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.

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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.

FCA President Gary Cole discusses glaring AFC Pro Licence issue affecting many top Australian coaches

The AFC Pro Licence is still not recognised by UEFA and this issue has been an ongoing battle for many years.

Despite professional coaching badges, years of experience and on-field success, coaches are exploiting loopholes in order to acquire these roles in Europe that clubs clearly believe they are qualified for.

Many top coaches like Ange Postecoglou and Kevin Muscat have battled through many obstacles like job title changes and being unable to take training or sit on the bench for matchdays just to accept offers in Europe.

Football Coaches Australia President Gary Cole discussed the frameworks that are set in order to fix this issue whilst also communicating the many obstacles in place that are currently halting the process.

“The discussions, I’m going to say started at least 5 years ago, Glenn Warry, the inaugural FCA CEO encouraged to Football Australia voraciously to work on that,” he said.

“The truth is that UEFA clearly don’t believe that an AFC pro Licence is as good as theirs because Australian-Asian coaches go to Europe and their qualifications aren’t recognised which doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense.

“Football Coaches Australia will try to influence Football Australia to push for change, it’s very difficult to get the AFC to do so but our legal team has sent a good amount of time writing to FIFA, but they don’t recognise coaching associations.”

David Zdrilic’s story is quite fascinating with the current Sydney FC assistant coach spending around $20,000 on a qualification that was not recognised in Europe. If you factor in flights and accommodation, the outlay was closer to $30,000 as he had to return from Germany four times to complete it. The FCA worked with  Zzdrillic through this interesting period where he worked for the likes of RB Leipzig and Genoa on different job titles to escape trouble. However he wasn’t the only coach to have troubles with this system in Australia recently.

“David was one of the many people that Glenn Warry helped through this process because it’s a challenge. Essentially what they’re saying is, yep you have a certificate that says you have a pro licence, but you need to prove to us that you really are a pro licence coach and that can take many forms,” Cole said.

“I think Muscat ended up, after having to sit to get around it, his club in Belgium called him a Technical Director and initially he couldn’t even sit on the bench for matchdays.

“They eventually got around that and they got to a point where his previous experience gets ratified because they sit down with him, interview him and realise this guy knows what he is talking about. They don’t give him a pro licence, but they give him a letter that says ‘you’re ok to work in Europe’.

“So many Aussie coaches go through it, Kevin [Muscat] went through it, Ange went through it, David Zdrillic didn’t have a pro licence, got a job offer in Italy and couldn’t accept it because his credentials weren’t recognised”

When asked if Australian coaches succeeding in Europe would help force the issue on this situation, Cole mentioned that there was still a lot more that had to done outside of that for it to pass.

“Success will cause change to one degree. Obviously if Ange succeeds it will say we have done something right but that’s a one off,” he said.

“When you start to add up the volume, so you’ve got Ange’s success, now Tanya Oxtoby who’s manager of Northern Ireland women’s national team but like Joe Montemurro they both got their UEFA pro licences whilst spending time abroad and that adds another string to the bow.

“Question is should we be encouraging Australian coaches to plan to go to Europe to get into the UEFA coaching course but that’s really expensive because you have to fly over and take time off work etc.

“We’d like to think no but the reality is today that it would be a better option for those who have the capacity and the willingness to work at that level.

“There are people working to try and fix that but given the organisations involved, I don’t perceive that it will be a quick fix by any means.”

It remains an extremely interesting discussion that has accelerated into a bigger issue in recent years as more Australian coaches start succeeding domestically and in Asia which leads to the bigger job opportunities in Europe that they aren’t qualified for due to this incredible rule.

The serious waves Series Futsal have made and what it means for the sport

Football within Victoria in a broad sense is difficult to unpack from multiple angles. What is clear is the passion displayed by fanatics.

Although not a traditional form of football, it’s cousin futsal has slowly emerged as a popular indoor sport that has abundance of opportunity within Australia’s major futsal organisation, Futsal Oz.

Futsal Oz has been the manifestation of the football extraordinaire Peter Parthimos, who founded the entity in 2006. When discussing with Peter in regards to why he created Futsal Oz, he discussed how he wished to unify people, provide competitive competitions to those who played the sport, all the while providing opportunity to those who want to play on a leisurely level all the way to a professional level.

Despite having a turbulent tenure throughout the global pandemic in 2020. Futsal Oz came out of Covid-19 with a newly furbished Futsal court fit for its most talented players. The court resides in their Thomastown location. Series Futsal is currently the highest level of futsal across the country and features abundance of Australia’s most coveted football players.

Melbourne-owned Sport Recreational Wear manufacturer AKU is a proud partner, with many women’s and men’s series sides opting to use AKU as a kit sponsor. The company also designed and created kits which were featured in the monthly major event in Thomastown, combining the best players across the Series Futsal competition to represent their respective ethnicities. The event was broadcasted on FireTv, a subsidiary to American-Bulgarian Company TrillerTv, who specialise in combat and European Sport streaming. Melbourne born Commentator Michael Schiavello spearheaded the broadcast acting as executive producer.

Each Wednesday and Friday the competitions are streamed live via YouTube and its independently ran application “Wefroth”, allowing its humble yet passionate fanatics to watch each round of Series Futsal unfold.

Through the running of competitions and the opportunities it sets through broadcast, futsal is in a healthy position.

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