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Surviving the first few weeks of coaching

What goes on during those first few weeks when you take on your first coaching role and how you can navigate this.

Hosted by Will Vickery (Senior Advisor, Coaching, ASC) with Cam Tradell (Director of Coaching and Officiating, ASC) and Zoe Crosland (Coach of the Under 5s Warnbro Strikers)

Surviving the first few weeks of coaching

Will Vickery [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Wil Vickery and I'm one of the Senior Coaching Advisors at the Australian Sports Commission. Today I'm on the lands of the Wadawurrung people and along with some special guests, I'm here to talk about some of the important topics that exist within community coaching.

Today we're going to try and navigate how a coach survives the first few weeks of coaching. This week, I'm joined by the Director of Coaching and Officiating at the Australian Sports Commission, Cameron Tradell. And I'm also joined by Zoe Crosland who’s the Coach of the under-five Warnbro Strikers soccer team in WA. Thank you both for joining me.

Now just to set the scene a little for today's discussion, I'm actually quite curious to know a little more about each of your coaching backgrounds. So Zoe, would you mind kind of giving our listeners a little bit of an idea of just who it is you coach and where?

Zoe Crosland [00:01:07] I actually got asked by an old soccer friend of mine to come along to Warnbro Strikers Soccer Club and teach the under-fives. So that role was actually new to me this year. It's my first time kind of stepping into a soccer coaching role. For me it was, I didn't know what to expect, so I kind of walked in very blind. But as a career, I am a fitness coach with Fit Stop Waikiki, so I have a coaching background when it comes to fitness. So, yeah, that's kind of how I got involved with, yeah, starting to coach soccer.

Will Vickery [00:01:45] Yeah. And from that, I take it you've never had the pleasure of coaching small children before, in this sort of capacity?

Zoe Crosland [00:01:54] No, never. I have a five-year-old daughter, so, I knew, I guess, what to expect from my daughter, but you add, I guess, 20 more little five-year-olds to a group, and, yeah, it became very challenging. But it's something that I love doing, I enjoy all our training sessions and our games. It definitely took me a couple weeks to get into the hang of things and to kind of, I guess, know where to start with the under-fives. As a lot of them came in with no concept of ever playing a team sport, how to kick a ball, how to share a ball. So, we literally had to strip it back to basics from week one.

Will Vickery [00:02:34] Cam, maybe. Do you want to share your coaching background with us as well?

Cam Tradell [00:02:37] Okay. I've been lucky enough to coach at all different levels, multiple sports, over the years. I started the, coaching rugby union as a, as a young fellow as I was playing. And then, we were sort of, volunteered to, to be, the junior rugby union coach. But yeah, over the past probably 14 years, sorry, 40 years. I wish I was 14, the past 40 years, I've coached at all different levels, across, as I say, multiple sports through rugby, soccer, martial arts, cricket, coached here in Australia, coached juniors. So completely empathise with the the five-year-old scenario, but all the way up to adults.

Will Vickery [00:03:26] Zoe early on, I mean, obviously it's very early days. How how long technically have you been coaching at the moment?

Zoe Crosland [00:03:32] Yeah. So, we've come up to work at around five now. And then we've probably had about five weeks pre-season, so I'd say about ten, 11 weeks.

Will Vickery [00:03:39] I mean, you talked about the fact that, your daughter plays and I assume that was one of the big drivers as to why you got involved. Is there anything in particular besides that sort of thing that kind of influenced you in your coaching, or has influenced you at the moment in your coaching?

Zoe Crosland [00:03:54] I've always kind of had a bit of a leadership role to myself. I've always been willing to help. I guess wanting to make a difference in other people's lives. And having that impact and then also others. I've always wanted to kind of share my knowledge through a sport that I grew up loving so much as a kid. And I've got a number of coaches that I still value so much to this day that I learned so much from. And I guess for me, it was a part of, I guess, giving back to that community and sharing knowledge that I got as a kid. I think after the Women's World Cup, my daughter had a massive love for soccer and I just thought that it was a great opportunity, I guess, through my daughter and through my knowledge, to give to the community and share with these little kids and I guess be that first coach and that first impression for them joining soccer. So yeah, for me it was just to, I guess, give and to share, you know, my love for a sport and help these little kids learn. So, it's definitely challenging. And some weeks we have such an amazing time at training. And then other times I come home and I just have the biggest headache because it's just been chaotic. But, you know, to see the kids just having the best time and growing week by week is just, you know, it just it's great. Like, I love I love what I do and I love being a part of it.

Will Vickery [00:05:21] Yeah, awesome. Is there anyone in particular that kind of stands out in terms of you say you kind of have a lot of really good role models that you've had in the past, is there anyone that stands out?

Zoe Crosland [00:05:29] Yeah, there is. So, I played soccer through thank you base in high school. So they had a soccer program there. So, I actually got into that through a, scholarship in year eight. And my coach was Jessine Bonzas So, she impacted my life massively, through high school. And she wasn't just a soccer coach for me. I think she kept me accountable through school. Unfortunately, I had, my sister, who was a twin, got quite sick through high school. And Jessine Bonzas was just there for me constantly to keep me on the right track. And soccer, literally for me, kept me through, you know, that whole process and I guess, you know, was something that I could, I guess, used as an outlet for my emotions and really delve into, I think without Jessine Bonzas and soccer growing up, I think who I would be as a person today would be completely different. And I just value what I had with her so much that I guess for me, I want to be able to impact other kids lives like that, you know? And I'm not just a soccer coach who is there to teach soccer skills. I'm obviously there as well as someone that can guide these kids in the right direction. I guess, you know, be a bit of a role model for someone to talk to, someone to relate to. So. I valued that as a kid, and I guess that's also helped me as well, wanting to get into coaching and be that different so, you know, help people be better each day, even if they're, you know, they're five or, you know, even through a coaching position at the gym, you know, like, I work with lots of people going through different parts of life. And to be a part of that is just amazing.

Will Vickery [00:07:12] Yeah, I mean, that's fantastic. That's awesome. The fact that you've had such an influential person in your life, but particularly someone who's like, still being heavily involved in your sporting career, like I that's, not an awful lot of people, I guess, have that opportunity, but it sounds like they really influenced I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but they've really influenced the way that you approach your coaching at the moment. Would that be right?

Zoe Crosland [00:07:34] Oh, it does massively. And I still have contact with the Jessine Bonzas now. And, she was one of the first people to, I guess, praise me. And, you know, give me a pat on the back for doing what I'm doing now and getting involved. And, I think from day one, she's always believed in me. And, you know, seeing the talent that I can provide. And, I really gained, like, a long-term friendship through my coach. So. Yeah, it's been it's been really good. So hopefully I can continue that and be that to other people. And yeah.

Cam Tradell [00:08:09] I really like the stories Zoe was telling before and I find it that's what really sparked my, my, my memories is the fact that she was talking about the coach that really invigorated her to be a coach. And and I love that story, is that that's the positive impact. We didn't hear anything about winning. We didn't hear anything about, that I was going to be the, you know, the next big thing. We heard that there was a relationship there and a trust of, that was gained through sport and that at that, was a really appropriate, supportive environment where it was the opposite for me with regards to it was the players that actually, I saw that same value in is that I think I can be better here. And these people make me better. And, I and seeing me go from, not thinking I’m making an impact to, to genuinely, authentically feeling like I'm making a positive difference or an impact.

Will Vickery [00:09:09] Thank you both for sharing your stories and your backgrounds. Hopefully that's a little bit of context for those listening about who my guests are and what their coaching experiences are. I want to start off, though, with, what it's like to actually coach during those first few weeks or sessions for anyone who's had the pleasure, myself included, of of beginning their coaching journey. Most of us, I guess, would agree that those those first few times are often a mixture of chaos, nervous energy, and the unknown, but also a lot of excitement and positivity. I'd really love to know your story Zoe about your first session.

Zoe Crosland [00:09:43] Yeah, like you said, I think I had massive mixed emotions. I think within like the two week build up. And then the being asked by Tony if I wanted to, you know, coach under-fives. And I think that was a massive wave of excitement. And I was so excited. And then honestly, after that first training session, I walked away very overwhelmed, wondering what I got myself into. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? I think I came home and had a wine, and I think I processed that training session for the I think the next couple of days. For me, I guess I very underestimated, I guess a five-year-old debility, coming from such a high level and I guess finishing my training at such a high level, I guess I kind of went in with that mindset of, you know, these kids will know how to kick a ball, pass a ball, share a ball, you know. And I think I planned out all these drills to do in week one. And within five minutes I think I just canned everything that I had planned to do, you know. And I think the first couple of weeks, it was more about building that rapport. You know, getting kids just comfortable with me and being around other kids. We played duck, duck, goose, we played, you know, tepees. And, you know, like we literally stripped it back to basics, played games about learning each other's name. You know, how we share, you know, and even just listening to a whistle, you know, and, staying in a boundary, you know, like, I really had to strip it back for the first couple of weeks and I guess lower my expectations of what I was going to get out of these kids. And, and for me, I had kids kind of leaving the session midway through and not wanting to come back in. And I think for me, it was just completely understanding that this is the first time some of these kids have ever interacted in a team sport, and it's okay for them to take it slow. And, you know, watch from the sideline if that's what they needed. And, just really getting to know kids as individuals and letting them take it as quick or slow as they needed to. And it was just all about fun for the first couple of the first couple of weeks was just about fun, to be honest, and just get getting everyone comfortable with each other. So, I guess, yeah, it wasn't about, I guess, soccer itself. It was about building that rapport and that relationship with all the kids individually.

Will Vickery [00:12:18] I'm curious, did you like, how meticulous were any session plans or anything that you had like that?

Zoe Crosland [00:12:24] I did my research. I was a little bit. I think at one point overwhelmed with where to find resources, and what to do with kids that age. I think after that first couple of weeks of that, you know. Stripping it right back. It was for me,I was a little bit confused on where to start. And I just remember talking to some other friends and some other, you know, resources and old coaches, and I literally just said, you know, it's about having fun and literally starting from the basics and learning those social skills, how to be comfortable in that environment. So, each week I did kind of, I guess, do some research and come up with some new drills. But you've got to kind of think quick on your feet. And if it's not working, you've got to be really quick to adapt your training and I guess find something else that's going to work for your group on that day.

Will Vickery [00:13:20] What does the playing environment actually look like over there? And I guess in the sense of what happens on the weekend games where you are coaching.

Zoe Crosland [00:13:27] Even with our games, we kind of split our group into small groups of 5 or 6. And it's a bit more of like a round robin kind of thing. They play 15 minute little games. All our local little under-five teams come to the same venue. And we kind of all just rotate and play one another. For scoring and stuff, it's not really about goals or, you know, who who won? Who lost. I guess it's just about getting these kids out on a Sunday and, you know, getting them to play a sport that they love and we're all there for the same reason. And, you know, I think these days, I don't know for my daughter as well, you know, she comes home after school and sits on her iPad. So it's just nice to see these kids moving away from technology and, you know, spending the Thursday afternoon and the Sunday mornings, like out in the sunshine and, you know, learning new social skills. And I've got two little boys that's still are five. And it's all about winning, you know. So even at training we don't count goals, it's not about winning, it's about having fun. You know like yeah. So it's I guess getting rid of that competitive side of it so young. And it's just about having fun, you know, and enjoying each other's company. And yeah like Sunday's are pretty mayhem but it's great. Like, I love it. I wouldn't change it. Like, I wouldn't spend my Sunday morning any other way. Like, I love it. I look forward to Sundays and yeah, seeing on my team and watching them play a sport that meant so much to me growing up. Like it's it's great.

Will Vickery [00:14:56] Based on your experience as a coach Cam, but also in your role in developing coaches as well, other things that stand out to you or you've noticed about those first few sessions and the coaches themselves.

Cam Tradell [00:15:07] Zoe’s really touched on some great points. And and that social aspect is key. And, you know, the coaches are doing a great job, have already built that that social connection amongst the five year old side, that it actually gives you a little bit of time and a little bit of breathing space when the kids are actually socialising and working well together and not doing their own thing as much. When they're doing their own thing, you end up, as you said before, herding cats because you haven't built that social connection and the ability for them to just love being around each other, when they love being around each other about tend to stick together better in groups, they'll tend to, with one person, one of the kids, has a concept the others will follow. So, you create these environments. So Zoe talking about that before is it's a really big one is creating the social and psychological safety where people feel like they immediately belong. They’re the sessions that, you know, for this age group, especially that you know, that they're doing a great job in in creating that. The other ones, you tend to find that and you can sort of reflect, right. I know I certainly can is that when you're getting it wrong, you'll tend to find that you're yelling a lot more and you're yelling in what I call the compass. You're yelling to the north, the south, the east, and the west, because you've got everyone going everywhere and you're yelling rather than, hold on, how have I created the environment where they all want to be somewhere around the north. And they're all sort of, aggregating together. So I'd say that for me, that's one of the drivers, of, you know, how do you recognise when your session is going well. I think the other point that Zoe brought up again is, is a critical one is that, we can't confuse competing with competition. They're competing every second of every single moment. They're out there competing in soccer. A win for them is getting their foot on the ball. How many kicks do I get with the ball? And then when I don't have the ball, it's how close can I be to the ball to get my next kick on the ball? And that's okay. And but it's really an adult construct of, scoring a goal means that we've won. And we introduced that really early, is that we've got to replicate the big game. And, you know, we've got to replicate what it looks like at the top and the ones that can sort of steer away from that and celebrate the little wins. They also create those environments and they have the big wins where you say how many times you get to touch the ball, and then they say ten versus how many times you to score a goal. Well, I didn't I didn't score a goal today. No, and at the top in soccer, it's a reality that some games in 90 minutes nil all, has no one had a good experience? Is, that it's been terrible. And that's not the case. So, there's different ways that you can set success measures. And I think that's one of the the key piece is that not just setting those success measures as a coach. Also communicating out to parents and, you know, people who are interested onlookers that this is a journey and and they're not playing for Australia yet. They might never play for Australia. And here's the thing, the best way that we can or the best where we can do a job with these kids is to create this amazing environment for them to come down and learn, which is why I love what Zoe said is that she's really going in there, overwhelmed week one. You're not alone there. I think everyone's overwhelmed. Doesn't matter how experienced you are. Yeah, you get that feeling when you walk out of week one. But understanding that if you can assess these kids as individuals on where they're at physically, then how they can interact socially, and then start to look on, how do I create this environment that's suitable for them? The truth is, you'll have a heck of a lot more success than if you've got a preconceived idea of what your entire season is going to look like before you even get out in the field.

Will Vickery [00:19:00] Yeah, it screams modern participant in the way that, yeah, everyone needs to be aware of who's in front of them. Why are they there? This is no longer just a case of we're showing up to train regardless, and it's very much around let's actually make this a very enjoyable experience. Regardless of whether they are under-fives or playing for the elite level, like it's end of the day, if you're a coach and you're not looking at that as one of the very first things, with regards to setting up your environment. I wouldn't say you'd be doing it wrong, but you're probably setting yourself up to fail, really, and and fail in a sense that you're not going to have success with the participants in the way that they perceive that they are having success and whether they feel competent in what they're doing and things like that.

Cam Tradell [00:19:47] This is where the perception of, I need to be, at an elite level of a game or a sport, or I need to play the sport to be a good under coach. And the truth is, it's not the case at all. And this is where we want new people stepping in. We want, a new breed of of coaches coming in and saying, you know what? I think I can do the job. And it may not just be me by myself, it might be me and five others that come in and sort of start to run this. And, I've got great skills in group management, so I can I can actually manage the groups, but I don't really know some of the drills. But we've got a friend over here who can do that. I've got this friend over here who can do that. And we can start to create a different we just because we've always done it one way doesn't mean we have to continue to do it that same way. Different people have got different skills and it's daunting. It's really daunting, but it's daunting for Zoe to step over the fence and she knows the sport. It's daunting for me to step over and I know you know, some sports. It's no more daunting for for anyone else than if you don't know the sport. You're coming in with no preconceived ideas.

Will Vickery [00:20:55] Yeah, I mean, on that point, Zoe I was really kind of keen to explore what it was. That was what it was like during that first few weeks or even the first training session. Like, is there anything that that you found that really helped with kind of getting over that bit of, well, I see anxiety, but like that unknown feeling, the the overwhelming feeling that you had after that first session, is there anything you did that, yeah, that really helped with that?

Zoe Crosland [00:21:22] For me, like Cam was saying, you know, like I've come from a, I guess, you know, like a high level of training and knowing the sport I guess doesn't make any difference to these kids. You know, for me, I, I think by week two I had to kind of guess, take a step back and say, you know, what was going to get me through these sessions? And how did I, I guess, make the load easier on myself, you know, like it was me against 16 small children that, you know, had the shortest attention span, you know, kind of checked out before I even finished explaining the drill and, you know, running in all these different directions. So it was kind of like, how do I approach this in a way that's going to get me through it, that safe for these kids and I guess going to keep them on track. And for me, it was definitely getting parents involved, you know, and, seeking help and that helps okay. You know, and asking parents to step in. And even if that's, you know, standing along the cones and, you know, keeping these kids within the boundary or, you know, going and collecting the balls that go astray so that I don't have 16 kids, all go chase one stray ball. Like, you know, it was just getting comfortable with my parents and getting them on board in training sessions and even in games, you know, like just getting my parents to just be helpers within the small game. So then that allowed me to have a bit more freedom to kind of flow through the sessions. And I guess for me, see where kids were at and what strength or focuses I needed to bring in to training next week. And, you know, I think for week one, it was like, okay, yeah, I know what I'm doing. I know how to kick. Well, I've got experience in this. I don't need the help. But really realistically, I needed the help. I had 16 little mini kids that at some point I didn't have any control over. So, for me, it was just definitely using the parents and getting people on board and being comfortable with that. And I guess giving them a bit of free range on what were they seeing from the sidelines or where did they think that, you know, I needed to focus more on training sessions. And the minute I brought in helping, getting parents to help, sorry was just a godsend. Like it just made such a difference to my training and, allowed me to split my group into smaller groups and, like, really focus on other areas of training.

Will Vickery [00:23:42] Did you have any initial like resistance, or was there any kind of trouble recruiting or convincing the parents to, to get involved? Was there anything like that.

Zoe Crosland [00:23:50] A little bit. I think a lot of parents, I guess I they wanted to drop their kids off and then just sit in the car and I guess have that hour of not away from their children. But that expectation of like, hey, I've got my kid at soccer and I'm not going to be involved. And I guess reassuring parents as well that we are stripping right back to basics. And, you know, from my daughter's view of it, you know, she loves it. Her mom's involved in soccer and that her mom is a part of her training. And, you know, like, some of it actually kind of got the kids more involved when their mom or dad were in there with them, you know, and watching them kick a ball for the first time or, you know, dribbling the ball into the goal like they just got such, you know, this achievement and then turning around and seeing their parents be involved in it.

Will Vickery [00:24:38] Is there anything in particular that you did to to get them involved? Like anything like I say advice, but just in case people are actually having a bit of trouble making that reality, is there anything that you did that really worked?

Zoe Crosland [00:24:50] I came very open with my communication. I ended up opening a WhatsApp group with my under-fives, and getting all my parents into that chat, and just really communicating. And I guess setting those expectations. And planning ahead before training. Like, I reached out two days before and I just said, look, guys, you know, can I please have 3 or 4 parents involved in our training session this week? Like, these are the focuses that I'm wanting to do. And I guess just there was no pressure. And I've really reassured that you don't have to know the sport to be able to help out. You know, like a lot of these parents, they did like I said, can I have help please and was like, oh my God, I don't know what I'm doing. I know nothing about soccer. And, you know, like Cam said before, you don't have to know the sport to be able to get in there and help these children. And it was just reassuring them that we're here for fun, you know, and we're all here to support each other, and we're all in that journey together. And it's that saying, you know, it takes a village to raise a child. You know, I guess it's the same when it comes to sports. And I guess the more involved parents are, the easier it is for everyone, you know. And coming up to week ten now, like I've got some amazing parents that really step in and I honestly only have to say once like, hey guys, is there anyone that would like to step up and help me this week? And I have hands going up, you know, everywhere, and we've kind of got a bit more of a routine now. And who's bringing the oranges, who's washing the kids. You know, like, you know.

Will Vickery [00:26:24] It’s such a positive story.

Cam Tradell [00:26:26] Ways to do something really similar in that I had the same challenge way back when, where it was hard to get the parents out of the car because that was their latte time, in the afternoon. So they, they figured they drop their child off to sport. And we started doing a, we started doing a little bit of a warm-up where we'd have two levels of skill. One that was a really easy one for the kids to achieve, and they could play with their parents. But the skill was different for the parent and they had to work at a different skill. An example of that is we used like, tennis balls, soft balls. And we used to say to the kids, pick up the cone and catch the ball inside the cone. And so the parent would throw the ball to the kid, and the kid would catch the ball inside the cone. And the kids are having heaps of wins and heaps of fun, and they're really enjoying that interaction, that time that they working with their parents. But then we turn the cone upside down and give it to the parents who say, now you've got to catch the ball on top of that, on top of the cone. And all of a sudden there was this competitiveness in the parents working with their kids that they were also engaged and they're on the hook as well. So it started off as just a bit of fun. It was 5 or 10 minutes before we started training, but the truth is, it ended up being half an hour before every training session. And they wanted a new game every week. So they come up with a new multi-layered skill. For parents and kids to participate together was difficult, at first, but then we found exactly what you found Zoe once they become invested, they think coming, they start coming up with the well, what ifs, and and they start building the excitement themselves. And so watching that unfold with parents playing with their kids, for starters, is amazing because then the parents get first-hand experience of their growth. They're part of that journey. So they feel connected. And then, as you say, when you need to pull on support or help, they're willing to do so because you've created the environment where, hold on, so this is this is training. You know, we we've already done a little bit at the beginning I can help it's easy. So I really like the way that you've engaged, engage them because it's the it's the critical piece. We all get left out there by ourselves a lot of the time. And that's that's a tough gig.

Will Vickery [00:28:49] One thing that coaches might find challenging, particularly in those first few sessions, is how to adapt the session for different abilities, personalities, etc., particularly in those team sport settings. So if you had any experience in this yet, have you had to adapt to anything.

Zoe Crosland [00:29:05] It is and even like within my little group of kids, you know, like I had three that had played Auskick the season before and they'd been a part of that team sport. And then I had kids that had absolutely no concept of a team sport, had never really kicked the ball. Nothing. You know, so I guess it was adapting the sessions to everyone, you know, and you, like you said. You want the kids to take something positive away from their training sessions, and that's going to look different for every single child involved. And then like recently, I've actually just got a little boy who's come in and he's autistic, non-verbal. You know, so his training sessions going to be completely different to everyone else's. And my approach to him needs to be very different. You know, the first time he came on, you know, I said, hey, how are you? And he went, no!. You know, and literally shut me out. So it was learning, I guess, how to approach this child with different needs. You know, and I think as a coach, you've really got to be on your feet and willing to adapt what you need, I guess, to get through to all different types of kids at different levels.

