 hours on a weekly basis.

The survey comments portray an evocative of the not so sustainable football/work/life balance the individuals have to commit to:

“I don’t want to feel like I have to work between seasons (for example: most of us do not get paid in the off season). It is a lot to juggle, especially going away for national team camps and the immense amount of traveling. I feel this weight on my shoulders from my work obligations.”

“If my work and football commitments clash, I am expected by my coach to skip work (where I get paid more and am respected more), and I am expected by my boss to skip soccer, and neither care if you suffer financially or reputation wise for it.”

According to the survey, it was made aware that all but three clubs had failed to provide players the desired two-month in advance training calendar as well as the seven day notice period, which makes matters even more complicated for those coping with various jobs to plan in advance.

The PFA admit changes such as this won’t occur overnight, generally speaking, to implement full-time professional contracts is the righteous thing to do for women players, but as the PFA report put it “should also be seen as an investment, not a cost.”

The full-time pay is such a significant goal for women’s football in this country, but the clubs can ease their path to that goal and can do a whole lot more to make sure those changes are modified sooner rather than later.

Successful applicants confirmed for Tier 2 assessment process

Football Queensland (FQ) has recently confirmed that several clubs located across the state have successfully applied to be involved in FQ’s 2nd Tier Club Development Assessment, that drives their committing to the evolution of technical improvement across regional football entity’s in Queensland.

Three regional clubs ranging from the Far North, Gulf and Northern Regions were part of being viable for the assessment process. The Southside Comets located in the Far North and Gulf region were joined by Northern region clubs Brothers Townsville, and MA Olympic. Metro entity’s Springfield United and Noosa Lions join the regional clubs in the Tier 2 assessment.

In addition two extra regional clubs including Riverway JCU and Edge Hill United, have been included in undertaking the Tier 2 Club Development Assessment on a conditional basis.

The sole purpose of the Tier 2 Assessment is for FQ to continue its ongoing support for clubs within their pyramid to receive opportunities which will establish them amongst the states best within the future. The assessment will support clubs in their efforts in upgrading technical and developmental capabilities.

Upon the FQ website, Football and State Technical Director Gabor Ganczer stated via press release:

“We are excited as more clubs, especially regional clubs, are entering Football Queensland’s FQ Academy club assessment process at the Tier 2 entry stage, highlighting FQ’s technical strategy in action as an increasing number of clubs across the state who are dedicated to elevating the standard of technical development of both players and coaches.”

With five regional clubs involved in the assessment, Ganczer disclosed FQ’s message surrounding its contribution to the growth of their regional clubs.

“This is a strong indicator of the increased state-wide progression opportunities available and the appetite of clubs to work with Football Queensland to advance the standard of football and coaching expertise across the entire state.

“The FQ Academy assessment process is designed to measure a club’s technical performance from a planning, delivery and outcomes perspective, while it strengthens its accountability, transparency, and visibility across all areas to foster high-quality development and facilitate accessible tier progression.”

The Club Development Assessment process was first initiated within FQ in 2020, serving as their primary system in the evolution of clubs within the state, designed to guide clubs towards growing on a technical basis.

The Club Development Process further supports coaches, players and club officials through licensed courses, webinars and information workshops, proving insight and clarity surrounding what the assessment entails.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks

Send this to a friend