Recap of the 2020 Australian Coaching Conference

The 2020 Australian Coaching Conference was held over the weekend, with a huge array of content available for developing coaches to access.

The event had multiple key speakers from across the world with some of the key highlights of the conference detailed below.

Arsene Wenger Interview

Adam Peacock went one-on-one with legendary Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger in an insightful wide-ranging chat.

Wenger was recently appointed Head of Global Football Development at FIFA, after an outstanding career as a world-class manager.

In the interview, Wenger touched on his transition from player to coach, the current state of the game, the current challenges and difficulties of youth development and the role coaches have in improving it, his time and legacy at Arsenal and what his impressions were of Japan when he coached Nagoya Grampus.

Other topics included how he dealt with the coach-player relationship, whilst also offering his advice on the use of social media in the latter parts of his managerial career.

Key Quotes 

On the current state of the game – “The technical level has dropped worldwide (even in the big games), whilst the physical level in the last ten years has improved a lot.”

“The space available to play in a match has changed. The game is much more compact, with the time available to control the ball and make decisions much shorter than it was before.”

“In the last ten years, the game has gone more towards NBA Basketball, more individual, more power, more speed, more explosivity and less creative.”

On his time in Japan – “It’s a country that was very well organised to structure the game. Very quick to create academies, improve professionalism levels.”

“They are nationally suited for team sport, they think naturally, what can I do for the team?”

“They like to be technically perfect, they like the beauty of the movement in Japan. So sometimes they were worried about how beautiful it is, rather than how efficient it is.”

On his time at Arsenal – “I tried to create a cultural level where everyone agreed.”

“A football coach is a mixture of adapting to local culture and non-compromising with what you think is important.” (Turned Arsenal from a monocultural (English team) to a multicultural side with players from all around the world).

“I tried against it, I created rules for the players and they were accepted by everybody.” (in reference to social media use at the club in his final years.)

On coach-player relationships – “When I started as a coach at the age of 33, I was basically the only influence on a player. Today, the manager has to combat more factors. They have agents, their own physio, dietitian, entourage, that sometimes works against you.”

“I always had a clear picture of the distances between the players and myself.”

On young players and their development – “In the first stages of your life, the ball has to become your friend.”

“The game is also a very good coach.” (in reference to young players playing games outside of structured training)

“During my childhood you had to fight for information, today you are flooded with information.”

Graham Arnold, Trever Morgan (Moderator), John Crawley, Leah Blayney and Andrew Clark panel discussion

In a round-table discussion with the FFA’s National Teams’ Unit, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold, National Technical Director Trevor Morgan, Socceroos Goalkeeper coach John Crawley, Future Matildas coach Leah Blayney and FFA’s High Performance Coordinator Andrew Clark covered various topics including the issues of the Australian youth development system, the lack of game-time for young players and shared their insights of the coaching world for over 1700 coaches registered in the Australian Coaching Conference.

Key Quotes

Graham Arnold – “We focus too much on developing the same player. Everyone is different.”

“Players make the system; the system doesn’t make the players.” You play a system that suits the personnel you have.”

On the mental stamina of young players and of the wider playing group – “What is failure? A loss is the past, so you only look to the future. Failure is negative talk. Everyone makes mistakes in life.”

On the development of young players in Australia – “How can you develop into a great footballer when you are playing 8 National Youth League games a season?”

On the importance of Australian national teams qualifying for the Olympics – “65 Australian Olympic footballers have taken the field, 59 went on to play for the Socceroos, 56 of them got sold overseas.”

“We’ve become a country of Big Bash Cricket. Every sport we have to do in Australia has to be played and done in 6 months.” (Believes there are not enough games in the Y-League, A-League, W-League and NPL.)

On the disconnect of the game between association clubs, member federations and A-League clubs – “We have to reunite; the divorce can’t go on any longer. The kids are suffering.”

John Crawley – “In a goalkeeping space, we embrace failure. We’re in the business of conceding goals. There are times where you do everything right in making a save, but the ball still goes in. So how do you deal with that? For us, it’s all about the process of making the save, not the result. So, from a young age we try to instil that in our goalkeepers, so they deal with that.”

Leah Blayney – On the small amount of game-time for some of Australia’s best female players – “We know the core group of Matildas play 35+ more top-level games than our fringe Matildas per year. Some might not even play any.”

“We are creating good training environments for future Matildas, but the next stage is international competition every couple of months that challenge us. We can’t wait two years until the next challenge, which is the position we are in right now.”

Andrew Clark – On the culture of the national teams – “With the senior national team players, we always talk about the national teams being a club for life. They’ll change many clubs throughout their life, the only constant throughout their career will be the national teams.”