Will Vickery [00:30:16] Yeah, it raises a really good point as well, Zoe, about what a new coach needs or how they can be supported to to help their own development. Is there anything that that would help support you think new coaches such as yourself?

Zoe Crosland [00:30:28] I think for me, like if I could I guess give someone some advice. It's just. You know. Come in open arms, you know, like had that bit of a loving, caring, you know, background. And I think you do also need to be in it for the right reasons. Otherwise why would we be doing this? You know, like, and I think you've just got to be very understanding, that it's not always going to, you know, be about winning. And we're not always going to be moving forward and say, improvement. Some weeks it are massive setbacks. And I guess just being open minded and just willing, willing to grow yourself as a coach and being open to other people's advice and opinions and, you know, seeking those resources or, you know, being adaptive to the things that you need. Like as coaches, we're in a coaching position, but there's always more to learn. You know, as a coach. And I really strive of learning about the people, you know, I'll go out of my way and I'll go and watch other coaches training sessions, you know, because that's going to. Like I said before, there's so many different ways to coach, so many different ways to teach, you know, and I think every coach can bring something different to a team, you know? So, just being open to that. And for me, like, as a mother, I know what I want out of a coach when my daughter goes to a training session and I want her to feel loved, I want her to be supported. I want her to be able to talk to her coach. You know? So for me, knowing that of what my expectations are for my daughter, like I hold that to everyone else's children too, you know, and. I want all kids to have a good rapport with me and be able to love me and trust me, you know? And I, you know, a lot of kids now come running to try and give me a massive hug, you know? And I ask them how their day's been at school. And it's not just about soccer. It's, you know, taking the time to know how these kids days of being what they do on the weekend, you know, and listening to their stories and giving them that time to talk to. And that's important, you know, like to be heard as a little kid, too. I think it's massive and if we talk about, you know, their new toy that they bought on the weekend, then that's okay. You know like that's important to them. So being able to listen and you know, let them kind of just have their moment. And yeah.

Will Vickery [00:32:53] Cam is there anything you might add given your experience.

Cam Tradell [00:32:56] Yeah. Look Zoe’s touched on all of them. In fact, they asked me to basically be a spokesperson, she’s, I think I think understanding the expectations. So coming into coaching, if you think that you need to be, as I said before, if you need to pay a player that's got extensive knowledge of the sport, and then you've got your expectations set out in front of you, the truth is, more times than not, you'll either fail, or you'll be frustrated, during the whole thing. So I think putting those expectations behind you, is, is really important. I think understanding, that, and it's not an easy job. So expectations with regards to how you going to how this is going to look. If you come in thinking if I speak they’ll all stop and listen. Set your expectations early is that's actually not the case. And if we look at the way that, again, Zoe set herself up, is that. It's it is interesting at all different levels of coaching. If a high performance coach, is, under scrutiny or something like, you know, we see their interview on TV after a game and they become the focus of all of the the issue or the problem. We always look at them as being the head coach, but what we don't talk about is the fact that they've got 10 to 15 coaches that actually will help, and they've got strength and conditioning coaches, they've got all the other support staff around them. And they’re just the head coach, so to speak. But if we go down to the community level under-fives, it usually is just one coach and a lot of the times it's one coach and is good enough to step forward, or is too slow to step backwards when someone's asked to step forward. And if that's the case, understanding that coaching is about it’s quite diverse. It's quite broad. So having the, the the ,having the confidence to step up and ask for help early, which again, Zoe spoke of so well, I think that's a really important thing is I'll do the coaching, but I actually don't know about soccer. And then grabbing onto some soccer experience to say, right, so let's set the expectations here. These are kids so they’re gunna, be learning and you can almost pull a group together. And I think the other piece, would be your communication. And again Zoe spoke of that is set the expectations with the groups, the parental groups around you to say this is what we can expect to see. We're keen for your kids to have, an amazing experience while here. They won't be playing for the Matildas, or the Socceroos next week. That's the truth. They won't be. But if we can give them an amazing year where they love sport, and they stay in sport, not just the sport we're in now, but another sport, and they have the confidence to grow through sport that that those opportunities for them to get those, you know, lifelong attachments and, and relationships with activity and sport will come. And the truth is when would you feel the greatest, feeling of appreciation or your intrinsic motivation? Where does it come from? And if you've had the the 16 kids running mayhem and it being an absolute nightmare for you they’re the days that Zoe was talking about where you go home and you go, what have I done here? But I'll tell you what, the flip side to that is incredible. The days that you're there with smiling kids, happy parents, people really engaged, not wanting to go home because you put on an amazing time and experience. You feel amazing, you feel great, and you've got heaps of support. I'm telling you, you go home and it adds to your life. It adds another, and another piece to life that, one all your days all the problems that you've had during your day seem to dissipate when you can have this experience. So, I would say that that would be, the key pieces. I'd also say to your point, before Will is, turn up on their terms. So, if you've had a bad day at work, you don't need to bring that to this environment. And I'm telling you now, set yourself up for success. If you bring that bad day to that environment, you just going to make your day a lot worse. Turn up for them and look on this as your time to disconnect from other areas and really be there in the moment and focus on what you're doing because it's yes, it's it's not easy. No one saying it's simple. But I'll tell you what, it's rewarding, if you get it right, not just for you, but someone will be telling that story that Zoe told before about the impact that that coach made in her life. Someone will be telling that story about you in years to come if you get this environment right.

Will Vickery [00:37:56] We've talked a lot about the positives that come with coaching. We talked a lot about the ways that we can get over some barriers and things like that when it comes to the first few weeks. And Zoe I'm really keen because obviously this is still relatively recently year for you. Is there anything that you wish you had, whether it is more support, whether it's like more access to resources, things like that, is there anything you would love to have had more of, leading into and currently with kind of this experience you've got at the moment that would really help in your coaching?

Zoe Crosland [00:38:32] Yeah, I think for me I was just it was it was very like, yeah, you're the coach of the under-fives, training is on Thursday. Great, have a good time, here’s your equipment. And it was kind of, I guess, understanding a little bit more about how the season works. I had no idea what the under-fives games looked like when I started. And I had parents ask me daily, you know, what does it look like? What do I do on a Sunday? And for the first three, four weeks, I just kept saying, look, I don't know, like, I'm not sure what it looks like myself. And I guess I really had to. I guess. Ask the club for more guidance. And, luckily, I have those connections that I could actually ask old coaches, previous coaches of what am I actually doing? You know, like, how does this actually work? And going onto Football West and, you know, reading a little bit more about how things worked and. Like Cam said, you know, like it's. It's a rewarding job, but it's it's not easy. And I think there's a little bit more to it than just rocking up on Thursdays and training a group of kids. And for me, that probably wasn't communicated very well at the start. You know, like, even Saturday night, we sit down and I go through the teams on Sundays, and that changes four times before kick off on Sunday and, getting, you know, parents to register and stuff, you know, like, I had no idea about how to go about registrations. And I had so many questions I was being asked by parents that I just couldn't fulfil, you know? So for me, I guess having a little bit more guidance through the background of that and, how to ask well, to know answers to parents questions. Because I always just felt so guilty, I guess, in myself, not knowing as a coach, the answer to these questions. And these parents, I guess, have committed to a season and I couldn't answer what they needed.

Will Vickery [00:40:31] Yeah. So I can say that there obviously makes those conversations you had early on with the parents about getting involved all that more challenging when you don't have answers and you're still asking them to be a significant part of the sessions themselves.

Zoe Crosland [00:40:47] For me, I also like I really had to think about it and I guess look at it from my daughter is they're still really young, you know, like they're five, you know, like they're really in my eyes babies. And sometimes you've got to get down to their level, you know, be silly, you know, like I've got a sticker a box at the end of the training session. At the end of training, everyone gets a sticker, you know, and, little kids minds go everywhere. And, you know, they have questions and they're curious, you know, and I had a training session the other way and it was absolutely pelting down with rain. And I don't think half of these kids had ever trained in the rain before, had never heard thunder, lightning while being on an oval, you know? And at the end of the day, I thought, you know what, let's talk about the rainbow. You know, we spoke about colours of the rainbow. We spoke about what rain feels like. You know, we got down, we got muddy, we got grassy, you know, and just at the end of the day that they're only kids and they're learning and it's a journey for them and help them through that journey, you know. And, I think within yourself as a coach, have expectations. But don't be hard on yourself when you don't meet those expectations and know that that's okay. And I'm so glad that I put my name down and I did it like it's made such a big difference to myself. And yeah, just just jump in and give it a go. Like, it's actually the best thing in the world, and I get so much out of it. And, it's just really nice to be a part of a good community and see these kids enjoying a sport that meant so much to me growing up. And, yeah, speak up, ask questions, you know, and reach out. You know, there's so many resources out there and so many people that are there to support. It's just as a coach there's learning that you can do too, you know, and there's things that you can do to improve yourself. And, yeah, just give it a go. Like it's, it's the best.

Will Vickery [00:42:43] Any words of wisdom from yourself Cam?

Cam Tradell [00:42:45]  I think Zoe, nailed it to be honest, I don't really want to add anything I think, if that would be the thing that I thinks key. The the only feeling I would put over the top of it is that, you’re not alone, to Zoe's point is that you reach out for help, but the way you're feeling after your first session and the way you're feeling after your third session, every, so many of us have been there before, and so it's not like you're going through something, you think, I’m the worst, this has never happened to anyone else before, I feel bad. The truth is, everyone goes through it because you've got to unlearn a lot of things and learn and a lot of new things. So be kind to yourself and give yourself a break. Seek out the help, as Zoe said, which I think is amazing advice. And yeah, don't don't take everything personally. Understand you're going to have challenges but know that the the rewards are certainly there at the back end.

Will Vickery [00:43:45] Thank you both for coming in and helping, hopefully to shed some light on how to survive those first few weeks of coaching.

Thanks for listening. To learn more about community coaching, head to the Australian Sports Commission's Community Coaching web page. I'm Will Vickery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

If you like today's podcast, please follow us wherever you get your podcasts and share this podcast with your teammates, fellow coaches and officials, and friends.

This podcast was produced in the lands of the Ngunnawal People by the Australian Sports Commission. We pay our respects to the elders, past and present, and recognise the outstanding contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make to society and sport in Australia.

2021-2022 Podcasts Listen to Mick Byrne Rugby union coach
Mick Byrne
Mick Byrne

A premiership-winning AFL player turned international rugby union coach.

Mick Byrne was a premiership winning Australian Rules Footballer, playing for Hawthorne, Sydney and Melbourne.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Mick Byrne

Sport AUS introduction [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project leader for coaching officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series. We will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, we're fortunate enough to be joined by Mick Byrne via phone at the airport, Mick was part of a successful Australian Rules football team and won a premiership before successfully transitioning to coaching rugby and has worked across England, Scotland, Ireland and Japan before winning two World Cups with New Zealand. Mick then found himself in Australia, where he took up a role with Australian Rugby Union as the national skills coach. Welcome, and we look forward to chatting, mate.

Mick Byrne [00:01:01] Yeah, thanks, Cam.

Cam Tradell [00:01:02] Seeing things from such a broad spectrum. I'd be really interested in how you see the system working, knowing what community has to offer, what's the richness that can come from community that yes, you get your participation in community, but what does that actually offer to high performance with regards to a value?

Mick Byrne [00:01:22] I think the biggest one for me is the love of the game. I think, you know, the true community, it creates that, you know, as I say, the love of the game and people involved in sport enjoying themselves and, you know, continuing on from when you're a kid, like when you're when you're a little kid, you play sport because you love it and you have fun. And I think community has a role to play in making sure that that stays stays true all the way through. You know, I think, you know, we'll probably talk about it a little bit in greater detail. I think community can also have a have a stronger role in the way they prepare players without without losing that enjoyment, but how they can prepare players for a career. But I think the key is that whenever I talk to any players and, you know, the more I coach, the more I realise that, you know, I'm speaking to, you know, players that have just recently retired after, you know, 25, 30 years in the game. As you know, the thing that they've talked about is, is the reason why they are probably giving the game away at age 38 is the fact that they've had a great innings and they can't do the job that they love. You know, they can't do the game anymore, that they love doing. And that's the thing they talk about. It's it's it's a game that they love doing.

Cam Tradell [00:02:44] Your coach and your officials obviously play such a major role in what that experience looks like with with that sort of in mind, where do you see the benefits for coaches and officials with regards to getting that that, you know, open conversation and dialogue with with athletes and participants?

Mick Byrne [00:03:02] Well, I think, you know, having gone back to community and working with community, one of the things that's never changed and I know it was I know it was something that motivated me, and maybe that's why I chose coaching, but it was something that motivated me as a as a player. I just wanted to be able to do what I was supposed to be able to do, you know? So if I was playing, you know, when I grew up, I was playing rugby league. So if I was if I could break tackles and score tries or make tackles or kick goals when all the shooting like that, that's what I wanted to be able to do. And so every day I turned up to training. I wanted to I just wanted to be able to do those things. And I got frustrated as a kid not being able to, you know, make line breaks or break tackles. And I'd just go away and I'd work on stuff and I'd look on telly and I'll see what, you know, when I was growing up, you know, the players down at Manly Rugby League, you know, I was trying to emulate what those guys were doing. And I think that when I go back now, sport has become a lot more professional than it was back in those days for everybody. I look back and I think, you know, if coaches can continue to provide that at a community level and just keep helping young players get better and to be able to do what they want to do and not get caught up in this watching teams, and this is how this team plays and look at this move that this team does, but just continually work on helping young players and, you know, get better and keep the love of the game and turn up the training and try and be better players than they were yesterday. You know, so the whole concept of being better today than I was yesterday and waking up tomorrow and try and be better than I was today, we can provide officials and coaches and and everything can provide that for young players coming through that I will keep the love of the game because, you know, the more that the more I talk to the young players that that's what they want to do and how do I do that. Or how do you do that or how does he do that? You know, and I think that's the motivation around that is enormous. you know, we talk about intrinsic motivation, but I think we can provide that opportunity for young players, by the way, we coach them.

Cam Tradell [00:05:15] Some great insights there it is. It's the it's the environment that is created and people mistake the word fun and challenges and they sort of get them mixed up, fun is challenging people at their own level.

Mick Byrne [00:05:27] Yeah. Look what I talked about this last year with the team I was coaching. They were talking about, you know, they'd had a bad run, they hadn't won for a couple of years and they were talking about they're not having any fun. You know, they're not having any fun in their environment and we talked about it. One day we went out to train and it was snowing and it was about minus two and we were doing some line-out sessions and we had a big Fijian guy, and he was really struggling in the cold weather and we have these lineout lifting aids, you know, the stretchy ones you put over your legs and he couldn't even put them on and the boys had to help him put them on because his fingers were frozen. And anyway, we got out, we went inside and afterwards and we had some breakfast. And the noise in the breakfast area was unbelievable how loud it was. And we had our team meeting and I said, honestly, boys, we've talked about fun. Did anybody have any fun today? And they're like, Oh, I looked at the Fijian fella, and I said, Did you have fun this morning? He goes NO! "I didn't have fun at all". I said, But how do you feel now? He says, "I feel unbelievable. I loved it" because it was the fact that you went through it together. It was the way we created the training and and the fact that they got through that together, that created an enormous amount of enjoyment from them. And we didn't go out there to try and have fun. But guess what they had in what was the worst environment was they they finished training and they're like, oh, how cool was that? It was awesome. And so, yeah, I think it's if you create the right environment and, you know, we've talked about this before about creating the right learning environment where players are finding things out for themselves and problem solving. It doesn't matter what what you're doing, they'll have fun. At the end of the day, they're going to have fun.

Cam Tradell [00:07:15] It's interesting, because you're talking about the the team meeting afterwards. And, you know, when you started to interrogate afterwards and you're getting that player feedback that really helped you so that you start to create that environment. How important is that feedback for a coach to learn and to understand themselves better?

Mick Byrne [00:07:31] I think if you're, if you... I think for me, Cam when I first started, it's important that you realise you've got two ears and one mouth, and when I was young, when I was a young coach, I forgot about that proportion, you know, so I tended to use my mouth like I had to two mouths and one ear you know, like I was I just didn't I thought that was my role as a coach. And, you know, really, you know, if you use that, you know, the two ears and one mouth concept, then you got twice as much listening, as much talking, and you're probably going to be a reasonable coach. And, you know, you do have those moments through your career where if you're listening, you actually hear some some things that you can learn from

Cam Tradell [00:08:16] looking at those those moments that that the "aha", the penny drop moment for an athlete, with you with regards to this could be in high performance, or community. Have you got any sort of insight  to methods that you use to sort of bring the best out of players and how does that sort of  work for you?

Mick Byrne [00:08:35]  Yeah, I think for me, you know, you'd spend you could spend a lot of time, you know, imparting your knowledge and it not be received. And and I think one of the things I've learnt is to create Problem-Solving opportunities of training and asking questions about, you know, where the where the knowledge is that from your playing group. And I went out did an under 10s coaching. So is this works for the community as well, you know, and you go out and you do you know, I worked an Under 10s team up on the Sunshine Coast and we were doing some tackle tech and we were working on getting there, getting their wrap and getting their feet in. And we were doing it on the tackle bag. And and the thing is, I just asked the question, you know, you're sort of working away and you say, you know, tell me, how did that feel? Did you get a good wrap on there? Where were your feet when you made contact and, you know, were you feeling strong or were you in the right position? And they ask. And then the thing is, when you ask the question is you wait for  the answer and sometimes you don't get the answer. And when you're when you first start off as a coach and you start asking these questions sometimes five seconds can feel like five minutes and you've just got to be patient and let them sort it out. You know, because I hear a lot of coaches these days because they've been told, you know, ask questions, ask questions, they ask the question. And if I don't get an answer within two minutes, two seconds, they're like, well, that's what we need. What we need to do here is we need to get our feet in close. And everyone, justs nods their heads, but they don't understand what they're actually nodding their head about. So I think it's for me, it's about asking questions and giving them time to answer. And if they do give an answer that they're not quite sure of. And I know you've experienced this with me a couple of times. I might say ask a question. And they. And the guy look at me and like," well what were your thoughts", and he might say something with a with a sort of an inquisitive answer and I'll say, do you think is that what you think or are you guessing? "Oh I don't know..." Well, let's do it again. Let's just let's just do it again and see what you feel and tell me, "Oh OK...", and then you might ask him again and he goes, obviously, I'm not doing it because you keep asking me questions and I'm like "that's ok mate," and then all of a sudden they'll turn around, and they'll go " Oh, now I feel it" and then you're done, you know, like the fact is that, you know, some players that some, especially kids, they don't realise, they think they're doing something and until they actually realise they're actually not doing it or your instructions aren't going to help them. And I think that's the thing I found with when I went to the Under 10s, even at Under 10s. And then I come up afterwards and this kid gets knocked over in a tackle and his dad says to him, "Oh what happened there?" he goes. Well, I just didn't get my feet in close, and I knew it as soon as I got hit. I didn't have my feet in close and I just got knocked over. And he Dad looks at me and goes " What have you done to my son?"  And I said well, he's done it himself mate, I didnt do anything. He did it himself. You know, he found that out for himself. And I think that's the you know, that's the challenge as a coach is to create these learning environments where you're asking questions, but you're allowing the players to find the answers themselves. And, you know, some players are really good at it. Some players have great awareness. And, you know, like straight away, they realise what they're doing. Others take a little bit longer and we can grow this into a team environment as well. What do you think we should do here, this position on the field and have they have the have the team sorted out for themselves as well? And it's very easy. I like to make the sort of I won't use the words I usually use here Cam, but we we you know, you can have great Mondays to Fridays and average Saturdays as a coach, or you can have average Monday to Friday and great Saturdays. And what I mean there is you can you can be a coach who runs you really great training sessions, tell players what you want and players go out and do exactly what you want. And I get the Saturday in this struggling or you can create Monday to Fridays where there's a bit of chaos at training, there's Problem-Solving. No one's really going well. You finish training, and you thought" gee that wasn't a great session, we really struggled through that". But then you come out on Saturday and the players deliver everything you've asked of because they sort sorted it out for themselves during the week. And that that to me is one of the big things is, you know, if you can create an environment as a coach, you have to get comfortable with this. You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable in sometimes your training sessions just don't go exactly the way you'd like them to. As long as you've created problems and they're getting solved, you know, the answer will be good at the end of the day. So. I think that's the challenge that I sort of found myself needing to change.

Cam Tradell [00:13:39] That empowerment for the players. And the moment you almost had those dual celebrations between the coach and the athlete and them making the instinctive decisions on the field, I think becomes so important when they're competing rather than the conscious mind taking over rather than the instinct and having that chaos is so crucial at the training.

Mick Byrne [00:14:01] And you don't want to be out of control though, you don't want to be just throw the ball into the middle of the field and say, let's go for it. Or, you know, what you're doing is you're creating the environment that's in the context of the game so that they can sort things out. And and that's the challenge of a coach, you know, like "What do we want to achieve here?", we want to achieve that player's awareness of what we're doing, I want them to be thinking about the decisions they make in a game. And the big one is we want them to be able to enjoy the fact that they're contributing to it, you know, and and they're not going to do that if you're saying things and the players don't really understand what you're saying. If players are sitting there in a room and not so, I don't really know what he means by that. And they're too embarrassed to ask the question. And I'm only saying this because I went through it as a coach, you know, like you don't realise it, but you sit there and you're delivering stuff that's really good because, you know, you've done the the hours of the research. You've looked at the footage. You're really clear in your head what it looks like and you get up and deliver something. And if someone doesn't understand it, it's like, well "what's wrong with them?" You know it's pretty clear to me what what we need to do. And for any coaches that that are feeling that, you know, try and teach a, you know, a primary school kid, that three plus two equals five. And when they don't get it, try and explain to them. Then you'll know whether you're a good coach or not. Just, you know, because three plus two equals five. Yeah, well, we all know that. But at the end of the day, when you're learning it for the first time, sometimes it's not as simple as we think. And this is the part of being a coach.

Cam Tradell [00:15:35] Fantastic inside there, Mick, thanks so much. The having clear purpose and context as sessions becomes so crucial to creating these positive learning environments. Mick Byrne, I want to say thanks very, very much and I look forward to catch up again soon.

Cam Tradell [00:15:52] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Clare Ferguson Netball coach
Clare Ferguson
Clare Ferguson

Assistant Coach of Queensland Firebirds Clare Ferguson is a leader of the sporting world, having extensive experience in competing, coaching, and managing high performance athletes.

