Socceroos Emotional Agility & Mental coach Mike Conway on “creating winning minds in Qatar”

Mike Conway

As part of an exclusive series being run throughout the duration of the Socceroos’ time in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup, former Socceroo and host of ‘The Football Coaching Life’ Gary Cole caught up with Mike Conway, XVenture founder and Emotional Agility and Mental Coach, for the Socceroos ahead of Australia’s opening game against World Champions France.

Having previously worked with Socceroos coach Graham Arnold as part of the team behind Sydney FC’s historic A-League Men’s success, Conway is one of Arnold’s secret weapons intended to give Australia an edge over their opponents, with the Socceroos set to take on France, Tunisia and Denmark in Group D of the World Cup.

Conway’s wealth of experience in emotional intelligence, resilience and mental agility coaching has translated to his founding of XVenture, an organisation championing the development of effective mental durability in athletes and coaches. Conway’s work through XVenture has seen him mentor many of Australia’s national team players individually including Socceroos captain Mathew Ryan, Adam Taggart, Harry Souttar, Ajdin Hrustic, Awer Mabil, and Matilda, Amy Harrison.

During the pandemic, the XVenture team worked with a number of elite sports teams with their XVenture Mind Games solution, including Melbourne City FC, Australian Women’s Cricket Team, Chicago Fire FC, Western Sydney Wanderers and many more.

Moreover, Football Coaches Australia and XVenture have partnered on numerous initiatives and programs designed to amplify opportunities for coaches based locally and abroad, including the FCA XV Essential Skills Program. The program – delivered online via FCA XV’s College modules – provides coaches with a revolutionary virtual world environment which aims to develop the ‘essential skills’ of coaching across 5 modules – Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Resilience, Culture and Communication Skills.

In a wide-ranging chat with Gary Cole via Football Coaches Australia, Conway discusses the significance of building rapport and trust, the strategies involved in developing emotional intelligence, and provides some insights into the day-to-day preparations of Australia leading into their opening match against France.

This is the first of a limited and exclusive series of podcasts leading into each of the Socceroos games and is not to be missed.

The podcast can be viewed HERE.

Football Coaches Australia announces Kelly Rourke as new CEO

Kelly Rourke

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) has announced Kelly Rourke as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

An experienced leader with a wealth of industry background, Rourke has spent 20 years in the UK police force and has built a strong reputation in Australia.

Her past roles include Greyhound Racing NSW and Head of Control and Compliance with Tabcorp, while she spent five years with National Rugby League South Australia as the State Manager, making significant strides for the sport in South Australia.

Rourke was also the Chair for The Marjorie Jackson-Nelson Centre for Women’s Sport, offering the chance to empower women in various sporting roles from athletes and coaches to officials, administrators, board members and community players. This supports females to play, lead and change the game for future generations.

Currently, Rourke is with Greyhound Racing SA as General Manager, while she also volunteered for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 events in Adelaide and even plays as an attacking defender in her home state.

Speaking to Soccerscene, Rourke shared what the CEO role means to her.

“I’m a big football fan and being English it’s something that I’ve been involved in my whole life,” she said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to give back to coaches who generally get forgotten about.

“Everything that FCA does has the greatest intention for the game – the Australian coaching community has a lot of potential and it’s something I wanted to be part of.”

Working with President Gary Cole, Rourke will be a forward-thinker to drive the standards for coaching in Australia.

“Gary goes above and beyond and his background in the game speaks for itself,” Rourke said.

“His enthusiasm emanates through – for example with The Football Coaching Life Podcast and it’s going to be great to hear more stories.

“He was one of the first people I spoke to and was instrumental in wanting me to take the CEO role.”

As she settles into the CEO position, Rourke outlined what she hopes to achieve in the coming weeks and months.

“We just need to take some time to figure out where we want to take FCA, for grassroots right up to elite coaching,” she said.

“I really need to understand what coaches want from us and from there that’s where I can direct my focus.”

“Being English, I look at the Premier League and see the opportunities created down in the lower divisions and the amount of jobs created, with female coaches involved in that.

“Holistically from grassroots, we’ll look at the pyramid of coaching – if Australia want to be the best in the world we need investment in this area.

“For example, what happens when players get to the end of their career – we need a clear and established pathway, and with my background I can bring a different lens to see what can be improved.”

Off the back of FIFA World Cup exploits for both the Socceroos and Matildas, the future of Australian coaching will remain an integral growth area for the game.

Noddy: The Untold Story of Adrian Alston – a review of Philip Micallef’s book

When former Socceroo great, Adrian Alston, took a leap of faith and departed Preston in the north of England and ventured to Wollongong in January 1968, he could never have imagined how his life would change forever.

However, Jim Kelly, the former Blackpool and England B international, who had played with the late and great Sir Stanley Matthews, knew his man and was instrumental in the new life Alston forged for him and his family.

Kelly had become part of football folklore on the South Coast after South Coast United defeated favourites Apia Leichhardt 4-0 in the 1963 NSW Federation Grand Final in front of an Australian record club crowd of 30,500.

Consequently, when Kelly brought his prodigy to the South Coast of NSW, he unknowingly created a football pathway for Alston which he still reflects on with immense pride and gratitude.

There is a constant message in the book, written by Philip Micallef, that Alston never forgot the people who assisted him in rising to the highest level of football, fulfilled by playing all over the globe and representing his chosen country in 37 full internationals, including the World Cup Finals of 1974 in Germany.

When Alston was selected in his first international against Greece in 1969, he stated he was no longer a Pommie – but green and gold through and through.

Critically, he knew that Australia was now the place he would always call home and after travelling the world with the Socceroos, playing in the 1974 World Cup Finals  in Germany and  in the English 1st Division with Luton Town, rubbing shoulders with the greats of world football including Pele, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia, Rodney Marsh, George Best and Johan Cruyff in the North American Soccer League before a serious injury forced him to retire from playing at the tender age of thirty, this fact became more evident.

Ironically, when he returned to England after his playing career finished, Alston really couldn’t settle down  and when his young son, Adrian junior, asked when the family was returning to Australia, it was enough to influence Alston and his family to jet back to Wollongong.

Life after football can be very challenging for some but Alston took to coaching like a duck to water and the book documents in detail his coaching stints in the Illawarra during the 1980’s and 1990’s where he achieved considerable success.

However, his greatest loyalty was to the 1974 Socceroo squad and the last chapter of the book is devoted to his coach, the late Rale Rasic.

This book is just not about the footballer, Noddy Alston, but the man who took a chance in life to explore new surroundings when he came to Australia to begin the voyage of a lifetime.

There are a number of subplots in the book which make fascinating reading like Noddy’s procurement of Franz Beckenbauer’s shirt before the Socceroo’s World Cup match against West Germany in 1974.

The book will not only appeal  to people who followed Noddy’s career closely but to supporters of the game who admire determination and God given ability in professional footballers.

For those who don’t know Noddy’s story, particularly the younger generation and those who are the standard bearers of our game, it’s a must read.

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