Mile Jedinak Interview with Dr. Craig Duncan

Former Socceroo captain Mile Jedinak spoke with High Performance Specialist Dr. Craig Duncan about his transition from player to an academy coach for English Premier League side Aston Villa.

The EPL veteran explained the influence various club and national coaches had on his development, the process in which he got his coaching badges, the current work he is doing with the Aston Villa youth teams and much more.

Key Quotes

On the Socceroos culture – “For me, it was one of the best environments I’ve been around in. It was somewhere where you couldn’t fail.”

On playing in Turkey and the communication issues he encountered – “It taught me to grow up. The language barrier, different type of culture, working through a translator and knowing the difficulties of that. I learnt a lot.”

On what he wanted from a coach as a player – “Everyone would say clarity, those who are confident in giving those messages and know exactly what they want. To the point, can have those hard conversations if they need to and give good feedback when they need to.”

On the fact that a number of Ex-Socceroos are becoming coaches – “It helps if you’ve got a passion for the game. You’ve got experience as a player and it does prepare you to a certain point as a coach, but you still need to be prepared to do the hard yards.”

On the most enjoyable aspect of being a coach – “Being able to see them (young players) understand and learn the game.”

Other notable speakers in the conference included a session with US Women’s World Cup winners Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain, which delved into the winning mindset of these renowned athletes.

Overall, the organisation of the Australian Coaching Conference for this year has provided aspirational coaches with a breadth of content that is extremely useful for their own personal development.

The online coaching conference is a great initiative for the Australian football industry and was well executed by Football NSW, from the quality of guests to the seamless user experience.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

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.”



World-class speakers set for Australian Coaching Conference this weekend

The Australian Coaching Conference will take place this Saturday November 28, with a range of big-name football figures set to speak at the event.

Topping the list is legendary football coach Arsene Wenger who will present at the online conference alongside other notable speakers such as Mile Jedinak, Graham Arnold and Julie Foudy.

The event will be run by Football NSW, in conjunction with the FFA, Football Coaches Australia and a number of other Member Federations including Football Victoria, Football West, Northern NSW Football and Football South Australia.

Well-known football personalities Stephanie Brantz and Adam Peacock will co-host the conference this weekend.

“It is extremely pleasing to see that this conference has received such a positive response and that we will be going out to more than 1800 participants across the state, throughout the country and indeed around the world,” Football NSW Head of Football, Peter Hugg stated.

“More significantly, it is great that we have been able to explore various technology platforms that have come to the fore during the COVID19 pandemic, and introduce both online learning and a means by which we can upload content, both now for this weekend, but also for future reference over the next 12 months or so – I can only envisage that this will increase as we develop this concept more and more.

“I think the success of this weekend’s Conference demonstrates a certain ‘build it and they will come’ approach. That is, we have been fortunate to have some of the best football people in Australia and throughout the world present across a range of relevant key areas, and as we have packaged and priced the day accordingly, pleasingly the coaching fraternity have responded.” 

Hugg explained that with the calibre of names on show, the conference is set to be a must-see event.

“To think that we have names like Arsene Wenger, two former world champions in former US players, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain, national team coaches Graham Arnold and Tom Sermanni, former Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak, Matildas Heather Garriock and Lisa DeVanna, Xavier Closas from the FC Barcelona Futsal program, representatives from FIFA’s Technical Department, and many more…it’s just a quality line up and augers well for a great day.”


Football NSW schedules additional AFC/FFA B & goalkeeper coaching courses

Football NSW has announced a series of coaching courses to upskill the state’s professional and amateur coaches.

After revealing it will schedule two additional AFC/FFA B License Courses throughout 2021, the federation has today announced it will also host AFC/FFA Level 1 Goalkeeping License courses to commence in March 2021.

The goalkeeping license is designed for coaches who teach talented youth, or senior goalkeepers and focuses on their role within 11 v 11 football. The courses, which cost $1,930, will be hosted at Valentine Sports Park in Glenwood, NSW.

The course will also include the mandatory prerequisite, the C License Part 1 built into the first two days of the training, however coaches who have already completed this prerequisite do not need to attend these first two days and the price will be adjusted to $1,430.

The news to host AFC/FFA Level 1 Goalkeeping License sessions follows Football NSW’s announcement that it will add more AFC/FFA B License Courses due to an unprecedented demand.

In the ‘B’ License Course, coaches can expect to be upskilled on the 11 v 11 aspects of the game including football analysis and applying the FFA vision and philosophy to their training model.

These courses are scheduled to take place from June 2021 and will be split into two parts, each which requires six days of attendance. The ‘B’ License will also take place at Valentine Sports Park.

To register for the AFC/FFA Level 1 Goalkeeping License, please visit HERE.

To register for the AFC/FFA B License, please visit HERE.

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