Her elite playing career spanned over a decade and included 15 International Test caps for the Australian Diamonds and 3 Premiership titles with the Queensland Firebirds. In 2016 she was appointed captain of the Australian Diamonds. Away from the court, Clare completed a Graduate Entry Masters of Speech Pathology at the University of Queensland.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Clare Ferguson

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I’m the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. We are fortunate to be joined by Clare Ferguson today, Clare has a real passion for sport and the positive impact it can make on people's lives. Clare's own playing journey was extensive, having played for the Queensland Firebirds for eight years and ultimately several campaigns for Australia, where she had a fairy tale ending to her playing career when she captained Australia to the win in the 2016 Constellation Cup. Since retiring from the game in late 2016, Clare is currently coaching with the Queensland Firebirds, but is a real drive to make a difference on the entry level requirements of participants not just in Netball, but all sports and young people's relationship to sport and activity. With the support of Suncorp, Clare has developed the resources to support parents to recognise the activity requirements of children based on the Sport Australia Physical Literacy Framework. And that is what we would like to explore further today. Thanks for joining us this afternoon, Clare. How are you?

Clare Ferguson [00:01:27] I'm fabulous. Thank you so much for having me Cam.

Cam Tradell [00:01:29] Pleasure. Absolute pleasure, Clare. I'm really interested in how this all started for you. So you've finished your playing career, had a great playing career and as we say, a fairy tale ending. And then you sort of moved into your own coaching journey. But you've then seemed to pivot away to this area where you interested in how we develop people from the early ages. What was your motivation to be involved in that early development of participants?

Clare Ferguson [00:01:53] I think for me it was the influence that my early coaches had on my career. And I think that's something that lots of people talk about with elite and high performance professional athletes is the coaches that have a really big impact on your career and a lot of people expect the responses to be the high performance coaches that you did have and a lot of those people that I had, I had a lot of the greats of Netball involved in my journey, they were incredibly influential. But for me, the person that had the most impact on my sporting career, my life generally was my high school Netball coach. And she was the one that actually got me engaged in coaching when I had just finished high school and went back and coached grade eight. So that's where my coaching journey actually began. And I think that what I really valued in her and what I saw is the biggest influence that she had over me was the holistic approach, I suppose, that she had to my whole self and the development of my team-mates whole selves in our progression through adolescence and how she sort of set us up and equipped us for life just generally beyond the Netball court and the value that Netball and being involved and engaged in team sport had in the greater sort of spans of our life once we left high school. And so now that I've finished my playing career and I'm transitioning on to that coaching, I'm fortunate,  I'm engaged with the elite and high performance athletes now, but they started on grassroots courts and I still am really invested in this development of the next generation of players in Netball or any other code or athletes just generally because I saw what having great coaches did to my life. And I know that we still have such high dropout rates of young kids in sport these days. And within Australia, we should be the healthiest, fittest community out there based on, you know, our lifestyle and our weather and all those fabulous things that we have at our disposal and fingertips. And so I just want to ensure that our grassroots coaches are being equipped with what they need to be able to transition and help those athletes stay involved in the game. And also just because it gives you so much more satisfaction to the coach when you have some confidence and some direction and knowledge around what you're doing, because it really is the most satisfying job, I think, to have, whether it's voluntary or not, just to be able to influence and impart knowledge and shape these kids and what they're doing. It's just a really fortunate position to be in in life. And so I think I want to be able to help people understand that and to know it a bit better.

Cam Tradell [00:04:36] Funnily enough, when you started to tell that story, I thought immediately about people who impacted me, and I thought of that, too, that I wish they'd coach me for the rest of my life because I had those attachments. I really like the sound of that teacher and the way that they were able to get your attention and intrinsically motivate you to play. What do you think those components look like? What was it that was so good about that teacher that engaged you in sport or could it have been any sport or was it just Netball?

Clare Ferguson [00:05:06] Yeah, well, I was extremely tall from a young age, so Netball was sort of a default just as a result of my height. But I was also I really enjoyed athletics. The reason I chose Netball was because of the environment. I think that was created by that teacher. And I think what she did for me as a teenager and for the other girls that I played with as well, was she created a space for us to feel like ourselves so it was an area that we're accepted and we were accepted for who we were and we were able to recognise and acknowledge our strengths. And coming to Netball on a Tuesday and then playing on the weekends was more than just about skills and drills. And what she did was really focus on developing who we were. So all of those things like the ability to self reflect, the ability to set goals, the communication that we had, we formed these really amazing social connections as a team. It was the first environment that I learnt about what culture is and what it means to really commit to something and be persistent and passionate and dedicated. That formation and establishment of resilience. And so all of these greater, big broader concepts beyond just passing and catching. And don't get me wrong, she was also phenomenal in terms of what she exposed us to from a foundation skill level and tactically and she set me up in terms of the start of my elite Netball journey with that framework. But it was more about the yeah, the holistic approach she had to developing us as people. And I think she viewed it as a bigger picture thing than just us being high school Netballers. And so for the girls that played in that team, I mean, I'm still very, very, my best friends are three of the other girls that I played with, they were bridesmaids at my wedding, and I'll be friends with them for the rest of my life. And I think that, yes, she just had this really powerful ability to understand the influence that she would have over us beyond trainings and match play on the weekends.

Cam Tradell [00:07:14] That's incredible insight, isn't it? Is that the impact that a coach can make on you making a choice to stay in a sport? Because, again, you think about all your interactions with people at those times and you're exposed to so much of that time. This clearly is an interaction that was valuable and worthwhile and it shape your future.

Clare Ferguson [00:07:35] And I think that to understand that when children are going through adolescence, they're at this tipping point of transitioning away from the influence that their parents have. And so it's so vital for them to have these adult figures in their life that play a role in being a mentor. And for so many children, that mentor is found within their sporting community or their sporting environment. And they do have, I don't even know every elite athlete, every high performance athlete would be able to pinpoint and tell you about a coach that was engaged with them from either a grassroots or a junior development level that had an influential role of how they see themselves and how they see their game. And you don't even have to talk to people that are engaged in high level professional sport. It's just anybody that continues to play sport until late into their lives. Ask them about you know tell me one coach, who you loved it that had a real impact on you and they can just reel it off like that. The memory will just come back to them. And I think that shows the importance that if you can ask Joe Bloggsdown at the local footy park on a Saturday afternoon, did you have a coach that really made a difference to you? Yep. And he'll tell you straight away. That's what it's about. It's not about creating diamonds and wallabies and Olympians, which I mean, yes, that's incredible. If you have the opportunity to play a role in the progression of someone's career to the highest of high in terms of sporting accolades. But it's it's being able to influence somebody who will just remain engaged in sport and play it because they love it and be active and healthy and then be able to model that for their children and other people within their community. That's the impact that you want to have in terms of your contribution to society.

Cam Tradell [00:09:22] I like the approach because there's so many more aspects than the technical and practical and that tends to be through no fault of, I guess, anyone is that that's what you get drawn to because you think they're the things they have to coach.

Clare Ferguson [00:09:34] Yeah, 100 percent like when you get involved with sport. Isn't that where you think you're doing your coaching sport? But I mean, you know, and I know there's so much more to it than that.

Cam Tradell [00:09:44] That's what I'm really interested in, is the fact you and you're right, there is so much more. And it's about how do you get that hook? What's the intrinsic motivation for the people in front of you to be involved? And I'm really interested in how did you link inwith the Sport Australia Physical Literacy Framework? How did you first become involved in that and what did that mean to the way that you put things together?

Clare Ferguson [00:10:04] So I created the resource for Suncorp and they have a relationship with Sport Australia. And they floated the idea with me that they wanted to resource for parent and volunteer coaches. And so they sent me the Sport Australia, the Physical Literacy Framework. And I must admit, when I first looked at it, I was really overwhelmed because it is like I read through the official document and it is big and it is meaty. But when I actually sat down and kind of pieced it out and went through a lot of the different resources, the guide that was available for clubs and coaches and there is a guide for parents there, there are very easily digestible examples of it. And I think what I did when I was reading through it was I automatically thought of my high school coach, because then the four domains that sit within that Physical Literacy Framework. So we've got the physical domain, which is all about how our bodies move and the way that we do things. And then there's the psychological domain, which is more about how we feel when we're exercising. I suppose there's stuff to do with feedback and self mindset things and self reflective tasks and all of that and how we incorporate that into our physical movement. There's a cognitive side, which is where we come into the tactics and game plan, and they have to change and think online to evolve how we play and how we move, as well as goal setting and the role that that plays. And then there's a social side, which is that beautiful thing that sport gives us, which is connection with people around us and how we're able to engage with others. And when I was reading through it, I thought of my coach and how she was able to create all of those things for us within that framework for us as 13 year old’s through to the age of 17. And by doing those things, what she did was instill in us this lifelong desire and drive to be active, be healthy, be motivated, be self driven, proactive and all of these skills that you saw on the court transferred into the classroom, the boardroom, a way to life beyond Netball. And I when I was doing it, I thought really, parent and volunteer coaches who are turning up want skills and drills as a platform. Like if you give them a resource, that's what they want. They want you to tell them exactly what they need to do because they get stuck. But I think it's really important that they understand that sport is so much more than movement and it's so much more than skills and drills. And so to be able to provide them with an insight into what's important, to include a framework around this, these are some good things to put into your session. But these other things are really important and that you need to consider, including you don't have to pick all of them. You might just pick one thing that you're going to be going to, include with your team for a period of a year or a season or three or four weeks. And then you shift your attention and go to something else. But by including these things, you'll actually get more enjoyment from your players that if you just go down to the courts on a Tuesday night and play with them and then practice shooting for half an hour and then head to the game on the weekend, they still going to love it, but they'll love it even more. And they'll have lasting memories if you take this different approach. And I think the other thing that it speaks to, like what you were saying before, Cam, is you're going to have kids that are awesome at playing and that just get so much satisfaction and love out of getting on court and running around or going onto the track or the field or wherever they are and just playing. And they just love that because they're talented and they just love the sport. There are going to be other children that have come to Saturday sport because their parents have asked them to do it or because this is the thing that they are trialing and they're giving it a go and they might not get it straight away or they might feel out of place or their strengths might lie in different areas. And so if you change the way you run your sessions to include all of these different things, you're going to be targeting those kids that might get missed if all you're focusing on is the physical stuff. And so I think that I wanted that to be a thing that parents could take from the resources, having an understanding that we're catering for everyone here and we're catering for the strengths of all coaches as well. So you bring your own flavour and your own influences to how you want to do it. But that's sort of the yeah, I suppose that's sort of the approach in the hopes that I have had when the resource was created.

Cam Tradell [00:14:43] It's also comes down to that assessment piece of what can they do, what can't they do, what do they need to do? And then how am I going to create this session to engage with all of them? Because it's daunting as a coach when you turn up and you realise that, hold on. I've got people of different skills here, different levels, different enjoyment. How do I create these environments? And I think what you've done is you've given people maybe not always the answer, but the right questions to ask to how can I provide that environment? And I think that's really powerful for coaches.

Clare Ferguson [00:15:14] It is because you should I think when you're a coach, you've got to be creative and there's no right answer. There's no wrong way of doing things because everybody's ways, their own way, which is another reason why you can't just give someone a pack of skills and drills necessarily all the time, because that's not going to suit your group that you're working with, and it might not suit you and so being able to have those tools to be able to start asking questions or thinking about things I think is the best way to go around it. And what you were saying before Cam in terms of what are their skills at the moment and what do they need to be able to do? Like what are the things that they are missing or what are the things that they can improve on? Because not every child needs to be able to. I don't know. In Netball they don't need to be able to shoot from the edge of the ring or that they don't need to be able to do all of the skills right from the get go. We want to cover off on basic foundation skills, and some children may be more advanced than others, but you're never going to know that if you don't give them the ability to try. So if I was to set you out a whole heap of drills that just had basic dodging and passing in it, you may be missing this amazing opportunity. Your kids may be amazing at doing that. And then you're putting this limitation on their ability of where they can go to and not just capping, like the physical ability in terms of what they're able to do from a skill basis, but also you stopping the development of their cognitive development of their tactical thinking and integrating them into the planning of the session and being able to watch that side of things grow as well. So I think that's so important as a grassroots coach as well, is that, use the power that you have of engaging with your players to help you plan and help you think about how are you going to change and alter things and introduce new rules and concepts and let them be the ones that guide you. You obviously as well, you're the overarching emphasis, I think, particularly at that grassroots level. But again, use all those little amazing brains and their little skill sets to help guide way where you are going to take them to.

Cam Tradell [00:17:22] And that comes down to understanding what your session is. So when you're planning sessions, what do you want to get out of it? And sometimes the messier session that you do, you get surprised with where they're actually at because you're asking questions that you're not limiting the answer, you're allowing them to explore. And you tend to find that sometimes they're more developed than we give them credit for. And they shock us and we realise to how that can become boring for participants because they're not being extended. So I really like that.

Clare Ferguson [00:17:51] Yeah. And I think as well, it's your perception of what's fun and their perception of what's fun are two totally different things. And you may plan a session and you're like, oh my God, that was awful when you get there and you think, what a doozy, nothing went to plan then, but you might actually ask you players and they'll say "that was so much fun, I love this bit,  that bit I didn't love so much but still understood why we did it all". Not every session has to be liked by your standards, what is perfect or what is perfection, because we know in sport as well that games on the weekend aren't perfect. Sometimes they're an absolute ravel, they're just a mess and nothing goes to plan. And so being able to simulate those things in a training environment is perfect. And yep, at the end of the day, as long as you're building a relationship with your players and engaging them in the process, then you can't, we can't really go wrong with where at least where your intention is in terms of your planning and what you're trying to achieve.

Cam Tradell [00:18:47] And that feedback is crucial because it helps you with your future of, well, what is it that they actually love doing. I love what you said before too Clare, they they tell you what fun is rather than you imposing fun.

Clare Ferguson [00:18:59] Because yes, I mean, I'm not saying that adults don't know what fun is, but kids sure do like we know that I know fun is. And so let them tell you and guide you on what they want to do and how they run it. Yeah, it's the best way and seeing smiles on faces, like who wouldn't want to be involved in that every single week. Smiles and laughs. And that's where their memories are formed in that environment. So yeah, it's the best thing for you.

Cam Tradell [00:19:25] One last question for you, and it's one that I tend to use because I don't know the answer. It's out of the back of what you're passionate about, what you're doing. So the physical literacy work that you've given to parents to then help them, what would be utopia? What's the end impact that you'd like to see off the back of this? If you could make that one change, what would that be?

Clare Ferguson [00:19:46] An overarching utopian goal is that we have more children participating in sport for longer. So lifelong participation in sport across their lives. And we don't see the drop out rates that we do now. And we also see parents modelling healthy sporting active behaviours for their children as well. So, I mean, that's the overarching goal. But I think my goal would be to turn up at a Netball Association on a Tuesday night and not seeing coaches role out the same session week after week and not seeing children standing still and waiting for their turn to be engaged in long lines of waiting and standing to be still. I would love to be able to walk in to Netball Association on a on a training night, and think oh my goodness this is incredible, that team's doing something so fantastic, those children. It's a session that's catered for the team that's just for them. And then I'll look somewhere else and see another team doing something completely different, all encompassing the same skills in terms of what they're trying to execute, but incorporation of different elements of physical literacy in there that make the session that the teams own and the coaches own. In a utopian world, I think that's what I would love and I would love children who are participating to feel immense value and satisfaction of being in that group environment.

Cam Tradell [00:21:11] Clare, I really appreciate your time today. Thanks so much for sharing your insight. So much to take away for othercoaches. So thank you very much for your time. Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating  or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Listen to Claire Polosak Cricket umpire
Claire Polosak
Claire Polosak

The first female in the world to be part of the officiating team for a male cricket test match.

Claire Polosak is an Australian cricket umpire, who became the first female in the world to be part of the officiating team for a male Test, when she stood as the fourth umpire on India’s tour of Australia in 2020-21.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Claire Polosak

Intro Voice over [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system.  Each podcast we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.

Cam Tradell [00:00:34] I am fortunate enough today to have Claire Polosak join us on the podcast, Claire's the first female ICC umpire to officiate in a men's cricket Test match in the world. So we're very, very fortunate to have her and to speak to us. So welcome, Claire. Thanks very much for joining us.

Claire Polosak [00:00:50] No, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to the experience of having a chat with you.

Cam Tradell [00:00:54] Thanks very much, Claire, I'd love to get some ideas or some sort of background on some of the ways that you make decisions on the field and being an official or being an umpire. Did you play cricket growing up or were you exposed through the umpiring pathway?

Claire Polosak [00:01:10] Yeah, I never played cricket growing up. I grew up in a regional town and at the time there wasn't that I remember any girls’ cricket and I didn't want to play with the boys. I guess I was too scared to and I know lots of girls did play with the boys, but I was a bit scared to do that and then I followed cricket from a distance. I had all the cricket players on my walls growing up and then every year mum and dad would be our family holiday would be to come to the Sydney Test match. And then when I was about 15, a friend, actually her dad, suggested that I complete the umpiring course because I like cricket. And so it did take me, I'm not sure how many times, but it was at least three times to pass the exam. I think being 15, 16 and never having played cricket definitely impacted the knowledge and the awareness around the laws of cricket. But every time I completed the assessment, I got a little bit better. And so it was just something I was really determined to do. And what I was I was forever jumping up and down when I finally passed the assessment task.

Cam Tradell [00:02:06] In really high-pressure situations. It's got some real learnings that we can take from what you do to what happens at the community level, knowing that there's different levels of pressure and so on at the community. But I'd love to sort of get an idea of some of the processes that you've got with regards to how you make your decisions. And if you can sort of broaden out on that when you do make a bad decision or you're aware of making a bad decision, how do you go about managing that on the field, knowing that you're out there for a long time?

Claire Polosak [00:02:34] Yeah, great question there. So I think at umpiring at any level, if you are striving to be 100 percent in every game that you do or even if every over that you do, it's potentially setting you up to not be perfect. So you really it's all about striving for excellence and what are the processes that you can put in place to ensure that you're doing the best that you can in order to make the best decisions as possible. When I am out in the middle, I have found that when I've made mistakes, it's usually because I've rushed my decision making processes. So it's really about slowing it down. You've got if you're umpiring, particularly in cricket, between, you know, the delivery, the fielders appealing and then you having to make your decision, you've actually got more time than what you think you do. So just taking it, taking a second to have a breath replay, I replay the ball in my mind to make sure that what I saw the first time matches up with where I where I'm thinking and then make your decision based on the information in front of you. Umpires in cricket are making decisions every delivery, even if there's no appeal. And so it's just about making sure you can tick off those boxes as you get towards the final result. So I think for an LBW decision, for example, if the ball is going on to hit the stumps, that's actually the last question I ask myself. You start off with, is the ball a fair delivery where did the ball pitch, what was point of impact? What was the line of the interception? And then was the ball going on to hit the stumps? So it's really about slowing your processes down to make sure that you can take in all the information that's available to you and to use that to your best of ability. But something that with all sports, I imagine that new umpires or new officials are going to make mistakes, and it's about learning from those mistakes to work out why they occurred and then to improve on them next time. So that with it comes into routines. So you mentioned about being on the field for a long period of time, if I start a day of cricket an 96 over day and I think I've got seven, six and a half, seven hours of cricket in front of me, you usually exhausted before you start. So I'll actually break the I'll break the over down or day down. I'll break the day down into even just two over blocks, so when I'm at square leg I'll say to myself, "let's have two good overs Claire, let's have two good overs". And then every time I'm at square leg, I repeat that to myself. When I'm at the bowlers end, I have a couple physical triggers and also some mental triggers that allow me to switch up when the ball is about to become in play and then to switch down when the ball is dead. We don't really talk about it a switching on and off because there's always something for us to be looking at. But there are certain points during the game where we don't need to concentrate as hard as when the ball is in play.

Cam Tradell [00:05:29] That's really interesting. where you're talking about always something to be looking at and I'm guessing that there's times when the things off the delivery, so outside of the delivery with potentially, you know, the chatter around the field or a little bit of banter, someone isn't happy about a decision, whether it's one that you've made or one that one of their friends have made or, you know, team mates where there's a dropped catch or there's where they think they've been hard done by. And you've got those other by playing things going on. How do you manage that with regards to trying to keep your focus on what's important on the field when you've got all these other things to sort of manage as well?

Claire Polosak [00:06:01] Yeah, I think it's important to acknowledge when potentially there's a decision that hasn't gone the right way has happened. If you acknowledge it, it means that you contain it, which means that you can then then move on to it, move on from it. Sorry. And I have in the past, you don't really want to be doing this a lot of the time. But I had a game where I made a decision. It was incorrect and the captain was very agitated about it. And he came up to me and he wanted to talk about it. And I just said to him, I know I've made an error, but we can talk about it after the game. And when we did talk about it after the game, he actually said that acknowledging it enabled him to relax. He knew that he wasn't going to have to have had a discussion with me about it being wrong because I knew it was wrong. And that just sort of cut it, nipped that behaviour in the bud. And he was able to go on concentrating with his own captaining of his team. But it's not something you want to do all the time. And I think it's really important to push if you have made a real or perceived error, you should try, and it's easier said than done, just like playing,  officiating practice is what gets us there. But if you're able to push it to the side so that you can focus on the next delivery, because if you're focusing on the next delivery or the next passage of play, then you'll still your mind will be in the past. And in order to avoid making errors, we need to make sure our mind is where our body is. And that's and so it's so much easier said than done. But if you can push it aside for me, I actually write it down in my notepad, so it's like a shopping list that I don't have to remember to remember it later on and then I can go back and go through, hopefully not a too long a list, but go through the instances where I have potentially made an error and try and work out what happened that didn't enable me to make a really good decision at that point in time.

Cam Tradell [00:07:52] That's fantastic insight to the self awareness you've got. Do you ever write down things that are positive, that have happened? So something that you picked up and that's almost a skill that you want to put in the bank to perpetuate that behaviour? Is it always a negative that happens or is it sometimes reinforcing a positive?

Claire Polosak [00:08:08] Yeah, it's funny you say, I think humans recognise or notice negative things seven times more than positive things. So it is only the incidences, I guess, that don't make my own expectations that I write down to address and to work out why they occur. But you're right. I mean, I think acknowledging it and celebrating the wins are really important and teamwork, it's sort of teamwork is really important. You know, we're out there on two people versus 11 people in the field. And, you know, when your partner makes a really good decision, give them a little thumbs up. Don't make it too obvious. But, you know, if your partner has made a really good decision, if my partner has made a really good decision when the ball is dead and I’ve got eye contact with them because we have eye contact, every delivery, just a little thumbs up by the side, just reinforces what you're saying there. The positive decisions that they've made say this to acknowledge that that I have had a really good decision there so that they can be  confident and comfortable in what they're doing as well.

