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.

Football Coaches Australia presents ‘The Football Coaching Life Podcast’ S2 Ep 8 with Gary Cole interviewing Jeff Hopkins

Jeff Hopkins

Jeff Hopkins is currently the W-League Championship winning Head Coach of Melbourne Victory.

Jeff was born in Wales and played over 400 games for both club and country. He started in Fulham’s Academy before playing over 200 games in the first team before heading to Crystal Palace and Reading. Jeff also played for Wales at U21 and Senior level.

His coaching career began by working with young players in the UK, where he started his coaching licences before heading to Gippsland Falcons as a player and then for a year as Head Coach.

As a former professional player Jeff, like so many of us, thought he had a good grasp of football until he began his coaching journey and learned he didn’t know, what he didn’t know!

With over 20 years’ experience as coach at youth, assistant and head coach level Jeff is very aware of the changes he has made to his coaching over the journey. He has a number of premierships and championships to his name with Queensland and Brisbane Roar Women and both a Premiership and Championship with Melbourne Victory, which he is very proud of, but he also finds a great deal of satisfaction in seeing his players and teams grow and develop.

Jeff was honest and open discussing his journey and believes that finding a mentor in the beginning would have helped him make fewer mistakes on his journey. In fact, in answering the ‘one piece of wisdom’ question he had two pieces for developing coaches! Firstly, find a mentor early on in your coaching career and secondly keep growing and learning as a coach and create a learning environment for your players.

Please join Gary Cole in sharing Jeff Hopkins’ Football Coaching Life.

National Futsal Championships to return in 2022

Football Australia has announced today the return of the National Futsal Championships (NFC) in 2022.

Football Queensland (FQ) will host the 2022 championship, followed by Football Victoria (FV) for the 2023 edition.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson looks forward to growing futsal’s footprint in Australia after outlining a vision for a national program.

“As part of our clear strategic agenda, we outlined a vision to create a national program for futsal and beach soccer by working closely with our Member Federations in a unified, inclusive and collaborative manner,” Johnson said.

“With the culmination of this process, we are delighted that Football Queensland and Football Victoria will be hosting the National Futsal Championships in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

“There is a clear appetite throughout Australia for football to increase its imprint through futsal and beach soccer. Queensland and Victoria now have the opportunity to showcase this and bring it to life over the next two years, in a way never seen before.”

By granting the hosting rights to different cities, Football Australia believes the NFC will be a national tournament.

The Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre will host the relaunched tournament on the 5th-9th of January 2022.

“The National Futsal Championships are a highlight of the Australian football calendar, and we are excited to stage next year’s event at the state-of-the-art Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

Anthony Grima, Football Victoria’s Head of Futsal, believes the announcement was a step towards achieving FV’s futsal strategy.

“This is a huge win for Futsal in Victoria and one for me that should be dedicated to the many amazing individuals who are at the heart of the Futsal community here in Victoria,” Grima said.

“Hosting the NFC will leave a lasting legacy for Futsal and football in Victoria and inspire and enable more people to take up this amazing sport.”

The recently announced Home of the Matildas features a international sized futsal pitch, and it could host the championship.

Kimon Taliadoros, CEO of FV, said this news ensures that Victoria remains the home of sport.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the people of Victoria. By hosting the National Futsal Championships, we will further enhance the state’s ability to host events and tournaments and support the Victorian economy by bringing interstate visitors back to Melbourne to experience the wide range of products, services and experiences that this great state has to offer,” Taliadoros said.

“Futsal has been on the national agenda for some time now, with Football Australia recently having released the ‘XI Principles – for the future of Australian football.’”

The return of the NFC will allow a pathway for players to compete against the best talent Australia has to offer.

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