Cam Tradell [00:09:13] It's interesting because you're talking about the ways that you're supporting each other as another team on the field, which I think is really, really important. And seeing what happens at the elite level where the scrutiny under a decision is so intense with regards to it must come up on the big screen or it used to come up on the big screen and you can be scrutinised and at least you can get some closure with regards to good, bad decision. But at the community level, I'm guessing it becomes more difficult because it becomes about an opinion and everyone on the field has got an opinion from their angle. You know, from cricket terms, people calling LBWs from fine leg is a bit of a stretch. I just I love the way that good umpires can really manage that. Keeping in mind that the experience on the field becomes so important, do you try and influence the feeling on the field, or manage it being an upbeat environment?

Claire Polosak [00:10:02] Yeah, I think having clear communication and good people management skills will get you a long way on the sporting field. In cricket, it's very much that umpires are there to facilitate the game. It's not about us being the centre of attention and we are only brought into the game when the laws require us to be. So when I'm umpiring, I actually imagined myself as a jack in the box, so I only come out onto the only come out or I only speak when I'm spoken to by a player unless obviously, I'm required to do so, I think remembering that the game is there for the players at a community level, the players, and this is just sort of said to me just the other day at players, you know, they pay heavy subscriptions in some competitions to play cricket and it's their outlet for the week. And so they want to enjoy the game as much as you do as an official. So it's really about just ensuring that you can facilitate the game within the laws, within the spirit safely and just allow the games to happen in front of you.

Cam Tradell [00:11:04] Fantastic insight. That's amazing. I think that that's the piece that becomes so important is that enjoyment is really the factor.

Claire Polosak [00:11:13] If you if you if you don't enjoy umpiring and I imagine it's for any sport if you don't enjoy it, there are so many other things you could be doing with your time than officiating the sports, So I agree enjoyment 100 percent.

Cam Tradell [00:11:26] With that in mind, as you were coming through the system, you're talking about, you know, the difference between where you're at the moment in performance, working also in community and also working with the state side. Way back when you were coming through the system, was there ever a piece of information that you wish you were armed with to make your experience as a community coach coming through the system better?

Claire Polosak [00:11:52]  The one thing that I wish I did more was ask more questions of my other officials that I stood with, because when we're just learning out there so much, we don't know and you don't know, you don't know it. So I wish that when I was coming first coming through when I first started umpiring, that that I had the bit more courage, I guess, to ask questions, to ask why umpires do something in particular. And it just might have got me the information a little bit quicker than having to sort of find it out and bumble along by myself. So, I mean, the support networks were there. I just didn't use them probably as effectively early on as what I should have.

Cam Tradell [00:12:27] Yes. And when you were coming through asking people what they will almost help you with regards to that review process is important. When you were doing education and training, did you find that you were able to ask those questions through your courses, etc., or did you find that you did most of your learning when you're out out in the field? In the middle? .

Claire Polosak [00:12:50] Yeah, you can't replace watching balls in the middle to a large extent. And just getting when you when you first start out, just do as many games as you possibly can. I would even head to my local cricket team and standing in there nets during the training sessions just to again, just to listen to the sounds, to watch the ball or to watch what's happening, just to increase the number of balls that I was seeing to to increase the number of experiences that you can put in your backpack so that when you are in the middle of the field, you can pull them out of your backpack or pull them out of your toolkit for things that you've already seen. Because as we know, the more you do something, the easier it gets.

Cam Tradell [00:13:27] I can just imagine you look where you are now and you think about... What a journey.

Claire Polosak [00:13:33] And if you'd have told 16-year-old Claire the opportunities you would have had by the time she was 33, then there's just no way that she would have thought it was possible. So I think it's really exciting to see what comes next, not for me, but for the next generation of officials of any sport coming through with the increased opportunities that are coming around for everybody.

Cam Tradell [00:13:51] I'm so excited for what's happening next, for Claire Polosak, because understanding where you're at and seeing what you've done and the way that you handle yourself on the field, the way you handle players is second to none in this country. And it's something that I genuinely enjoy watching and it honestly adds to my enjoyment when I watch, and I'm certain that that's the case for a lot of other people. Thank you so much for joining us today, Claire. Really appreciate your time.

Claire Polosak [00:14:18] No ,you're very, very welcome.

Cam Tradell [00:14:22] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Carrie Graf Basketball coach
Carrie Graf
Carrie Graf profile photo

Former Australian Basketball Coach, Carrie Graf takes us through how she adapts her coaching styles to different athletes at both the community and elite level and how a one sized fit all approach does not work in coaching. We also explore how coaches and officials work hand in hand and how important both are for the sport ecosystem.

She has won 7 WNBL Championships as Head Coach and coached the Australian Opals in 212 games. In 2015, Carrie was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Carrie Graf

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's Coaching and Officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, it's brilliant to have Carrie Graf join us in the studio, Carrie has coached teams in the WNBL, WNBA and the Australian national team. At the 2015 Australia Day honours, Carrie was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for her significant service to Basketball as a coach, mentor and athlete, as well as to the community. Carrie is going to offer some perspective on things from the athletes point of view and what the athletes are looking for. Thanks very much for joining us.

Carrie Graf [00:01:00] My pleasure.

Cam Tradell [00:01:01] Carrie. Over time, things have definitely changed and definitely moved in sport. But sometimes I feel that some of the areas of sport doesn't move as quickly as others. From an athlete perspective, how do you think things have moved and how do we service that?

Carrie Graf [00:01:17] Well, I mean, I think it's how coaching has moved to service the new, the you know, the current generation of athlete, whether it be community sport and athletes involved at that level or high performance athletes. And I think, you know, certainly in my time or even over the last 20 years, you know, coaching hasn't changed, or the way we coach hasn't changed a whole lot. But I think the young people that we engage with, as coaches, have changed a lot in how they think and how they consume information, in how they they expect to be delivered information. And I think that's a critical part of coaching, is to be, have a currency in the modern way of communicating in an autocrat, not a less autocratic style of delivering information to people, whether that's young people or, you know, 20, 30 year old high performance athletes. I think that's a big part of leading people in in modern times.

Cam Tradell [00:02:16] Yeah, it's interesting because to intrinsically motivate them to turn up next week and whether you're talking about someone at the grassroots or community level, club level or a high performance player who wants to get better and wants to know how to get better, I'm guessing that the way that that's communicated in a meaningful way becomes important. Have you got any tools in the in the kit bag that you use with regard to how you communicate differently. Have you got different ways or how do you test the waters there?

Carrie Graf [00:02:45] I mean, I think certainly for me and I, I lived through this experience as a coach is that as technology became a part of how we all communicate that athletes more and more wanted to communicate in a new way rather than old way, they didn't want to sit and have a face to face conversation with me. They'd rather do it over text, even if you're on the same bus together. So you can either stick to your guns and do it your way, or you can say, hmm, they like it this way. How do we find a mix? So I think that and I think just the use of technology in how we communicate is how our young people are growing up. And I don't think that has to be a dirty word. I think we can embrace technology in our learning spaces. And and even, you know, I started doing things with just using your iPad to video athletes at practise and show them immediately. You don't need high tech stuff. You just pull out the iPad and they can see themselves. And video doesn't lie either. So, you know, for a long time in terms of, you know, high performance level, there's, you know, video analysis and you do a whole session on video. But even at the community level, you can take your own iPad. And while they're doing a shooting drill, pick it up straight away and say, you know how I was telling you that shoot a bit high here. Have a look at this, you're shooting darts, not a beautifully curved, looping three point shot. So I think and they engage in that because they're on screens a whole lot and they understand information that way. So I think that's certainly a way that at any level of coaching, the immediacy of using technology, handheld technology can be powerful in terms of a learning tool and an engagement tool.

Cam Tradell [00:04:15] With that sort of individualised approach. And I guess it comes with pros and cons, the individualised approach with regards to showing people in real time what's happening, how does that work with the flow on effect with regards to trying to build cohesion in teams and sort of putting together the the individualised coaching areas where, as I say, you're given that real time feedback to then working in a broader group. How do you bring that sort of group structure and communicate on that broader style together?

Carrie Graf [00:04:42] I think first and foremost, it's about understanding your people and whether they're six year olds or 26 year olds, whether they're new the sport or whether they're a veteran Olympic athlete. And I think it's you know, one size doesn't fit all in terms of communication style. Not one person stand at the front berating people or directing them to get in the line or to shut up or whatever it might be. It's, you know, I call it,  kind of coach whispering. It's understanding people. And I can look Cam straight in the eye and I can tell him I need him to do this right now. And he goes, yeah, got your coach done. And I can do that to Paul, and he goes into a shell lost, "I'm never going to turn up here again". So I think understanding different learning styles, different communication styles and how your little people or your big people operate with your style is critical to individualising people's engagement in your work as a coach, to have them interact in an environment where they can thrive, you know, socially, mentally, physically and through their motor skill set in their chosen sport.

Cam Tradell [00:05:47] The different ways that people receive information and how they enact it. When you start to talk about performance people, you start to talk about honing in on skills and you're giving them that feedback and they're still not getting there. What's some of the methods that you can use to really target a skill without becoming over technical. What are some of the ways that you soften that, the conversation with them?

Carrie Graf [00:06:11] Well, I think sometimes it's you know, young people can take feedback in a group and some can't. And so I think that's when there's the the pull side or coach whispering that you can deliver it in a different tone and acquired a thing and not call out a skill. And I think it's having the athletes understand that highlighting to them a skill that they may not be performing well is about the skill. It's not about them as a person, just like the learning they do at school. You know, we're going to try it this way. It doesn't mean you're a bad person or I think you're no good at this. It's this skill. Try it this way. Like you're learning to draw. You do a five backwards. How can we try that another way? So I think it's using the language about can we try that a different way, use an analogy rather than a direct approach. What is it that's going to engage and I think you just have to keep trying until you can work out what your little people can grasp. Four of them might learn it. Well, let's have a look at this, everybody, and we'll give an example of how to do it for four people are wandered off with the Pixies and looking at something else. Let's get in line and I'm going to show you exactly how to demonstrate this to other people. Get it. The other five like this is boring. So I think you have to try different methods to get there's not you can't do it. You can't run a training session or a fun environment just one way. I think there has to be experiential learning. It's through trial and error. Here's a couple of rules. Let's go play. Let's keep it open. The creative people love that. The structured people like, "Can you tell us when we start? When do we finish? What's the score? When do we go? Can I use my left foot, my right foot." They're lost in a creative environment, but the creatives need it. So I think throughout a training session or a sports session, their needs to be all of those catered to. Here's some structure and here are the rules and the guidelines. Here's some free play. We want to be creative. Off you go. There's two rules. Let's play. Here's a physical part. We're all following the rules. We're going to run ten lines, we are going to touch the ball this way. So I think there needs to be all of those elements to try and cater to the group. You're not going to catch twenty, thirty little people, by one way. And I think that's the you know, that's the art of coaching and teaching.

Cam Tradell [00:08:16] It's a great way of putting it, the art of coaching and teaching. And I think that when you're looking at the different layers, I'm guessing that it can become quite confronting for some new coaches coming in that are thinking, I just want to come and teach the sport. And now I've got all these other layers of complexity with regards to how I service. What sort of support do you think? And what are the ways that people could navigate their way around if they do have a problem in front of them. What have you done in the past when you sort of had that little bit of a gap?

Carrie Graf [00:08:49] I mean, I think for me, my journey into coaching was in some ways blessed. You know, I grew up with two school teacher parents, so and I have a degree in sports science education. So I was sort of equipped, you know, and I played at the elite level as a young person and was coached by a whole lot of different coaching styles, mostly men. But I was equipped and I'd seen teaching in action throughout my family life. And if you were a kid that was sick in our family, you didn't not get to go to school. You went to your parents school and you actually saw them in action. So I guess I, I came from a place of understanding how to engage groups of people. And the position I played was a leading position, point guard. So it was a directive role and I wasn't a fast athlete, so I had to strategize. So I was sort of equipped, I think, through my sporting career in my family life and upbringing, education about some of those things that I later realised, wow they're actual coaching skills that I'd sort of learnt by osmosis. But I think you can seek those out through coaching courses, modern coaching courses. And a lot of it now is about people engagement. And I think, you know, often our coaches at the community level, we have the sport, knowledge and expertise. We know the technicalities of how to kick the ball or strike the ball or shoot the ball. But what we might not have through our professional life is are those you know, I won't call them soft skills because it implies that they're less important. But those people skills that are so critical to helping people extract performance from themself or enjoy their performance. So I think that that would be where I'd I'd go is that if I can manage and lead people, I can coach because I've got the technical part about the game. I know that part. I'm an expert in that. But what I don't know is how to control these 30 kids. Oh, my God, what do I do? And I think not to have the fear around it often if we're not comfortable, we go to so much structure. It's not funny. And that's probably the worst thing we can do, because that's not fun for many people and for little people that they're like, really, we've got to stand in another line and we don't get a turn for ten minutes. I wouldn't turn up to that either. I've seen coaches. I'm like, let them all have a touch. Give them all the ball. Yes, it's chaotic, but guess what? That's fun. Chaos is fun. And through chaos, we learn. So and let's be honest, you know, team sport environment. So the high performance level are organised chaos. It's the chaos. It's the learnings we have through playing in chaos that allow us in a pressure situation to make practise decisions in chaotic circumstance. And I think that defines greatness in team sports that can in chaotic situations, we can structure as much as we like. But guess what? Team sports, it isn't structured. You've got to be able to make it up right on the spot under pressure in a big game with one second to go. We can't practise exactly that, but we can create a chaotic environment that allows you to navigate through that with all that duress on you. And I think you can do that. And that's where that chaotic trial and error learning for young kids in developing sport skills is so critical. And it's the coach's role to undo that control bit that we all feel. If I can keep him organised in control, I'm okay. But we have to be open in that space to let it be chaotic. It's okay.

Cam Tradell [00:12:19] It's amazing insight.  Off the back of that, just changing tact a little bit. How important do you see the role of the official with regards to how they create, communicate and how they can set the tone for what sport looks like at all levels?

Carrie Graf [00:12:34] Without officials? There is no sport. And I think certainly first and foremost, it's a huge role of the coach to set an example about how the culture around refereeing and what's okay. It's not okay to abuse a referee. It's not okay to not treat them with respect, as you would a coaching colleague, a parent or one of the athletes that you coaching. And I think the change has to come from the coaching fraternity in terms of the culture of what's how we treat refereeing. And I think it's you know, it's part of the building culture of all sports that, you know, wraping this culture and officiating that says it's not okay to speak to a referee in certain way and that we're we're role modelling to our young people involved in sports that that's okay. Blame somebody. Well, let's start here. Let's check out our own backyard first. So, Coach, what are you focussed on? I'm focussed on creating an environment that my athletes enjoy, have fun in, develop social skills in, learn to win and lose, learn to handle adversity, learn to be persistent. That's my job as a coach, regardless of what the level is. My job is not to say anything to the referee other than great job ref. I might say in my mind, interesting call, but guess what, coach the referees think an interesting call. Why do you call that timeout? You know, we're all a part of this coaching infrastructure and community and it's everyone's responsibility. But I think, you know, officiating is critical to our sports development. And I officiated as a as a young elite player, I wouldn't want to do that today with what happens still at community level sport. Why would I want to do that and get abused by a parent yelling at me when I'm 14? So I think that's a huge part of our community sports that we need to change the culture and the environment around how officials are treated. They are a critical element. And I think the best officials at at all levels of sport are ones just like coaches that have great people skills, that can communicate, that understand the game, understand the pressures. Yes, they understand the technicalities of how to blow whistle and what signals to call and make a decision on a play. But they can communicate with the other stakeholders in that environment. The young people that are playing, you know, as young referees, they should be coaching the athletes, too, is my belief. I used to, I'd coach, referee under tens and coach him at the same time. That was a travel because you did X, Y, Z, he'd have another turn. So I think they're critically important to our whole sport system.

Cam Tradell [00:15:03] It's really interesting because officials don't get called into play until a player in the game makes a mistake and immediately we start to question the call. So the officials scrutinised, but sometimes the players aren't scrutinised at the same level. So it's interesting that the human nature of sport takes over. Carrie, this has been a fantastic session. We really, really appreciate it. There's a lot for people to take away in that around, one, you personal experience, but also in what the future might look like with regards to how we can create these optimal learning environments. Thanks very much for joining us.

Carrie Graf [00:15:34] My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:15:39] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at  My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Listen to Amy Perrett Rugby referee
Amy Perrett
Amy Perrett portrait photo

Amy Perrett made history by becoming the first female to referee a Super Rugby game. Amy takes us through how she manages the pressure of being a professional Referee, her process of making decisions during games, reviewing games post-match and how she learns from her mistakes.

Amy Perrett is a full-time Rugby Referee and Referee Development Officer with Rugby Australia. She has been an official referee for nineteen years, becoming professional in 2016. Amy is the first female to referee a Super Rugby game. She is currently heading to her second Olympics to referee at Tokyo 2020.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Amy Perrett

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and l am the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. In this episode, we dive into the world of officiating with Rugby Union referee Amy Perrett, Amy has officiated at the Women's World Sevens Series, the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the Women's World Cup Rugby final in 2014 and will officiate at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. In 2020, Amy became the first female to take charge with the whistle in a Super Rugby match. Welcome, Amy. How are you?

Amy Perrett [00:00:57] I'm really good. Thanks for having me on the podcast.

Cam Tradell [00:00:59] Fantastic. Thank you. Amy, I'll be really interested to understand, knowing that you have refereed at all levels and seeing you at the Super Rugby level. Do you have a process or what are your processes with regards to making decisions and basing them on what you see and how do you navigate through decision making.

Amy Perrett [00:01:19] Decision making now that I've been refereeing now for 18, 19 years or so. At the moment now it's all based on gut instinct, but to kind of get to that stage, you go through a lot of different things from where you start to when you get to elite. In Rugby, we have checklists for everything because, you know, so much is going on in the tackle or ruck. An average family who doesn't know rugby will probably think what is happening there. But, so we formulate these kind of checklists and they give us a process of what we need to look at each stage of a tackle, of a ruck, of the maul, or the lineout, all the different aspects of the game and as you are learning and developing those kind of decision making skills. They're the things that you going over at each phase. And the more experience you get, the better you get at it. What starts to become that gut feel, that potential kind of decision making mode. Once you figure all that out, it's funny because you start seeing refs then show that they know everything and probably over penalising and become way too technical. So once you realise you come to that stage and you blow 40 penalties in a game, most of the crowd kind of let you know that that's not what they want. We go through it like another stage and talk about making relevant decision. So, again, we can be very technical. I'm sure in any breakdown you could find a penalty that you want, but then we start talking about making a relevant decision. So is that a fair contest then? An even fair contest? That's good. Then we can kind of we can play away from that minor infringement. Is the ball quick? Is the team in attack able to get the ball as quick as they can if they can. And we say, OK, we can play away from that infringement. They are, I guess the two key things that we kind of, talk about, whether it is a fair contest, whether the speed of the ball's been affected and they now come into play around a relevant decision making. And I said the longer you kind of do it, it starts to become more of a gut instinct. And I don't know how many times I've overthought a decision and didn't trust my gut and I ended up being wrong. So that's kind of now what I kind of fall back on. You've always just kind of got the experience of all different styles and types of games to kind of get me that experience to just kind of trust those gut instincts. And there'll be times that I'm wrong. And that's OK, because that's another big part of our decision making process, and the journey to get to where you need to be because you learn from those mistakes and in Rugby,  some really weird stuff happens. And it might only happen once in your whole career, but you learn from it and you move on and figure out a different way so that you prepare for it again or it actually doesn't happen again, or you can pass it on to someone else so it doesn't happen to them or they are well prepared for it as well. And then when you get to the Super Rugby level, you just kind of have to be really confident. As you said, there's a lot of pressure coming at you from the crowd because they can watch a big screen, there is commentators and don't necessarily agree with your decision. Players and coaches are giving their two cents. So, again, just having confidence in yourself to be able to say, OK, this is what I'm seeing, right or wrong, this is how I'm going to call it, and then just move on. And most of the time, you actually are correct. I think that just having that confidence when going to get to that point, once you go through all these different phases, you get to the stage where you can back that. So if it doesn't happen overnight, you will go through this and it's those kind of stages in decision making before you can get to that stage with the confidence. And then you can trust your gut and practices.

Cam Tradell [00:05:44] It's interesting that you talk about the stages, because having that feel for the game becomes really important. And it's when you're looking at the impact of an infringement versus the severity, if you know what I mean. And I like that you talk about it's a real feel. I think there's a lot in that.

Amy Perrett [00:06:01] Yeah. And definitely you don’t just have to have a feel for the game when you get to the professional level. Having a feel for the game is so important at community level. Understanding what the players are trying to get out of out of the game and most of the time, they just want to have fun, play the game with their mates and have a game that can move and not stop and start all the time. So again, like I said, normally when we are refereeing community Rugby, we don't go to that stage and try to prove that we know everything and what those 40 odd penalties in a game which is just way too much. It's really important more so at that community level that you understand that, that you get that flow, let the guys play. You don't have to be perfect and they'll appreciate that better. And overall, I think everyone plays and spectates will have a better experience.

Cam Tradell [00:06:53] You talked a bit there about your communication and the different stakeholders that you need to communicate with.  On the field, you're a very clear communicator. How did you hone those skills, to be precise, to make a call, to communicate well? And then what's some of the other ways that you need to communicate? I'm guessing that after games or in reviews, you've got coaches that may come and ask questions. How do you best find your method or your way of communicating? And how effective do you find that you are in your communication?

Amy Perrett [00:07:28] Communication is a big part of the journey. When you start, you probably don't say a lot. Because you don’t know what’s happening. So its best to say nothing at all, But then again, as you move on, you start commentating the game and talk too much and then you start to learn when players respond, when they don't, depending on what kind of things you might say. And I found along the way this being really short, sharp and to the point is the best thing for players and at the outside spectators around the field, because if you walk along and over-explain something, particularly when people are under fatigue, the ref, like myself might not make sense because I'm tired. The players just probably just don't understand what you said. So if you just keep it two to one or two really simple messages, they have a far better impact on the game than commentating throughout the whole game or saying nothing at all. And it's about picking when you come in and when you need to stay out. You only want to come in when you have to actually have to manage a play and you think we'll get an outcome. There's no point saying stuff if you know you're not going to get the outcome, the desire the probably just going to give a penalty anyway or they've actually done the right thing and you just don't need to say anything at all. And you said the one big thing I found that's helped my communications is refereeing seven's. There's not a lot of time to talk so when you do get that opportunity, it has to be relevant and impactful for people to understand and get those kind of changes that you want to see. So I feel like that's been playing a huge part in where I've got now. Another thing like the first time I heard myself, a community that I think I was doing, a woman, a women's national tournament. And the first time I'd seen footage and heard myself. And it's a very uncomfortable moment with this, you know, you hear yourself refereeing because you just don't realise what you say and how often. And even just the tone of your voice you don't realise it's like that. So you learn from it where you can and listening back to to your conversations, to your tone of voice when you decided to say something, when you didn't and whether that was the right thing at that time of the game. And then communication like post match and coaches can always be a little bit tricky, depending on how the game went. And pretty much the only thing these things the other team were doing wrong, just to put those kind of images in your head and could manipulate me the way potentially. I think that might be the intention. And then post match, now you've got to really think about how you how you talked to a coach after the game. You don't want to put yourself in a corner or the next time you might say something the week after where you promised you wouldn't do. This is really it's a bit of a chess match, almost a bit of an arm wrestle still post much to communicate because there'll be times where they're just venting because they probably under pressure. You've got to understand that and not get overly offended and it's nothing personal, just part of the job. But there are times when you need to just back yourself. And this decision was correct for these reasons and it's a bit of an arm wrestle. And what I find helps is my referee coach, so the person I trust to be able to tell me or to assist me when I review the game this. I'm pretty good. I like reviewing games of around decisions, but not scrums always. That's one area that I'm never one hundred percent confident. I always seek help to make sure I got my decision making right, but around a tackle, I know that kind of area, you know for me, I can sit and review and I go, I got that one wrong or I got that one right so I don't really need extra eyes for that. Where I do need my coach is around those interactions with players and understanding the flow, or dominance, rewarding things being dominant around the game. But whether I set up the game so that it could get that nice flow and open rugby towards the back end and let players do their thing, I didn't have to come in. So it's those kind different aspects I'd go to my referee coach and talk to him about.

Cam Tradell [00:12:23] It's so important to have that sounding board. And it sounds like you've got great self-awareness and self reflection. But to have those extra set of eyes on those areas that you're unsure, I mean, maybe the gaps or where you could improve and be better, that's really interesting that you rely on it heavily, too.

Amy Perrett [00:12:39] Yeah, definitely. I think in all stages, like, no one's perfect and you always have to have that growth mindset and you have to know you're constantly learning something new each game and you're learning a new challenge and you kind of got to embrace if you want to get better, it's never going to be perfect. And there's always something that you can work on for the next game and having that person to kind of bounces those ideas off and it helps you kind of reach those goals that we need to make, because if you're just doing it on the run, you might not realise you do something. It could just be a tiny little fix and it can improve your game.

Cam Tradell [00:13:16] Entering into anything with the growth mindset if fantastic. Shifting gears a little bit. You've been referring fifteens at Super Rugby. And changing gears now to Sevens Rugby, having been appointed to officiate at the Olympics, how do you manage the two of those? Because they're two fairly distinct sports or fairly different sports. Even though the skills are the same, it's a different pace and a different mindset. How do you go about swapping between the two sports, especially at the elite level?

Amy Perrett [00:13:43] Yeah, it's something I think everyone struggles with, even the players coming back. For me, I find it harder to come back into the fifteens, sevens again I think sevens comes more natural and comfortable. It suits the style of my personality, I think, because I actually don't like going up and having to talk to people all the time on the field or do the pre-match where the sevens, I don't have to say much, I can just blow my whistle, move on. The game doesn't last too long. I can reflect straightaway on that game because then I have another game in about an hour or two hours, so I'm not sitting on something for a whole week, overthinking things that I did in the game. I can just get straight into it and move on. But I think the key things that are different and can be very difficult in decision making in sevens is very black and white that we don't operate in that grey area. You've been infringed or you haven't. And there's not a lot of management. So you see something, you generally just penalise and move on. And it's good because the players accept that as well. What they want to do is they just want to take a quick tap and move on. There is no kind of argument or like I said, there's not really that chess match or that arm wrestle with captains that you are trying to deal with. We could try to work with it either way and everyone is trying to manipulate to their advantage. So when I come back into fifteens, what I really try and focus on is making those relevant decisions, taking a breath before I call something, because the instinct is to just put my whistle to my mouth and blow a penalty. And so it's just taking that extra half a second just to see what happens, whether I can play away from something or whether I blow that penalty then and there so it takes a few weeks to kind of get that feel back, like if it's sevens it's that start and stop, not a lot of flow because if you do blow a lot of penalties you might blow ten penalties in 14 minutes, which is a lot. Whilst in fifteens you wouldn't dare to do that once you start giving out all the cards and then the spotlight coming on you, which is again, something you don't really want so for me it takes a few. Even the number of people on the field can be quite difficult around a tackle or a ruck because when it's one on one, very easy to see what's happening. So when got three of four people diving into something, you kind of get a bit lost sometimes. And then that makes you uncomfortable. Sometimes when you're uncomfortable, that's when you revert to what you know, and that probably shouldn't happen. So yeah, just being really that I just need to take my time, get the feel for the game, don't impose myself too much. And in the first ten minutes I start to get that feel back in and they'll still be a few decisions that I will get and review, and, you know, I didn't need to call them, I'm a little bit pedantic with sevens penalty, but yeah, just reflecting on that during the game and after and hopefully the next week, I'm a bit better get a bit more flow.

Cam Tradell [00:17:18] Amy, thanks very much for your time this afternoon and sharing your insights. Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Listen to Lauren Burns OAM Taekwondo
Lauren Burns OAM
Lauren Burns OAM

Sydney 2000 Olympic Taekwondo Gold Medallist and researcher, Lauren Burns OAM, talks of the dynamic interplay between psychology, performance, relationships and lifestyle when it comes to coaching and knowing when to challenge and stretch elite athletes so they can rise to the challenge of an Olympic Games or winning a Gold Medal.

Lauren Burns OAM, won the first Olympic Gold Medal in Taekwondo, when the sport made its debut at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Post her Taekwondo career, Lauren has worked as a speaker, author, naturopath, and academic studies. In 2017 she was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Lauren Burns

Introduction [00:00:00] This episode contains references to issues that some athletes and people in high performance sport may find troubling. If you need support, reach out to confidential services such as AIS Be Heard and the AIS Mental Health Referral Network. Details can be found on the AIS website

Cam Tradell [00:00:21] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and i am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. We're pleased to have Lauren Burns join us today. Lauren won an Olympic gold medal in taekwondo when the sport made its debut in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Lauren is currently working with the AIS Gold Medal Ready program, assisting athletes preparing for Tokyo and Paris. She is currently completing her PhD in lifestyle practises and mindset of elite athletes, and has published papers of her work in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Welcome, Lauren. It's great to have you on the line.

Lauren Burns [00:01:18] Thanks so much for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:01:21] Interesting journey for you, and I know from winning a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics to where you are today and publishing research papers. I'd be really keen to understand. But what are your research papers? You know, what are they really about? And what was the motivation to actually duck diving down into your subject area?

Lauren Burns [00:01:40] Well, it's funny you ask what the motivation was, because I think with research, it never really well, you don't always go where you first set off to to go. So I my background is I'm also a naturopath and nutritionist, and I was actually looking at doing a clinical trial on organic food and how that impacted athletes. So basically, whether, you know, eating pesticides could impact cognitive function, reaction time, performance, that sort of thing. So that was where we started that we ended up not getting the funding for that trial, and I don't know, I think one day maybe I'll do that. So as part of looking at at food, we were also looking at lifestyle. And that was kind of the umbrella to sort of when you look at the research with athletes, there's a lot out there and a lot of it is sort of broken down into different areas. And they sort of, you know, they silos and, you know, you might have all the sports psychology research and then you got all the biomechanics or the physiology and the nutrition. You know, they're huge. That fit a lifestyle as a holistic framework is not really looked at. So I guess to start with, I decided to go to the top and I chose, you know, Olympic and Paralympic gold, medal winning athletes or world championships, depending on the benchmark of their sport. So, you know, some some sports don't have Olympics like surfing, for example. I has people like Layne Beachley, Ian Thorpe, Russel Mark, Kerri Pottharst, Jackie Cooper, like these incredible athletes. And I purposely sampled them so I had a real cross-section of individual athletes, team sports, in a small team or a team as a big team, so I have Chole Dalton from Rugby Sevens. Combat Sports. I had Carmen Marton who's the world champion in taekwondo. So I had this real cross-section. And really we were just, you know, Cathy Freeman asking what, you know, what do you do with your life? How what did you think? What did you attribute your success? What did you think impacted your performance? Negatively, positively? There were very open ended questions and we didn't really know where we were going to go from that. So it was it was actually fabulous. And I think when I first retired myself from elite competition, I didn't really want anything to do with high performance sport. I didn't think I certainly didn't think I'd be doing research. But coming full circle. I've just you know, I really enjoyed this process and especially seeing some of the results that have come come from it. And then we did a larger study, a survey which we surveyed Australian athletes from podium to emerging athlete. But that was also another they all kind of actually supported the findings that were in our initial study.

Cam Tradell [00:04:27] That's interesting. You sort of started to talk about, you know, some of the positives and some of the negatives. Were there common traits coming through with regards to absolute imperatives at the at the development years of athletes that came through is just being key and core to their success?

Lauren Burns [00:04:44] Well, I think, you know, intrinsic motivation, unstructured play a really big markers in development. We didn't really ask a lot about there wasn't a lot about upbringing necessarily. Someone more like, you know, obviously naturally gifted. I mean, Russell Mark talks about like to throw anything in the air and he can shoot it. Like he was just sort of born with that ability and others sort of had to work a lot more.  But that intrinsic motivation was certainly something that was cultivated and developed in all those athletes. It was really apparent. So psychological attributes were just outstanding. So that realistic optimism, resilience, that ability to be knowledge seekers, going out, finding anything, leaving no stone unturned, being really resourceful. That intrinsic motivation by all of those attributes were really strong. And then there were these other elements. So it was really this those psychological attributes, the performance strategies, which obviously we're talking once you talk to athletes at that level, they sort of you know, it's not about their skill necessarily or their talent. I mean, those things are a given. They've worked so hard to get to that point that that's really well established. Then the lifestyle practises, which is something, again, that I as I mentioned, it wasn't really where I thought I was going to go, but that was quite, quite fascinating. And then I think the thing that really stood out to me was the importance of interpersonal relationships and how that can attenuate stress and how intrinsic that is to to performance and those four elements of psychology, performance, relationships and lifestyle, it's like there's a there's this it's like a dynamic interplay. So those elements are like a tilt of where the athlete needs to lean into those areas more. And that's something that's about and is very, very apparent with that mastery level athlete, because it's about their ability to self regulate and to be able to lean into that, like to be able to get those psychological skills to draw on their knowledge in that space and or do they need to go and catch up with a friend and have a laugh or, you know, talk to the coach or hang out with, you know, go to their parents for dinner and, you know, like those. So that's something that those athletes that are at that top level have really they know themselves so well that they're able to do that without really thinking. And that's sort of where, you know, you want to get to in that space is being able to move between those elements.

Cam Tradell [00:07:23] That's really interesting. Did anything come out in your research that talks about, you know, where people do go when they want to get that help and support?

Lauren Burns [00:07:30] In terms of a positive way to motivate people, is this level of challenge and support and I haven't written about that a lot in my papers, but I certainly wrote quite extensively on it in my thesis. And its that level of being able to to challenge someone you want people to stretch. And we're talking about, you know, if you're going to the Olympic Games or you're going for a gold medal, you need to rise to that occasion so that the athletes want be challenged, the coach wants to challenge them. And so you want people to grow and you want them to stretch that they need to do that and have the need to have that respectful environment, and to be able to, you know, have the support backing there as well and to feel like they were supported and I know with me, my coach, my club coach, like he always pushed me and challenged me, especially mentally in ways that I never thought that I could grow. But I always knew he had my back. And he was he had my best interests at heart. And I could say to him, this is too much. Or, you know, I always felt like there was a really open dialogue. But, you know, I think there's also there's just human decency as well, like just being a good person, you know, just and being, you know, getting the best out of someone is not, you know, putting them down or making them feel less than or,  yeah about, you know, specific body characteristics or anything like that. So that that can be quite damaging for life, and one of the things that when I was writing up the paper about the I wrote an editorial piece about interpersonal relationships specifically that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. So I can give that to you. I can give it to you and you can share it with your listeners. But one of the things that we that I highlighted in that paper is that unfortunately, and this is in the world, but certainly in Australia as well as athletes, progress along their journey, as the higher they get in the performance pathway, the higher chance there is of bullying, ostracism, violence, sexual assault, all kinds of abuse, harassment, coercion. Now, that's really unfortunate. So it is topical. And, you know, this is great. We're having these kinds of conversations at the moment because those things shouldn't be happening. And, you know, you think about our kids and we, you know, have great community involvement, that kids go up and play sport and they get involved in teams. And if they want to progress, they go further and, you know, and then they get into this little hamster wheel of a elite sport and you don't want them to have all of those things happen. So I guess part of putting that in the editorial is that we need to speak about this and to, you know, keep talking about it until it's not there anymore. And there's a lot of things that we can put in place to to educate our coaches and support staff and people that are around the athletes, because that's one of the things that we found was highly important. And the athletes, you know, said that they often valued some of the support staff more than they did the coach, so you know the massure, the physio, the people that are travelling. And, you know, I think there's a lot in that. But when I was thinking about that, it wasn't just that the massure was a nice person, but they were human touch, there's regularity. Often the massure's travelling with them, or they're seeing them every day. And there's also a sense of, you know, there might be some more power dynamics with the coach where you've got selection or whatever that might be going on. It's a little bit more high pressure. And when an athlete is just sitting, lying on the table or getting their ankles strapped by the physio, whatever, they can just chat. And so I think these you know, these service providers, you know, they have a great role to play in performance. So and, you know, a lot of the some of the work that I was drawing on when I wrote this piece and I talk about it in the article, is how, you know, quality relationships, so people that you feel comfortable with, they don't have to be, you know its not a Disney. It's not all utopic, but those people that you can be real, authentic self with, they actually being around them, are staying in close proximity, can lower cortisol levels. And a lot of your stress markers will come down to just being near someone which, you know, we kind of all know, like we have good friends that you just hang out with. You feel great just being with them or, you know, you "oh I'm so glad we caught up." it was awesome seeing them, I just feel, you know, they just lift you and, you know, people are like that. We made that human connection.

Cam Tradell [00:12:10] When you talk about that, I think about the role that that community has to to service that with regards to providing athletes, players, participants with that ability to if they do need to talk, they do need help. They do need support, is that it can almost cultivate athletes and condition them so that for the one percent that actually get up to podium performance level or, you know, the small percentage that if we can arm athletes and participants with the tools to navigate through that of they are faced with something like that, I think that becomes very, very powerful with regards to, you know, regaining their power in situations that you're talking about.

Lauren Burns [00:12:51] That's right. And one of the great things about sport is that many of the skills that you learn while you're playing sport or you're involved in, you know, a community level, grassroots, whatever level of sport and recreation, those skills are relevant in so many different areas. So, you know, it's not just getting someone to compete at a mastery level or an Olympic Games or world championships. It's also, you know, this is about growing our community and our culture and keeping people active. And, you know, so there's so many elements to along that pathway that if we can support people and provide skills and it, you know, for their health and wellbeing and, you know, there's just so many benefits, really. So we don't want people having a bad experience and stopping it. And then they always have this negative association with board or the coach so that they don't want to go back to that. But that's not good.

Cam Tradell [00:13:53] I like what you said before. It's about that community cohesion as well, about sort of reflecting your community and reflecting who you want to be so aspirationally you might not want to play for Australia. That might not be what you want to be aspirationally, but you want to be a better person. You want to be better yourself and sports a great conduit for it.

Lauren Burns [00:14:10] Yeah. And we talk talking in the Gold Medal Ready program. We talk about experiential avoidance and, you know, reminding athletes of that it is our job as human nature is that as we get towards something that's harder, we our mind is like go back, don't do this. It's hard. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't like it, you know, but to do any of those great things in life like to finish your degree or to finish running a half marathon or maths or whatever it might be, you have to move. You have to lean into that discomfort. And that's where that coaches and support teams can be really influential and team-mates and, you know, social scaffold. But, you know, those things, you know, sports is such a nice parallel for it. It because, you know, I mean, I took my son got his black gold in taekwondo and, you know, there was times when he didn't want to do it. And that's what he pushed through and he got it. And so now that can be well, you didn't want to do this. And it's the same with you know homework or, you know, study or finishing your work or getting a submission or whatever it might be that you're doing it. Sometimes we have to just lean into that discomfort a little bit, and that's when we grow and we stretch.

Cam Tradell [00:15:24] Fantastic. Lauren, thank you so much. We really, really appreciate your time this afternoon. It's always good to catch up and talk. Really appreciate you've given us a lot to think about there. And thank you so much. Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating, or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Traddell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Disclaimer [00:15:57] If you need support, reach out to confidential services such as AIS Be Heard and the AIS Mental Health Referral Network, details can be found on the AIS website.


This episode contains references to topics some athletes and persons involved in high performance sport may find troubling. If you need support, confidential services are available such as AIS Be Heard and the AIS Mental Health Referral Network

Listen to Brad Donald Jillaroos Head Coach
Brad Donald
Brad Donald portrait photo

Jillaroos Head Coach, Brad Donald takes us through the development of Women’s Rugby League teams and the important role female coaching staff have to play in the game and its development. We also take a look at the diversity of women’s playing skills in sport, often developing from playing exposure across multiple sports at a community level.

After mentoring many teams through the Canberra Raiders pathway, he moved to South East QLD to oversee the integration of Game Development staff in QLD, where he spent time as the QLD Coaching and Development Manager, as well as mentoring the QLD Women’s Team for 5 years, continuing QLD’s domination to 17 years in a row.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Brad Donald

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:07] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's Coaching and Officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, I'm joined by Brad Donald, who has held many coaching and administrative roles over the last 20 years with the National Rugby League, including Game Development Manager, Elite Pathways Manager and the Head Coach of the JILLAROOS, the Australian National Rugby League women's side. Brad, I'm really keen on getting an understanding from you of now coaching females who are coming through the system. They're coming in from multisport backgrounds. Have you noticed that the skill levels are different or that they've got a lot to offer rugby league?

Brad Donald [00:01:03] Oh, most definitely. I think one of the one of the things that happened when I transitioned across to the female side of rugby league, a lot of my mates and players and people involved in the game, the first thing they say is, oh, gee, the females are so much more skilful now. I think they're a little bit forgiving in terms of, you know, we make, the women seem to make more mistakes than what our guys do. But you'll see more players that can kick or can pass or and traditionally they've come from, say, 360 degree sports. Soccer where where there's a number, everybody has to kick in soccer, netball, basketball, AFL. And that holds them in really good stead. They basically come with a whole range of skills. And I think it's a it's a really prime time to be a female athlete, because if you're a good athlete and you and you've got all those skills, you can pretty much try everything. It's something that we encourage amongst our male sports. And I've even heard like in the US where, you know, they've they've picked kids way too young to participate in one sport and sort of, you know, mums and dads have pushed those kids to to be Baseballers and put them in the in the batting nets for, you know, six, seven, eight years of their life. But they haven't had the opportunity to try other sports because they, you know, haven't hedged their bets at all. And the poor kids haven't had that experience. So when they get to universities and they get the colleges, I know that they're encouraging them to play other sports as part of their as part of their development. So we've been really fortunate. I can just think in the past we've had players like Julia Robinson, who has come across from state netball and a year later is playing for the Jillaroos. Meg Ward, who's been a soccer player and played at representative level. We've had junior jillaroos sorry, the Socceroos or the Matildas. Sorry, we've had we've had players, part of the Matildas program that have played for Australia one and two years later. So it's most definitely great that they can show up with with such great skill set. And it's great that there's so many opportunities for females to participate in all their sports now.

Cam Tradell [00:03:13] Yeah, that's brilliant. Is there a process that you've got in place or is that is it maybe not a set process, but a way that you go about coaching them to hone their skills? So if they're coming from netball or they're coming from another sport, how do you identify what it is that they can do? And then how do you sort of bring them on the journey to utilising those skills into Rugby League?

Brad Donald [00:03:35] Yeah, I think it's like there's a couple of different processes and and it's all part of the pathway. So we have things like talent ID days, identification days where we we test the strength, we test the speed, we test the aerobic capacity of of players. But it's when you get when you get a player that might have a great offload, like we've got a shot putter in our team that was, you know, close to getting Commonwealth Games selection. And she's big and strong and she has an unbelievable offload. So like more so than, look we definitely want to hone the skills and and teach them the traditional skills and things that would teach them in Rugby League. But it's also about seeing what else they bring to the table. So it's a really great time to be a coach in this female space because we can utilise their skills. I think about I just spoke before about Julia Robinson. Like I've never seen a female player that can move while the balls in the air so she can put herself in this space, but catch the ball outside of it. But that's come from a netball background. And, you know, I think we've seen we've seen instances of that in the male game even recently in the NRL. And people are going, wow. And and I think that's the things that we've got to look for as coaches when we bring in players across from other sports.

Cam Tradell [00:04:48] When you're pulling these teams together, I mean, you being the national Jillaroos Coach and you're pulling them from different systems and different franchises or, you know, from the state systems, et cetera, how do you go about meshing that or gelling that with their skills from their states and so on? How do you jel that into a team that's cohesive and makes sense for at the Australian level?

Brad Donald [00:05:10] I think it's really like it's a privileged position to be in and and me understanding that, our staff understanding that and then every player that comes into that environment, understanding that like this is a national jersey. It's the you are the best player at that current time in Australia. That's why you've been selected. So that team or any other team, I think it's it's really a. Important for the players to understand why, and I like why is why is that Jersey there? So we talk a lot about the history. The Jillaroos first match was in 1995. There was a there was an Australian team that was put together in 1993. The history isn't that long. It's not like the Kangaroos back to 1908, but we talk a lot about the history of the jersey, what the players went went through before. And part of bringing the team together I think is especially with what I've found with females is, that they are socially connected differently to guys. There's less of a hierarchy. So I find it really beneficial for every player to sort of talk a little bit about their story, what brought them to the national jersey. And and we probably go through that once a year. And we've got new new players that come in into the system every year. So it's really, really important that everybody understands the journey of all their mates. And and when you get in that environment and you hear about the person opposite you in the circle and how they got to be part of the jillaroos system, it makes you want to do more. It makes us as coaches want to do more for every single one of those players. So I know it bonds and connects the players. And it also makes the jersey a much more stronger commodity within that group as well. And the understanding of what it meant from everyone that pulled it on in 1993 to those players that have pulled it on and taken the field in that match.

Cam Tradell [00:06:57] The piece around mentoring and your role as a coach, knowing that the NRL have just appointed two females in the states spaces. How many females have been appointed in the state space now?

Brad Donald [00:07:08] Yeah, so we've got female coaches in both the New South Wales and Queensland Origin teams, which is a fantastic move for the game having these ladies. They've been in the system for a very long time. We don't have a great deal of female coaches traditionally, which is a shame. And it's part of our role to make sure that we do empower. Now, we've got a number of ex-players which are a very clever and know the game very well. And it just comes back to my previous point about having that confidence. And they've definitely got the competence, but having the confidence to step up and be the Head Coach where there's there's a lot of pressure. It's just so great to see that. And we've got Kylie Hiller as the New South Wales Head Coach Tahnee Norriss, the Queensland State of Origin Head Coach this year would be really great to see those guys do battle later in the year.

Cam Tradell [00:07:52] What's your relationship with them as you're coming through? How do you work with those two coaches as they're coming through?

Brad Donald [00:07:59] Yeah, it's really important that we work with them. I've been fortunate enough to coach both of them in some capacity over the last couple of years anyway. But, you know, Tahnee, a fair while ago and Kylie more recently, but making sure that we offer our skills and experience as well as learning from those guys because they've got a lot to offer as well. And I could honestly say that I've learnt just from them in the last couple of years or even more recently, just in their short time, like Kylie, short time in the game as a coach. But I think it's a really important ingredient that, it's really hard to have a full male coaching staff with a with a team of females. And there's so many examples of we think we understand, but we don't. And and that's why it's always it's great to see some female Head Coaches now who can temper how they're the rest of the females are actually feeling within that group. So I think the balance is good if you've got a female om staff. But it's even better now to see that we've got some female Head Coaches that have been produced.

Cam Tradell [00:09:03] Brad, I'd be really interested to know what's the NRL vision for Women's Rugby League.

Brad Donald [00:09:08] Yeah, look, I think this is all sports are looking at this at the moment. And I'll just sort of quickly touch on why I got involved. It was about ten years ago, I'd move to Queensland and I got asked to help a female team and it was a team to go to the state championships. And I went down and I was fortunate enough to coach about six or seven just in this one session, six or seven ladies that had played at the top of the game for ten, twelve, thirteen years. You know, this is the Tahnee Norriss', Karen Murphy's, Nat Dwyer's. And what I picked up straight away was that we hadn't looked after the game at all. And these ladies, I talked about a video session and they'd never heard of that before. So I had this great sense of responsibility personally from from this point. And I know it had I knew there were other people in the building that had started talking about female rugby league who felt exactly the same way. And it wasn't too long before it ended up on the NRL's agenda. I was an employee at the NRL at the time, and before long we'd started to put together a strategy. And I think if we look at that strategy now, we've got a we've got a a pathway strategy nationally, which matches our boys. It's going to take us a little bit of time. And we've tried to expedite that. We've got a an under 19's National Championship happening this year. So every player from every state in Australia has access to that. It'll be bringing together two hundred and eighty of the best female Rugby League players into one venue, which has never been done before, and I think what we need to do, it's a basic philosophy at the NRL, whatever is offered to males is offered to females. And we've got to make sure that we can do that in every aspect of our game, from being a participant to a coach to sports trainer, physiotherapist, whatever it is. So I think that's our philosophy at the NRL now and making sure that those opportunities for females are there. It makes sense, 51% of our population are females. You know, lots and lots of mums make decisions around the household and it makes good business sense as well as doing the right thing. So I think as we move forward, we're going to see we've got four NRL W teams at the moment. There won't be long before we start talking about six and eight. And there's a lot more ladies running around the country playing Rugby League. And that'll be a happy day for all of us at the NRL.

Cam Tradell [00:11:20] I think critical learning of each other and sort of developing together, I think's a fantastic way of putting it is the fact that we all learn from other people's experiences. Brad, I want to thank you very, very much for joining us today. That's really insightful and impactful. Thanks for that. Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Listen to Mal Meninga AM Rugby League
Mal Meninga AM
Mal Meninga AM

Malcolm Norman “Mal” Meninga is an Australian professional rugby league football coach and former player. As a player, his career lasted 16 years and he played in over 460 first grade games for state, club and country.

He played a total of 46 games representing Australia and scored 278 points, with 21 tries and 99 goals. Another remarkable fact about him is that he has captained all the sides he has played for, and Australia lost only six out of the 46 tests in which he played.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Mal Meninga

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I’m the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, I'm fortunate enough to be joined by former Rugby League player and current head coach of the Australian National Rugby League team, Mal Meninga. Mal is a sport Australia Hall of Fame member and is the most successful State of Origin head coach. Welcome, Mal. Thanks for joining us.

Mal Meninga [00:00:48] Thanks, Cameron. Nice to be here.

Cam Tradell [00:00:49] Mal, I'd be interested in understanding your journey with regards to what sport used to look like for you and how it sort of morphed from, you know, your earliest memories of playing sport and where it was.

Mal Meninga [00:01:01] Growing up in in rural Queensland, you know, sport was the social fabric of any community basically in those townships. And Rugby League was central to all that. But how I grew up playing sport was through the school systems. School provided many opportunities for me to play, cricket was and mainly was rugby league in the winter and cricket in the summer basically. But you could play other sports like soccer or basketball or anything you want, swimming. Whatever you want to get your hands on, you know, I played basically. So, I grew up playing rugby league in the school systems, mum and dad were heavily involved in the community rugby league as well, the school systems as well. And eventually that that came into a lot of parents, you know, wanted their kids to play club footy. So I'm going through, I'm sort of mid 60s, sort of late 60s. And, you know, mum and dad with a number of parents would start a club footy up, you know, so you might be and through schools, it was more than the weight divisions as well. So it was you know, I was a nine year old kid, you know, playing footy, playing rugby league in a sort of six stone, seven, you know. So I'm nine, I'm playing against 11 and 12-year-olds, you know. So it wasn't age relative, it was all around weight those in days as well. So, so mum and dad and a number of other parents started club rugby league. So, you know, under sixes and under sevens. Those days in the bush was sixes, and eights and 10s and 12s sort of go up by two lots of age groups because mainly because of numbers. So yeah, I mean I grew up playing that. So, I think, you know, from my point of view, you know, rugby league was central. I loved the sport. Mum and dad were heavily involved as coaching, Mum was, you know, the mum that did the canteen, washed the jerseys, took us to footy if we needed to go to footy or go to the games and things like that. I'll always remember mum sitting on the sidelines, you know, barracking for Dad when he played, you know. He was captain or coach for most regional teams and he went and played because he was very transient as well, lifestyle, you know, because you follow the money, I suppose. He used to work in sawmills or cut cane or whatever the case may be, whatever community he was involved in. So, it was very fond memories, you know, I really enjoyed the environment, loved the experience. And I think because of my upbringing, it enabled me to become a more resilient person. You know, I was motivated because I had the passion for whatever I did always, you know, wanted to be, I was always competitive, always wanted to win, no matter what I did, you know. Even at school, that skill base level, even in my studies, I wanted to be, you know, a good student as well. So that was how I was brought up in Rugby League. And, you know, things obviously change today.

Cam Tradell [00:03:48] You're talking about your father working in different jobs and so on, but still working and playing for the region. When you came through the system, you obviously had to work and also play rugby up until when was that?

Mal Meninga [00:04:01] I loved playing the game, but I never really had any aspirations about playing the game at the highest level. Again, I grew up watching or reading Enid Blyton books. Secret Seven, Famous Five, watching Police Force. I always had on police shows on: Division Four, Bellbird, all those sort of, all those sort of shows, I grew up on. Growing up in the late 60s, early 70s, I had ambitions to be a policeman. So I went to the Queensland Police Academy after I finished my junior certificate and I went, so that was 15 years of age. I left home, went down to Brisbane, the Oxley Academy down there and joined the police force, basically. So I was a cadet there and that enabled me then to do my senior certificate and also study police law, then obviously graduate to become a policeman. I was sort of recruited, I guess, my physical prowess as well. And ironically enough for a young police constable, Senior Constable I was, by the name of Wayne Bennett, was actually one of the instructors there at the academy. And he saw me play some touch on the footy field, basically. And he said to me, do you play rugby league? And I said, ‘yes, I do’. You know, I didn't quite know how to answer him, but, yeah, I was a bit petrified at the time. And he said, ‘well, we'll see’. You know, he said, oh jeez, you know, at the academy it was all about discipline. The academy is, you know, ‘get up at such and such a time’, and it's all about routine and discipline and doing your study. It was a really terrific environment and obviously Wayne, mentored me through my early years, you know, 16, 17, 18, 19 years of age. I remember him saying to me one time in front of a group, you know – this is where Wayne Bennett gets his reputation around managing people – he said to me, ‘Mal, you can do anything you want to in life as long as you put your mind to it’. And he brought me up on Vince Lombardi around, you know, goal setting, the will to win all that sort of stuff. And that sort of resonated with me. I kind of liked all that and when he told me that I could do anything I want to as long as I put my mind to it, I went up to my room at the academy and I put down a number of goals. And it wasn't it wasn't police goals. It was rugby league goals, because then I've started to realise that, you know, you can play rugby league at a higher level. So, I wanted to play for my state, Queensland, in 1979 at 18 years of age. And I achieved that, ticked [it] off, and I just ticked off goals ever since basically. When I started to achieve that it had a profound influence on me in those early years, and which led to me, obviously, to the things I do today.

Cam Tradell [00:06:47] The impact that a coach can have on a player, but even shifting that to the impact that a coach can have in the community level on other aspects of people's lives is profound. And I think there's a remarkable, almost a responsibility on coaches with regards to building better people.

Mal Meninga [00:07:05] Yeah, well, we have a program in the NRL called the Rise Program. The Rise Program eventually, came out of the Kangaroos’ systems where we looked at our values and looked at how we wanted to be, how we want to behave, how we want to be seen, how we want to protect the game. And this Rise Program, we talk to the coaches about that very fact, around the influence and the impact they can have on their young players and in their lives and the communities’ social outcomes as well. There's a lot of, we understand that, you know, in communities is a, you know, there's broken families, there's other things that can go with that person's young life. It's not just rugby league, it's school, it's what they do in their own time, it's family backgrounds and things like that. So, if they can have a positive influence on those young people, because that's what we talk about: we don't talk about talent, we don't talk about skill, we don't talk about how good the player is, it's about what how good a person he is. And when we talk about recruitment, we don't, we understand that they're skillful and they can run fast and jump high and they can tackle well and, you know, all those skill sets you need. But we need to know the person. And if you get the person right and you get the characteristics of that person right, well, then you're going to get a very good rugby league player and you're going to get a very good rugby league player that's going to play for their country.

Cam Tradell [00:08:27] And that's, that's an incredible program. I mean, I think that's great looking holistically at people.  Hearing your stories, you came through the system fast forwarding to today. What are the major shifts that you've seen in athletes from back then to athletes now?

Mal Meninga [00:08:40] All the time. I mean, more knowledgeable, obviously better prepared. You know, it's still the same sort of characteristics when I just talked about before and the character of the person as opposed to the football player. They're a much better football player today. A better, well-rounded, very, you know, like I said, well prepared. They're faster, fitter, you know, they jump higher, all those sort of things, maybe because of the circumstances they're involved in, you know, the situations that they're involved in. But the characteristics of the player hasn't changed at all. You know, we want a player that, you know, has got strong character. He's got a sense of resilience, a sense of community about him, loyalty, team, you know, all those all those characteristics that you want in an individual that you know won't let the team down. And when they put that jersey on, they won't let their club down, they won't let their community down, they won't let their state down. They won't let their country down. And that's how I look at things when I go into the representative programs. And Queensland's got, you know, vast history around he mightn't be the best player, he mightn't even be the best player at the club. And sometimes he may struggle to be the best player. He mightn't even play first grade in the club. But we know that the person he is, we know that what's, what the jersey means to him. And we prefer to pick and have those players play than someone that's going to be high maintenance and someone's going to take a lot of work to get ready because, you know, when you come into a rep program, you haven't got long to prepare him. So the person's really important.

Cam Tradell [00:10:22] Yeah, that's not having long to prepare, knowing that you're also getting players from different systems, different regions with different playing styles or different philosophies. How do you go about pulling that team together? I look at the the work with the Queensland team over the years and also with the Australian team, how do you bring those philosophies together quickly so that you can perform at the levels that that you do in State of Origin or international?

Mal Meninga [00:10:48] We have a sort of what I define as a close-the-door policy. So once they walk through the door into the camp, we close the door behind him. Then we then we talk about we know we know they they're all talented. They said they all belong there. It's very, very important that they understand that. They understand the reasons why, the purpose, and we talk about history a lot. We talk about, you know, so when we talk about the Queensland program, we talk about what it means to be a Queensland player and what we'll bring in ex-players and they'll talk about their experiences. But the things that we understand from a Queensland point of view is around trust, around the effort. It's around the attitudes, around mateship. And with the Kangaroo programs, around respect, respect for your jerseys, a respect for yourself, the opposition and what and where you are in your life. That greater sense of gratitude. We talk about inspire because we want young kids to aspire to be a Kangaroo. We talk about selflessness, and that's our team-first attitude. Making sure that they turn up for the team, they do all the right things around their routines, their habits, the way they prepare for the game. And then we talk about excellence, which is around wanting to prove all the time. We provide what I call resilient environment for them to thrive. You know, we're always looking at innovation. We don't want to be boring. We want to be fun. We want it to be enjoyable. But they've got certain obligations, accountabilities with putting those jerseys on. So that's really important. And we play the Queensland way, or we play the Kangaroos way, we don't play the club way. So they've got to accept that as well. They've got to accept that collectively, you know, and it is a collaborative environment. It's not autocratic. It's not. Yeah, it's very diplomatic. The way we go about our business and it's in my role is to make sure that I lead, that resilient environment. You know, I lead it through great communication channels. You know, we talk about, talk through accountability, through recognizing everybody, making sure that their contribution is rewarded. And we always look at how we going to keep on improving the person foremost and send them back a better person and send them back in really good shape. And also, you know, hopefully they pick one thing up they can take back to their clubs, their club, clubland. They can be a better player as well. I think that's really important. So then that in that environment, I think if they want to buy in and take ownership over, it will give us the best chance to be successful. And it's funny through the Queensland program that we never talked about winning because that's not, that is the expectation, but we want every player in that squad to play the best of their ability. We'll provide everything they want to make sure that they're the best prepared. In the Kangaroo system, we talk about winning because everyone expects us to win. So why not get the monkey off your back and talk about winning, how we're going to do that. It basically comes back down a process again anyway. So it's just different ways of looking and thinking about things. But it's the same old process, the same routines, the same characteristics you want in your players and the buy-in the jersey and its history.

Cam Tradell [00:14:20] Yeah, that's incredible the way that you put them together. Thanks very much for joining us today. Now, really appreciate your time.

Mal Meninga [00:14:27] My pleasure, Cameron. Thank you.

Cam Tradell [00:14:30] Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Professor Rochelle Eime Behavioural Epidemiologist
Professor Rochelle Eime
Professor Rochelle Eime

Professor Rochelle Eime is a Behavioural Epidemiologist who has over 15 years of research experience specifically relating to the sport and recreation sectors relating to both public health and sport management.

Rochelle is a behavioural epidemiologist, who has over 15 years of research experience specifically relating to the sport sector and covering areas of participation, facilities, health and education. She has strong industry networks within the sport and health sector including state and national, government agencies as well as sport and recreation organisations.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Rochelle Eime

Introduction [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project lead for coaching and officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. We're lucky enough to have Professor Rochelle Eime on the phone today, Professor Rochelle Eime is the director of Sport and Recreation spatial, which focuses on investigating sport and recreation participation facilities and health for evidence-based decision making. She has strong industry networks within the sport and health sector, including state and national government agencies, as well as sport and recreation organisations. Rochelle has written over 300 peer review publications, book chapters and industry reports and research, and has won a number of state and national research accolades. On top of that, Rochelle has been involved with club based sport throughout her entire life as a player, coach, volunteer and now parent of players and is a board member of Vic Sport. Welcome, Rochelle, thanks very, very much for joining us.

Rochelle Eime [00:01:21] Thanks very much it's great to be here.

Cam Tradell [00:01:21] Rochelle, you've done a lot of research in your role and you've got some fantastic insight to our current volunteers of coaches and officials. And I was wondering, do you have any thoughts on, you know, throughout the last 10 years, the last decade or so, how has coaching and officiating changed in the landscape of sport?

Rochelle Eime [00:01:42] Yeah, I think one of the biggest things with coaching is the qualification of the coaches and the quality of the coaching. So we don't always see that the grassroots that the coaches necessarily have coaching qualifications or updated skill sets that might still be in the mindset of when they played footy or netball or tennis and deliver the sport the way it was delivered for them. And we need to make sure that it's quality coaching that looks at improving their skills. It's about inclusion of all participants, but also it's about improving the skills for everyone, not just those to the best on the ground. And it's about also to the the players having fun and enjoyment. It's not all about winning medals and trophies. And we need to try and change that mindset a bit to.

Cam Tradell [00:02:29] That's great. You talk about accreditation. You sort of are you leaning more towards competence of the people because so many bespoke or different sorts of environments that coaches and officials delve in these days. And it's no longer just a one size cookie cutter fits all approach.

Rochelle Eime [00:02:48] Absolutely. It's not about the certificate in the frame or it's in the drawer. It's about being competent to be able to improve the physical literacy of the children. So that's not just their skill set. It's about making sure the children or adults or adolescents have the competence to be out to play and be active throughout life. It's not just about the skills for that particular sport. It's more broader than the physical literacy.

Cam Tradell [00:03:11] With regards to physical literacy, one or two of those domains of the physical literacy may actually be more important to some groups than others. And I guess that becomes a real driver. And being able to understand that and having an understanding as a coach, what's required in front of you becomes crucial.

Rochelle Eime [00:03:29] Absolutely, because the motivations of why people play are really quite different. The motivation has changed throughout the lifespan, but they also change according to the drivers of the players themselves. You've got those that are driven to exceed in those sports and that those are others that just want to play with their mates or have fun. You know, the main motivations for the adults to play sport is fun and enjoyment and social reasons. And then the physical health and fitness and then performance and competition for adolescents. Again, it's fun and enjoyment, physical health and fitness, but playing with their friends. So it's all about being with others and enjoying that connection with others, it's not about winning and it really makes no one goes out there to lose, everyone enjoys winning, but it's not the main motivator, because if it was, more than 50 percent of people are really disappointed every time they go out to play because only half the people win. So it can't be the main motivator and it's not. But we see a lot of coaches, a lot of club officials and presidents always focus on the men's A grade side, winning or winning the premiership or best on grounds. So how many flags and trophies they have in the club. But that's not a main motivator for why people drive to play sport. And it's not a main motivator why people continue to play sport. And we see a massive drop out across the board in in a club-based sport.

Cam Tradell [00:04:47] Yeah, that's interesting. Fifty percent success I would have been happy with when I was playing. To be honest with you Rochelle,I tend to be on the low side of that. But maybe that says a little bit more about me. With that in mind, with regards to how we grow a vibrant support base, do you feel like Australia's still a volunteering nation? What have you seen with the trends and the research and the data

Rochelle Eime [00:05:10] Club based sport in Australia is a volunteer sector and in an industry unlike some other sort of countries overseas and to the nature of club based sport in Australia is it's generally an individual sport within an individual club. Now you might have footy and netball, but they are still to seperate sports. You don't have the the multi sports sectors that you might see over in Europe where kids can sort of easily transition around into different sports within that one sort of system and sector. The volunteers in sport are generally players, past players or parents of players. And so the trouble is you have quite a big churn rate with those volunteers and especially in the junior clubs. As soon as those juniors aren't playing anymore, those adults aren't going to continue necessarily to volunteer that club. They're going to follow where their children go to school or drop out of volunteering as their children move on. And I'm concerned that due to COVID that there's that loss of transition. So often you have the people that are volunteering the club, their children might be at the older age, so they've been around the club for quite a few years, sort of know what's going on. And they often have that transitional year of sort of being mentored into future roles such as president or secretary or coach, et cetera. And last year, especially in Victoria, when that was lost, I'm concerned that there's that loss of transition of skill set, because often there's not a lot of support in these volunteer roles. And I think that that's going to be a big concern for clubs, especially, too, with an extra layer of bureaucracy and guidelines due to covid. Some and a lot of sports are concerned, not necessarily just retention of players, but retention of volunteers, because without the volunteers, there is no game day.

Cam Tradell [00:07:01] That's really interesting and doesn't really lend itself to to what you were just talking about with regards to parents who are in coaching or officiating for their kids, actually just following their pathway and making sure knowing that their main motivator is fun, it sort of seems to take them out of their environment if they're going up the linear scale of accreditation.

Rochelle Eime [00:07:23] And what we say with the with the linear scale is the issue that the better coaches sort of tend to coach the better kids in that model. I know with my boys footy club that they're involved with that's just starting up again this season. They're struggling to find coaches for the ressies for the for the reserves teams. Now they're the ones that probably need the best coaches to actually improve the skills of those players. So we sort of have this mindset that the better the players, the better the coaches or the coaches want to coach, the better players. But we need the better coaches down at the grassroots, at the entry level, the ones that can really help those those children develop those skills and that competency and confidence. I know actually coaching younger children is actually a lot more difficult to do. And you need really good coaches at that level. And that and that age.

Cam Tradell [00:08:17] A hundred percent I couldn't agree more. The support of that area there is is really lacking. And the ability, the role that people can play, like the parents who are good enough to stick their hand in the air and come and coach at that level the impact that they can make with a little bit of help and mentoring from people who are, as you say, identified as good coaches, can make a massive difference with regards to intrinsically motivating people to remain in sport.

Rochelle Eime [00:08:43] And I don't think that's where clubs necessarily connect the skill sets of their club community with the actual roles. For example, you know, I was a level two tennis coach coached for many years when my children were starting playing football in sort of under 10s, there are about eight, you know, I can kick footy and handball well enough for under 10s footy. I put my hand up several times to help out with training when they asked for people to help out at training. By the third time I'd done that, I wasn't asked to step out on the ground, it was only the dads that were asked to step on the ground. So there was four blokes standing there, there was two lines and one footy and about 40 footies sitting on the ground and the kids barely touched the ball. It was really poorly run. So I think it's about seeing through those biases, and it's not just gender, it could be age, it could be people from outside of sport that could actually be really good in certain roles within another sport. I think we need to match the skill set of the people rather than just this mindset that the best player of the sport is the best one to run the sport.

Cam Tradell [00:09:45] Again, I agree. I think that's really, really important. What would be some of the ways that you feel like we could re-engage or get individuals coming back to sport?

Rochelle Eime [00:09:55] I think it's that I think it's about trying to articulate what the value proposition rather than just sort of seeing as an extra chore or an extra burden that people have to do. You know, there's some great things that people can learn and develop through, through volunteer roles and leadership roles within clubs. And I think we need to highlight what those, those aspects are. And especially for youth. I think we need to get more the youth involved instead of the ' pale, male, and stale' running every decision and and everything in sport. I mean, half of all sports participants are aged between five and 15. So we need more them in decision making. And why can't we have more formal leadership and mentoring of those youth into taking on some of these roles, they see the value in what they're gaining in their skill sets is going to help them out in their career as well.

Cam Tradell [00:10:42] That's fantastic. I think there's some parallels that can really be drawn. What would you say needs to happen next? How do we sort of get to that point that people want to get back to their club? What do you think is going to help us kick start that next?

Rochelle Eime [00:10:54] I think it's about trying to highlight the good of sport, so highlighting the good things we always see in the media, all the negative things with sport. And it's often at the elite end. Why can't we highlight the good things I was presenting to sports this week and state Government and Vic Health, and we're seeing some really good five year trends of female participation. Now, we don't see change overnight, but change can occur and it does occur, but it takes five years. So I think if we can highlight what is good about sport, it's about the physical, the mental, the social health and wellbeing. It's about connecting individuals, families and communities. It's about learning in leadership roles, whether it's coach or other volunteer roles. And I don't think we we highlight the good things about sport. I think it's often about winning or, or centralising good players. We should be centralising the volunteers, the people who've made the sport happen. I think we pick on people, you know, the the bad behaviour we often see towards towards umpires and the yelling, you know, why can't we all just be nice.

Cam Tradell [00:12:03] Exactly. Create these positive experiences. That would be a utopia. That that'd be fantastic

Rochelle Eime [00:12:08] Yeah, if we put enjoyment central to everything. And if we make it about being fun and people having fun and connecting with others in a fun environment, I think we can do so much and that that fun environment doesn't might look different for those with lower skills and those for high skills, and those are really like a real formal competitive model than those that don't. But it's still about enjoyment because that's what people are there for.

Cam Tradell [00:12:32] It's the major motivator for everyone. And there's some flawed thinking around the fact that enjoyment isn't the main motivator for people in high performance. It needs to be the main motivator for people in high performance.

Rochelle Eime [00:12:43] If they don't enjoy it, it's it's it's it's really tough.

Cam Tradell [00:12:46] I'm going to throw a blue sky question to you. Have you got a view on what's the utopia? What's the sporting environment? What do you see as being something that we can all strive for, a really solid stretch target for us to what the environment of sport looks like in this country?

Rochelle Eime [00:13:02] I think it's about being an inclusive, inclusive environment. So that can make a lot of things, but it's about being inclusive of diversity, of skill and of ability and race and of age and but but also to inclusive decision making. So, you know, the board and the committee, we can't have sport run the way it's always been run. We need to have fresh eyes. You know the way,  We need to think about the way sport is delivered. And we have modified sport, which is "fun, friends and fitness and skill development", which is great. And then we have that transition to club competition. Now, that's great, too, but only for those that are really good at the sport and really love that competitive model. I think we need to open our eyes up into more the organised but not so focussed on competitiveness, so the social rec programs, because there's a lot of people that want to play sport but but aren't good enough to play in the competitions or don't want to be in that space.

Cam Tradell [00:14:06] Rochelle, thank you very, very much for joining us today. This has been fantastic, really insightful. And I wanted to thank you for your time.

Rochelle Eime [00:14:14] No worries, thanks very much.

Cam Tradell [00:14:18] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Kate Jacewicz Australian Football referee
Kate Jacewicz

Kate Jacewicz is an Australian Football referee. Kate began refereeing at the age of 13 after her brother’s team needed one, she joins this week’s podcast.

Since making her way into officiating Kate has refereed at the highest levels including  Australia’s W-League, A-League, the FIFA world cup and Olympics. In this episode she talks of her love of the game as a player, coach and referee and how important clear communication is between officials and players.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series Kate Jacewicz

Introduction Voice Over [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:07] Hello, and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project lead for coaching officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.

Cam Tradell [00:00:35] Today, we're joined by one of Australia's premier officials, Australian football referee Kate Jacewicz. Kate's refereeing journey commenced by chance one day when she was asked to pick up the whistle for a match that her brother was playing in. Prior to that event, Kate had been an avid football player. Since making her way into officiating, Kate has refereed at the highest levels, including Australia's W-League, the A-League, the FIFA World Cup and Olympics. Kate, thanks for joining us today.

Kate Jacewicz [00:01:05] Thank you for having me, Cam.

Cam Tradell [00:01:06] Can you just give us a bit of insight to what sports did you play, and then how did this journey start?

Kate Jacewicz [00:01:11] Well, I originally am from the Gold Coast in Queensland, and I was a swimmer to start with. My mum, obviously, being in Queensland wanted us to learn to swim and I had two young male friends, like family friends, and they both played football and anything that they did, I wanted to do, so I pestered mum to join a football team, the local football team, which is Mudgeeraba junior soccer club. That was my club for 15 or so years, and I remember my first game was for my brother, actually my younger brother, who's little miniroos roo ball referee never showed up at an away club and mum was like, "Oh Kate's here she can do it". So I got to run around for my first game, um, you know unpaid that type of thing because I was at another club, but I really, really loved it and I loved football, and I guess I loved reflecting back on it now, I guess what I really loved about it was the analytics of the game of football and, you know, being the decision making and the thinking around football like me as a 13 year old girl didn't understand that. But you know, retrospectively, now I can see what drew me to it and just remembering my thoughts around, you know, just being involved, seeing the game unfold around me, the emotions, you know, the excitement of the kids, you know, a game of football is like a really good TV drama, right? It's got everything and you get to experience the highs and lows of both teams. Yeah, that's me as a 30 something year old now being able to reflect on it, but as a 13-year-old kid, I just loved the game and loved being involved in it. So, mum took me to my first like level, like entry level referee course. She did it with me, and from there I just refereed every Saturday at my junior club. I was still playing at the time, so I refereed, I played, I coached until a certain point where, you know, people in football were all starting to make a name for myself, though, like, you know, you have to give up something. And I’m like "oh, I don't really want to". I definitely wasn't going to give up playing because that's my first love. And so, I gave up coaching to pursue refereeing, and that's when I got invited to state titles in Queensland. And then I got invited on to national titles and just the career snowballed from there.

Cam Tradell [00:03:51] That's a cool story. And you say you went from player, I'm guessing on Saturday and refereeing on Sunday, sort of thing. Is that right?

Kate Jacewicz [00:04:00] Yeah. Well, on the Gold Coast, I was playing in the women's competition on a Monday night, so the girls in women's played Monday nights while still playing with the boys up until I was 17 years of age. So, we got to play Friday nights and then Saturday mornings was my, Saturday and Sundays was when I was able to whistle in the junior competitions and then be an assistant referee in the in the men's senior competitions until I worked my way up until when I whistled in the senior men's competitions.

Cam Tradell [00:04:27] It's always an interesting mix, isn't it? Between you say your true love's playing and yet refereeing clearly is a love, but those two things sometimes don't go hand in hand is playing and refereeing. How do you find the importance of you understanding the game really well from the player's perspective and how that assists or helps your refereeing?

Kate Jacewicz [00:04:46] Yeah, I think, you know, I'm not saying that every referee needs to play the game, but I think it serves, you know, as an advantageous skill, I guess, you know, understanding the emotions of a player, the frustrations of a player, the ins and outs of the game, being a player and a player for so long, who played in the middle of the field, so the midfield. But the referee’s movement is quite similar as well to a midfielder. So you're able to you can read the play, you know, when the ball's going to go long, you know when there's a press you need to press, you know, when it generally nine times out of 10, when there's going to be a miss kick because just the way the player is facing, there is no way they're going to be able to play the ball where they want to play, so it certainly gives you a lot of insight into the into the game of football and into players behaviour, but also the way that they play the game. So, I'm really, really grateful that I'm able to bring those skills that I learnt as a player transfer into the skills, as a as a referee.

Cam Tradell [00:05:59] It's interesting you're talking about the emotions, and you talk about the highs and the lows when you hit the lows, how do you deal with that? Is it different from community to performance to how you would deal with it? Or is it the same process or how do you deal with it?

Kate Jacewicz [00:06:13] Certainly, I would say there is minute differences in in the way subtle differences that I would speak with a community player or a lower-level player versus, you know, the top players in the world, you know, playing for the national teams. But I think now I'm starting to find my feet at an international level, and my personality is starting to come out, so I'm very much a referee that likes to use my personality and I like to use a bit of humour, I like to build connections with players on the field. I feel that you know... when I mean build a connection, It's more like... I respect them. I respect them on a professional level, and I would never talk down to them. But certainly, if they're trying to talk down to me, I would then put them in their place and be like, "Hang on a minute, like, your behaviour or your tone right now is completely unacceptable or inappropriate would you speak this way to someone serving you coffee" or something like this? And you know, try to remind them of the human side of the referee. I very much take this approach in community football, or you know back in Australia, you know, trying to connect with players on a on a human level. But again, it's the same... I take the same approach and that is building the respect from a very simple level, I guess.

Cam Tradell [00:07:43] That rapport building can, I guess, help both the referee as well as the players to understand the nuances in the way that you let a game flow. Do you try to set the tone of the game, or do you let the players sort of set the tone of the game of, you know, the pace, the ferocity, or how do you sort of navigate through what sort of game is going to unfold in front of you?

Kate Jacewicz [00:08:04] Yeah, that's a good question. I 100 percent, let the players do that. It's their game. I'm just a part of it. And you know, it's, I don't want to impact negatively or influence the game any more than I need to. I'm there when I when I need to be and I'm not there when I don't need to be. I'm very much I work in the background. But in saying that, you know, when I'm communicating on a field and I'm communicating with my team, especially one of the techniques I try to use is I kind of speak like I'm speaking to everyone around me, but I'm actually directing the information to my team and being like, right, I'm looking here. Make sure you get the other, the reverse angle, like I'm going to be looking at the aerial challenge between these two players. And then those two players, when I say their names, they look at me and are like "right, she knows exactly what... they know exactly what I'm looking at and what I'm directing my team to be looking at as well. Like, alright, I'm expecting possible hands in the aerial challenge, like, you know, and then players throwing elbows and that type of thing. So, I do it in a way where I, yes, I am directing the game, but you know, it's almost like maximum benefit, minimal interference, I’ve just stolen that from, you know, VAR philosophy. But that's the way I try to operate as a as a referee as well. It's their game. I'm a part of it, but I'm certainly going to try to facilitate this match to the best of my ability so we can maximise the most out of this game

Cam Tradell [00:09:46] At the community level, a lot of the time there are people who are good enough to stick their hand in the air to help you on the side, how do you communicate to those people and make them feel like one -they're a part of what you're doing, but that they belong and they're important. You got any methods that you use?

Kate Jacewicz [00:10:02] Now as, I guess, an established referee. I do it this way back when, you know, 15, 10, 15 years ago, I probably didn't. Maybe I didn't have the confidence or the experience. But one thing that I would certainly suggest for you to try is communicate the same way you would communicate with a headset on. And I just amplify my voice the same way that we can talk to our team with you know the communication system. I still look at my team if I'm if I'm talking to them as well so we can use gestures and or body language facial gestures, and they can see that I'm looking at them. I mean, I remember distinctly one time the assistant referee couldn't hear me, but I could hear them, so then I was doing some gestures back to them to be like right " this is what I'm saying", type thing to acknowledge that. But in terms of the... like you said, the advice, I would amplify my voice and I would the same way I'd want the players around me to hear it. I just put what I want to communicate out into the world so that my assistant referees would hear me as well. Because, yeah, we're a part of the game and communication is vital, right? So, I would say that that's how I'd involve my team.

Cam Tradell [00:11:26] So it's like, you're talking to yourself, but talking out loud and talking to everyone. But is it what is actually going on in your mind? You just basically voicing what's happening in your head the whole time? So, does it sometimes come out like a little bit of commentating?

Kate Jacewicz [00:11:40] Yeah, we do have to describe what we see. And I've been fortunate enough, that's my style of refereeing anyway. So, the change hasn't really been too significant for me. If a player asked me, like, you know, what was that for? I'd be like, well, you know, it was, it was this for this, and they're like Oh, that's what you saw. I'm like, I'm just telling you what I see. I'm only calling what I'm seeing. I'm not a referee that would be like, you know. I'm not one that like kind of commentates and coaches the players like, don’t do this, don't do that, don't do this. And there are some referees that will, yeah, like it's almost like they're a coach out there being like, look easy, easy, hands down, hands down, like this type of thing. You know, players are players they'll either listen to you or they won’t. That's their choice. But you know, in terms of what information is critical that or like is, you know, advantageous, I guess, or is helpful. Yeah, that's the type of information that I like to provide. So, it almost is in a way, I am talking out loud, but it's information that is critical to, I guess, the management of the match.

Cam Tradell [00:12:53] Now that you're where you're at or whether you're a great community coach, do you have people that you call on to sort of ask advice or to give you feedback and so on? So, two parts, is, who's helped you get to where you are and then when you are refereeing at whatever level, have you got groups that you sort of lean on to ensure that you're doing a good job and to give you honest feedback?

Kate Jacewicz [00:13:16] Yeah. Well, in the beginning, a few names pop into my head. One is Allan Kibler, who was the referee’s manager in Queensland. He, I guess, found me at that state titles that I spoke to you about earlier. And then Barry Sutch is another one who is another Queensland referee manager and a few others that I'd like to kind of make note of and that is Gary Power, Jenny Bray, Steve Fenech all within the refereeing community down in New South Wales. And I mean, when I was coming through as a teenager and in my early 20s, I didn't really know the world of refereeing. And these are the people that, you know, lit the fire and said that, you know, the world is out there like it's the world game. You can travel to all these exotic destinations, whistling football all over the world. And, but I didn't really know what that meant until like, now I've lived the journey and I can see that I've got firsthand experience in that. So, it's nice that like I said, look back retrospectively and see what they were talking about and how it's come to life or come to fruition. And now ah... The people that I talk to the most are probably my peers, and I'm fortunate enough that I'm a FIFA referee and I'm on the World Cup candidate program and I've got access to, you know, some of the best referees from all over the world and refereeing at an elite level is quite a personal, a little bit isolating, but also it's a really unique experience that not a lot of people have that lived experience with. And what I mean by that is it's such an intricate, I guess, pathway and lived experience like what you... the emotions that you feel, the learnings that you take, the learnings that you not only take professionally but also personally. We all experience in some way shape or form very similar experiences, but are slightly different because we're all different people, but, and also from different cultures and different countries as well. So, I'm under no illusion that my journey is far more privileged than that, say someone coming from another country. But yeah, we all share this unique experience together and we have that like personal, firsthand insight into what it feels like to be an elite referee. So, I would say they're my peers that I've met along the way.

Cam Tradell [00:16:12] It's really interesting that you talk about, it's the same experience because once you're on the pitch, it's the same experience. However, where they've come from is the diversity that they bring. Does that help with regards to providing perspective on different ways that you can manage games, and have they helped you sort of hone your skills?

Kate Jacewicz [00:16:32] Oh, absolutely. So, for example, I was lucky enough to meet my hero in person, and that was Bibiana Steinhaus from Germany. You know, one of the first females in the world to get to the top in that in men's professional football. And I, you know, was totally, you know, fangirling at this point. But she is so humble and so kind that, you know, she didn't really care about that, and she just wanted to help. So, and she helped in her own way like I would never had the courage to be like, Hey, Bibi, you know, can you help me do this? It'd be like, we just be sitting together watching a game of football, and she'd be like, look, we could do this, this and this. We tried doing this this way, and you know, it'll work out much better for you. And I'm like, oh, wow, look, I'd never thought of it that way. So, yeah, definitely... Refereeing is about experience and learning from one another, and learning from others are either really, really good decisions, or you know others mistakes as well and sharing that insight and that's how we grow as individuals, that's how we grow the profession and that's how we grow the game. So yeah, that was, was a really cool experience and now I can, you know, just give her a text if I ever want some other little tips and advice.

Cam Tradell [00:18:10] It's amazing, isn't it, that you've got that, and if you think about your experience there the next generation coming through for you, the ones that are starting to develop here in Australia or elsewhere in the world, are you starting to find that they're starting to tap into you and your knowledge? Are you starting to have a bit more of a transitional point where you're mentoring others?

Kate Jacewicz [00:18:28] Yeah, I think so. And you know, it's almost like you don't realise it until you're there, you know, it's like, Oh, I'm in the process of, you know, the baton's been passed to me, but I'm probably the last to know and what I'm thinking just I’m entering into, you know, I guess, a general discussion or chit chat or conversation with another referee that I'm thinking is my peer actually turns around to be, you know, I'm I almost turn out to be that Bibiana Steinhaus for that young Kate Jack. And yeah, sometimes, I wish I kind of knew in the moment, I’m like, "Oh, maybe I should have taken that more seriously" or, you know, maybe, maybe I need to come up with some, you know, more meaningful stories for them or advice for them. But no, yeah, it's another learning experience for me, it's part of the journey. And, you know, I'm embracing that and really enjoying learning how to impart my knowledge in different ways to, like you said, the next gen.

Cam Tradell [00:19:38] It's interesting because sport changes so quickly. So, what sport looked like 20 years ago is very different now. So, I'm guessing that knowledge transfer becomes crucial as you're still an active referee, bringing through the next group who in 2032 with Olympic Games in Brisbane, that skill and knowledge transfer becomes key. What do you see for Australian referees in football? Is it an exciting future? Do you see good changes, or do you think we're going to need to do more work to develop high quality officials?

Kate Jacewicz [00:20:11] Yeah, that's an interesting question actually. Well, as you know, there's the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as well, coming up and what Australia has been good at previously is producing World Cup officials on limited resources. Yeah, like I mean, just to name a few we've got, Tammy Ogston, Jackie Hereford was an option, Allyson Flynn and Sarah Ho, not to mention then Mark Shields, Ben Williams and now Chris Beath. And they’re, you know, world class officials and, I would have to say, coming through the system, the resourcing and development of referees hasn't probably been where it could have been to possibly produce double or triple the amount of the names that I just that I just said. That doesn't mean that there hasn't been, but in terms of formalising and streamlining the development, I really believe that if we want the game to grow in Australia, that it needs to be a whole game approach and firstly, the recognition that match officials as a whole is ultimately almost like your third national team. And you know, we're a part of the national competitions, whether people like it or not, we're part of the game whether people like it or not. And if you want the game to grow and develop and reach its highest limits, you need the match official’s skills and abilities to match that as well, to grow with the game. If we're left behind, when you know people are going to be standing there going well, that same narrative and rhetoric of match officials are rubbish or this referee's decision cost the game, it's like, well actually can we, you know, actually look at what we've done for match officials in this country, and have we done enough for them? So, what I'd really like to see is building the referee program for football to be more in line with you know high performance in football as well, because referees and assistant referees we're athletes to, we're elite athletes as well, and we're competing on the world stage, the same as the Socceroos and the Matildas. And while it's going to take a while, I understand that with Sporting organisations now I work for one, I understand the, you know, the things that we have to do to build that, especially on a budget. I really do believe that that will take refereeing or officiating to the next level in Australia.

Cam Tradell [00:23:16] Yeah, that's fantastic. And let's face it, without officials, we don't have sport. Kate, I really appreciate your time this afternoon and thank you so much for joining us.

Cam Tradell [00:23:33] Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Sharon Hannan Athletics coach
Sharon Hannan
Portrait photo of Sharon Hannan

Australian Sprints and Hurdles Athletics Coach and Former Coach of Sally Pearson, Sharon Hannan joins us to take us through her top coaching principles.

Sharron Hannan is the former Australian Sprints and Hurdles Athletics Coach and former Coach of Sally Pearson who of course went on to collect Commonwealth World and Olympic Gold Medals in the 100m Hurdles.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Sharon Hannan

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and i'm the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.

Cam Tradell [00:00:31] Today, we're very, very lucky to have Sharon Hannan join us on the phone. Hello, Sharon, how are you?

Sharon Hannan [00:00:37] I'm good. Thanks, Cameron.

Cam Tradell [00:00:56] Thanks very much for your time today. It's fantastic to have you share some of your stories. You've seen a great breadth of athletics and the sport, starting at little athletics and going all the way through to the heady heights of the Olympics. I'd be keen to understand, what's your story? How did you actually get into it and how did you grow a love for coaching in the sport of athletics?

Sharon Hannan [00:59] My daughter came home from school as a nine year old saying she had a flyer and asking me if she could join athletics and we went down the local oval and little town called Gordonvale, just south of Cairns. And yeah, I was given a job to do for the season, which was pulling the tape measure through the discus. So I didn't see a great deal, but my daughter had a great deal of fun and she loved it. And I thought it was a really good environment. I was a single mum and she made lots of friends. And at the end of the season, the people running the club wanted to move athletics from Sunday morning to a weekday afternoon. But I worked probably 30 miles away at the airport. I worked for an airline called Bush Pilots, which then became Air Queensland and subsequently Qantas link. And I couldn't get there, couldn't get there from work in the afternoon. So a couple of families were in the same boat, and I contacted Queensland Little Athletics and they helped us start up a little athletic centre in Cairns. There were centres in little towns around it, Cooktown, Innisfail, Mulgrave and Tablelands, Atherton Tablelands and so there was there was prototypes there and people who knew what they were doing and so we called a public meeting and we got started and we had eighty three kids in our first season. That was just crazy. And then we got stuck into it. Our first zone championships were in Cooktown. We bought a rattly old school bus with no windows, you know, things like that way back in the day then. At the beginning of the year that I started Cairns Little A's, there was a coaching course in Mareeba and so I went up and did that and started my coaching journey. And I just loved it because, you know on sign on days, we had probably 60 of the 83 kids all there on the first day, all looking at us, OK, what do we do now? We will go, whoa, what do we do Shaz? You know, you've done the coaching course. And it was just sort of thrown at me and, you know, but that was probably when I discovered that, "a", I could communicate and "b", the kids listen cause they were so excited about being there. And, you know, so from out of that, it's pretty easy to get some really good results for each of the kids and for the Little Athletic Centre as well. So we became very successful very, very quickly in that we only had a six week season. It was July by the time we got started. And Athletics starts in April up north. So, yeah, that's when I decided I like coaching and I've coached ever since, there hasn't been a period when I haven't coached.

Cam Tradell [00:04:23] And that's, it's amazing. And the power of the volunteers there with, you know, wanting to serve the community. You then made that leap because you've been in, you know, coaching and you've been sort of looking after Athletics or people in Athletics for some time. How did you then sort of make the transition from the early development stages into adults and even performance athletes? How did that all come about?

Sharon Hannan [00:04:47] It was a journey that I guess was happening without me even realising where I was heading. I had some senior athletes that we were doing okay and and I just kept talking to people. And thankfully, there's things called state championships and country championships and national championships and and you just meet and talk to people and ask questions and watch how they're coaching and, you know, listen to what they're saying to their athletes and lots of coaching textbooks. And I was also doing uni back in the day when I first moved to the Gold Coast. And so I had access to the library at Griffith Uni and and I did have, you know, going in and reading up on quantitative analysis from reading up on coaching and techniques and you know, those sort of things, and I learnt sort of fairly rapidly. I learnt alot at my level two course, , which is now classified as a level four accreditation. That was a 10 day course. I learnt so much, not just from the lecturers and facilitators, but from the people doing the course. That was fantastic and I've done a few of those since then and and just coached and just tried to stay a step ahead of the game, no more than, no more than the athletes that were standing in front of me knew.

Cam Tradell [00:06:18] You talk about the strength of the communities around you that support you. How important is it to leverage, you know, other people's experience and to also have mentors to help you with regards to how you develop? Have you found that as being valuable input to creating who you are as a coach?

Sharon Hannan [00:06:36] Oh, undeniably, it's really important. You know, you live in a bubble if you don't seek advice and ask questions and learn from others because so many have gone before. Unfortunately, when I first started, a lot of the printed material that was around was was published in the times of the, you know, the suspected doping in some of the countries, so some of the exercises they were doing in the sessions that they were doing that were published in those books were just outrageous. But, you know, I've never taken a programme from anywhere, but my husband so far has been my greatest mentor. He was level five soon after I moved to the Gold Coast. He was going that was a year long process back then and he was going through that and was awarded his level five in jump and so he's just been fantastic and, you know, I've done a great deal of coach education as well, and he was a teacher, maths and science. People think he was Pys. Ed., but he wasn't he was just heavily involved in athletics. He would sit in the back of the classroom and just write little notes. And then we talk about some of the things that I could do better and  some of the mannerisms that I could lose. Or change, you know, I think he's just being a fantastic mentor. Really, really good. And knew so many people already and introduced me to so many people who I might never have been in conversations with.

Cam Tradell [00:08:21] How do you create that safe environment that promotes that open communication between you two to understand one, how you feeling one day or they're feeling one day or their problems or, you know, what they feel they need to work to. How do you create that trust so that you can get that open communication going between the two of you?

Sharon Hannan [00:08:39] Because I think I'm a big believer in nurturing as a valuable coaching tool, and I think that where a lot of females have a bit of an advantage over males, you know, being a parent, you know, you are justy on the lookout for all the little signs that show someone in a bit of distress or they're a little bit sad or you know, they struggle to communicate with others in the group or whatever. So I guess that's one of my big strengths, is is just being able to notice things and then talk to the athletes, not even necessarily about what I know, but but building a belief in you know, the people around them, belief in them, that falling over or tripping or doing something wrong is not a bad thing. That it is a learning step and I don't know, I think not ever having done sport really when  I was young thats what I brought to the table, was valuable parenting skills, I guess. I was a single parent for 12 and a half years, so, I had a bit of experience.

Cam Tradell [00:10:08] It's incredible how you bring a life experience to other aspects of your coaching and so on. So that really identifying or having that self awareness around this is a key strength and it's also something that's desirable from an athlete perspective. So being a person, good person, first, coach second, to then create those environments, I think that's a really powerful sort of message.

Sharon Hannan [00:10:31] Yeah, I think so. You know, people will be surprised, really surprised at some of the things that kids talk to us about that they wouldn't talk to their parent about or, you know, the number of times that I've said to say a teenage athlete, who is having some real problems. You know, "I can talk to your mom or dad about this". "Oh, no, no". Well, you know, I'm not going to talk about it direct, but I'm just going to go and have a conversation with them and not go and say, you should be doing this. You should be saying that. Or you shouldn't be, you know, feeding them this or whatever. But I just go in and have a conversation with them about, you know, how the athlete feels or what I think would help the athlete improve. And that might better sleep patterns or better food or, you know, all of those things. So I find it hard sometimes to have conversations with parents, but you've got to try and make an environment where the athlete knows that they can talk to you and that you might be able to help them.

Cam Tradell [00:11:50] It's almost like the sport highlights or puts more attention on the need for good stakeholder management. So the way that you navigate through that, that's it's an incredible skill. And again, I guess it would help build those bonds of trust between yourself and the athlete when they see you're actually trying to help in other areas or other ways. I think that's a fantastic insight.

Sharon Hannan [00:12:55] Yeah, for sure and importantly, it works the other way. The parents will come to me and say, you know, I'm really worried that, you know, Joe Blow isn't doing enough schoolwork. And, you know, my husband and I are at the point where we're going to start excluding them from training because we've tried excluding them from social media, from their devices or whatever and that's not working. So we just wanted to talk to you about that. And I said, go, you know, go for it. But, you know, it's good when there's conversation, you know, when parents feel that they can come and seek some sort of backup or guidance or some help as well.

Cam Tradell [00:13:18]  Goal setting is about sensible stretch, but it's also about managing the expectations with how growth is measured. You're saying that most are motivated when they come to you, so therefore they've got their eyes set on something and they just want to achieve it. But setting those realistic expectations is just as important as also building them up with regards to progressions.

Sharon Hannan [00:13:18] Yeah, absolutely. And and a lot of the time they won a race at school or something and they come to you, but you introduce them to, you know, jumps and throws and other events as well because you just never know what body type they're going to end up with? How are they going to, you know, where their strengths are going to be? So you try and give them as much variety as possible. But, you know, on the other hand, I get phone calls from parents of eight year olds every Olympic year and every Commonwealth Games saying, oh, my daughter's the fastest in her grade at the school and she wants to go to the Olympics.

Cam Tradell [00:13:56] I think that multi functional approach is a much more sensible vision to the future for creating physical competence and literacy for young athletes as they develop.

Sharon Hannan [00:14:09] It's very hard to get kids to do field events sport. Because it it's movement that are way out of the ordinary, where, running is just faster walking. In their very basic conversations with themselves and but to get them to, to really think about just going and having a go and learning the skill and starting from the basics, it can be pretty hard because kids still have this real fear of failure.

Cam Tradell [00:14:46] Sharon, there's a lot for us to take away from what you've shared. Thanks very, very much.

Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Listen to Louise Sauvage OAM Paralympic champion and wheelchair racing coach
Louise Sauvage OAM
Louise Sauvage OAM

Louise Sauvage OAM is one of Australia’s most successful athletes, with nine gold and four silver Paralympic medals.

She is now helping the next generation prepare for the Tokyo Paralympics and beyond as national coach of the wheelchair track and road program at the NSW Institute of Sport. Louise talks about the importance of adaptability in coaching a variety of athletes at different levels.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Louise Sauvage

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell, and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. And we're fortunate enough to have Louise Sauvage join us today in the studio. Louise is recognised not just for the extraordinarily successful career as a wheelchair racer, but for her pioneering efforts in raising the profile and perception of Paralympic sport and athletes in Australia and all around the world. Welcome Louise, thanks for joining us.

Louise Sauvage [00:00:51] Thank you for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:00:54] Louise, you've got a vast experience and a long history in sport as an athlete, but also as a coach and developing athletes coming through the system. Given that you're working with professional athletes at the top end, but also developing athletes and people entering into sport, how do you go about setting acceptable challenges if you've got multiple athletes in the same group or environment?

Louise Sauvage [00:01:19] Yeah, it can be a bit tough unfortunately. In our sport, there's not a lot of coaches and not a lot of people involved in our sport. So it's a very small community. So we have to be a kind of a jack of all trades to a certain extent. Having my group on a Saturday morning, which is it doesn't hold the really elite guys, it probably has a gamut of, as you said, beginners right up to some athletes that, you know, are knocking on the door, so to speak. And you're training them all together. I think more than anything, we set different goals and different sessions for them, but then we try and work them all together. You have people chase each other, have different goals, set them time goals, set them off, handicap them and that kind of thing on the track and trying to make it fun as well as them getting a lot of a lot out of it and achieving their goals and acquiring the skills. So it can be interesting, but it does give you the full, I suppose, range of your abilities is stretched as a coach to know that you have to deal with every single level.

Cam Tradell [00:02:24] I'm guessing that your experience over time to put a little bit in your in your kit bag with regards to how you service that, knowing that you've got different talent coming through and different abilities coming through. How do you get that mix between people who are really aspirational and wanting to go as far as they can go in the sport? How do you set those goals for those people with regards to achievable milestones, considering that you've got others in there that that are never, ever going to really make that the top level, but are really keen to sort of be there, be part of the community and compete?

Louise Sauvage [00:02:59] Yeah for the guys that obviously show a lot of talent and want to get to the next level, and they're motivated to do that obviously, we have different competitions in different times. Obviously, my sport is worked on on times for different events. So we do set goals within the year and also different competitions that they can go to. You know, that's been a bit hard in the last year or so. But, you know, a lot of my guys compete regularly during the season, so they have goals to compete for, especially when they come to Canberra and go on a nice track. So they really love coming here and they get PB's and it just spurs on when they get home and get back on a slow track. So it's really good. But within the group that I have on a on a Saturday, there are the guys that, you know, possibly won't make that level, but they're definitely there to enjoy the sport and they all mix really well. It's a great community, actually. And, you know, maybe they do or they don't know how far they want to go in the sport. But it doesn't matter even if they decide, you know, a couple of years down the track that ‘I actually do want to have a crack’ well, then, you know, they still there and I'm still there for them to try and help them achieve whatever goals they want to. And not everyone will get to a Paralympic level, but they could get to national level. They could increase their 10K, you know, decrease the sorry, the 10k time. That could be their goal. So it's all relevant for the different athletes. And we try and see that they're individuals that way. You know, just getting around the track for some of the athletes and staying in their lanes is a goal. And some of my guys still struggle to do that. And so it's just it's all relevant to the to the person and the age they're at. And when they started racing.

Cam Tradell [00:04:36] It's incredible the way that you work with that vast range of people. And over time we're talking about, you know, what's in your kit bag. I'd be really interested to know the different ways that you communicate or that you personally as a coach that you've learnt over time to get different messages across.

Louise Sauvage [00:04:53] Obviously, with the elite guys, we do a lot of video analysis, photos, we do a lot of different things to show them what they're doing and how they're doing it and analyse their races and then that kind of thing to try and get them to say also technique physically actually being there with them and showing them. And you talk about the communication styles. It's funny, when I work with the national team and those guys, I seem to have a different level of communication just because they know that I've been there and done that. And they kind of know that. They know that how I know how they're feeling at a crucial moment and what they potentially might need. And they don't have to explain themselves. And it's kind of nice, I think sometimes that you don't have to do that and you get to learn the your athletes as well. And you've got that trust between you as well. So it all comes down to how you communicate, I think, and how you get along with that person. But when with my younger crew, it's just treating them like regular people and asking them questions and a lot of the time. And I can only speak from my experience a lot of time when athletes with disabilities don't always, or people with disabilities sometimes don't get talked to sometimes. Especially the younger kids, their parents are always there or someone's there and they get spoken to in that respect. When I talk to them and I'm asking them about their disability, what they can and can't do, what they can feel to a certain extent and what they can't, they kind of look at me as if to say, ‘oh, no one really asks me’. And it's kind of cool. And I'm not kind of, I don't know. I don't care what your mum's got to say, I want to know what you say and I want to know what you [feel]. And so it's kind of different to be able to talk to them that in that respect, I don't mind if they're six years old. You know, I always say I'm going to change my language, but you know, they're 13 and they're giving me a hard time because I don't know who the Avengers are. So there's lots of things like that. There's different communication levels in that respect. But it's good. It's a good little community. And, you know, it doesn't matter if they know who I am or my history. It's just the way I can relate to all of them. And we have something in common with most of us who will have a disability.

Cam Tradell [00:07:03] That's incredible in the fact that you just sort of brought together a philosophy of coaching, I think that's pretty much across anyone that you've got in front of you is you said that you find out what they can do. And I guess any coach that's standing in front of any group realistically is looking at what can they do, what can they do and what do they need to do and how you co-create a session that's suitable for the people in front of you. I think that's an art in itself. But it sounds like it's really exacerbated here, or highlighted here, because you've got people with the different abilities that it sort of makes you really coach and really innovate. Would you say that's a fair sort of [summation]

Louise Sauvage [00:07:41] Yeah, I think it makes you a better coach. Nothing's stock standard, when you're coaching someone with a disability, you're always finding ways to think outside the square, how to adapt, how to make it work to what it should look like or how it could look like. And even if a child or an adult or teenager says to me, what, I don't think I can do that, well, let's have a crack, you know, let's see what you can do. And, you know, I'll be here, and if it hurts or, you know, you don't think you can do it, then we'll stop. But let's try this. And, you know, and lead by example as well. You know, I often use the other the other kids in the group or adults to use as an example. This is how I get in and out of my chair. This is how I push. These are the gloves I use that you and I have got those or you know, this is where you trying to contact on the rim. You know, I will use my 13-year-old to help my six-year-old. You know, I go around the track and fix their steering, so it's all about, them all teaching the new people and, passing it on like I suppose I do to a certain extent. So it's good. It's really good. You know, how you can communicate between them as well and everyone's equal. It doesn't matter. I mean, I don't care. You come down on a Saturday morning, you're in a race chair, you can have a crack. I don't mind what your disability is and what level you're at.

Cam Tradell [00:08:58] It sounds like your communities of practise, which is an extremely well researched and understood area. So where we're trying to get to with nationalising, coaching and officiating, especially with regards to people having self-awareness, having someone there as a mentor to sort of help them along for people to understand their gaps or where they need help. It sounds like that's really alive and well in your space. I mean, hearing that a 13-year-old's helping out a six year old in something, one that sounds fantastic, just basically building those aspirational mentors and knowing that your aspirations are just there. It's actually the 13-year-old. It's not necessarily someone that you're seeing on TV. I think that's really interesting.

Louise Sauvage [00:09:39] Yeah, I think it's great. I mean, they say the guys, the national guys on TV, I seen them in the Paralympics and things like that. And that is the ultimate, obviously. You know, a lot of my guys come to these able-bodied meets and they see people that they've seen on TV do it and they get excited as well, which is kind of cool. They probably relate to them, but not in the same way. But, you know, we're such a small community. I think it's important that we all share our knowledge and pass it forward and are involved. And I think it's really important for them to feel like they belong as well. It's probably one of the most important things. I mean, most kids in Australia go to their Saturday morning sport or, you know, weekend sport at some stage. And, you know, they can join their local soccer club. They can go and participate. For a lot of kids with disabilities, it's not that simple. It's not that easy. They need specialised equipment or they don't fit in. They can't join in with their brothers and sisters. So for them to come along to their Saturday morning sport is you know, it's important for them to be feel part of that group and know that this is where they belong. They feel comfortable and they can all have a laugh and have new friends and, you know, be comfortable and still have a good time and enjoy their sport and be active and fit and healthy. So it's the same purpose. Yeah, it's a little bit harder sometimes.

Cam Tradell [00:10:52] I think belonging is a great word in that we all want to feel like we belong no matter what the environment is. You said before that coaching is very, very similar. Do people ever come to you for advice or someone who doesn’t have a disability?

Louise Sauvage [00:11:08] To coach someone without a disability? Oh, I don't know how to run. Oh, yeah, but no, I think on a broader spectrum, like I said, coaching is coaching. So where I work, you know, obviously I'm surrounded by another a lot of coaches from different sports and we all learn from each other. And regardless of our sports, regardless of whether it's an able-bodied sport or a sport for athletes with disabilities, it doesn't matter. Coaching is coaching. So I learn lots of things from those coaches and that's how I learn. It doesn't matter whether you're an able-bodied or not, I think that's really relevant. And I've probably learnt a lot from those people and the environment where I where I work more than anything. So, yeah, I think we learn together, you know, from each other. It's great.

Cam Tradell [00:11:55] Do you see that there's that opportunity for people and would there be that opportunity for people to actually come in and coach people with disabilities to improve themselves?

Louise Sauvage [00:12:05] Yeah, absolutely. I think it make you a better coach, like more rounded having to think outside the square, like I said, adaptability. You just learning perhaps you're involved in athletics, but like, it's throwing something, a curveball, which could be, you know, an athlete with a prosthetic leg or an arm. And then you go to coaching a sprinter, but with a difference. And so it does make it I think it's way more interesting and it opens your mind up. And there's not a lot of history that can go back onto a lot of our sports. So you can't go to a book necessarily and look up things. So it makes you think and, you know, some great resources around this country to be able to rely on to help you progress in that way as well. I encourage anyone to come along and experience and get involved and, you know, see what we do and different things. It makes you a better coach. Definitely.

Cam Tradell [00:12:59] I think that's part of the some of the issues that might be here is the barriers to people actually not understanding that and just being fearful of making a mistake. Or what if they slip up? What if they say the wrong thing?

Louise Sauvage [00:13:10] I think people think that a lot. Me personally, I can't speak for all people with disabilities, but I'm definitely of the thing of the you know, I just ask me, you know, no no question is a stupid question. And if it is don't worry I'll probably tell you. But I'm in a nice way. But I think you just ask questions and become involved. You know, you see all the characters that we have, you know, and and how they interact and you know who will welcome you with open arms and yeah. Just come in, ask questions and get involved. Yeah, it's it's a it's a great way to get started and then experience something different.

Cam Tradell [00:13:48] Absolutely. And I think that there's a great opportunity with regards to as you say, it's it can be part of a development phase for people to make them think differently, to help them in whatever path they end up going in their coaching or even in the officiating space where having empathy, understanding setting the environment and then, you know, creating an optimal experience for the people in front of them has to be the ultimate goal for any coach, regardless of who they are coaching or officiating with. Louise, this has been fantastic. A lot to think about, a lot to unpack. And I really appreciate your time with us today.

Louise Sauvage [00:14:24] No worries thank you for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:14:29] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Lauren Jackson Basketball
Lauren Jackson
Lauren Jackson portrait photo

WNBA All Star, Women’s Basketball and Sport Australia Hall of Famer, Lauren Jackson has an extensive basketball career playing locally and internationally, which began at the young age of 4.

“Where I put my time and energy is now crucial. I want to get involved in the political side of sport rather than the media and I need to learn from the people who have been there before.”

Coaching and Officiating podcast series Lauren Jackson

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:07] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I’m the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.

Cam Tradell [00:00:32] Today, we're fortunate to be joined by Lauren Jackson, former Australian Opals basketball legend, WNBA/ WNBL player, Naismith Hall of Fame member, Sport Australia Hall of Fame Board Member and who is currently the head of Women's Basketball and Girls Strategy at Basketball Australia. Lauren made her debut for Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and has really done it all in basketball from playing at the elite level in Australia and overseas, to coaching the Albury Bandits women's team. Lauren, welcome to the podcast. I'll jump straight into our first question. So growing up, your mum was one of your coaches and clearly very influential to what happened. Do you remember any other coaches in those years as you were coming through, or even not coaches someone else who sort of set to the side that was influential to you?

Lauren Jackson [00:01:25] You know, I definitely do. There was a guy named Eric Kivi who was a coach from Wollongong. And for me, I really thought his demeanour and his manner in the way that he treated us and he was so respectful and just a really caring guy, you know, I loved him. He was one of my favourite coaches, you know, and I think that, it’s funny because it's sort of the other end of the spectrum. Tom Maher was one of my other favourite coaches of all time, and he was completely the opposite. There was nothing really gentle about him. So I kind of responded to, there was a quality in these coaches and I think it might have been that kindness piece because Tom underneath it all was kind and he wanted the best for his athletes. But Eric, especially as a junior, I think I was probably 14 the first time I played under him, I just remember this really gentleness about him and the way that he spoke and this calmness which I didn't have, like I was not a calm kid, but when other people are calm, that made me feel better. So he and my mum, my mum had that trait as well. Nothing really rattled her ever. And they weren't nasty. They didn't make us do completely outrageous things as youngsters. Like I had coaches having us do 50 push-ups before every training session and like just random stuff. You know, when you kids even at state level, I just I think that there's sort of a really fine line between ensuring that those kids are happy and safe and having fun and also able to perform like at the level you need them to perform at. And that's to me, that's probably the biggest challenge, particularly with state coaches and things like that, you know. So state under 16's and under 18's, like, it's really making sure that those kids are happy and they're enjoying their experience because otherwise they're going to drop out. You know, they won't continue on, which is what unfortunately what happened to alot of my friends.

Cam Tradell [00:03:26] You talked about his kindness and so on. Can you take us to what would one of his sessions look like? So what would the environment be like at one of his sessions? So you talk about him as a person. How did that work in the team environment? How did that sort of manifest itself?

Lauren Jackson [00:03:40] To be truthfully honest? I really don't remember like the on court stuff. I remember levels of accountability. And this is what my mum had as well, was as much as it was an environment where we felt safe, where we felt comfortable and everything like that, there was accountability like you had to, you know, they'll be kind and they'll be everything that you need them to be. But when you step on the basketball court, you go hard and give it everything you've got. And it's funny because my Hall of Fame thing, the other couple of weeks ago, one of my best friends from Albury was over here and she's now an under 14 coach of her daughter. But she was also my team mate when my mum was coaching. So we were watching all of these old basketball games from, you know, like under 12 state championships and Brodie, she said something about mum being tough and it's tough. She was tough. Like she was definitely tough coach. She expected the best from her girls. But as soon as that game was over, there wasn't that real anger. You know, if we lost, it was more about nurturing, like knowing that we felt that loss just as deeply as what the coach did, or as anybody else did. And I think that's it's a really fine line to juggle, because I think a lot of people who haven't played at any level of sport who come into sport, it's not knowing how to deal with those moments, like after a hard loss, or after big win. And you think you're on cloud nine and then you've got to back up two or three hours later at community sport and you get thumped, you know, like it's it's a really fine line to juggle kids. And, yeah, the coaches that I had, particularly in juniors, a lot of them knew how to do that and a lot of them didn't. And the ones that knew how to stuck with me.

Cam Tradell [00:05:26] So you're looking to coach your own kids as they come through. What sort of coach will you be like? We've got this image of what we are and what we want to say. What attributes do you think that you will bring to that community level, knowing that you've played at that very, very highest level for a long time? What are the ways that you will sort of distil that to the community game, do you think?

Lauren Jackson [00:05:44] I think that just giving the kids the opportunity to get out on the court and play their hearts out, but also in an environment where they're not going to get shouted at, they're not they're going to feel safe and feel like they're involved in something bigger than themselves. So, you know, I think that that calmness thing is a really big piece. I think a lot of kids deal with a lot of stuff at home, at school, the basketball court. That environment needs to be a place where they feel safe, where they feel like they can be themselves, where they feel like they've got team-mates who've got their back. They've got friends. There's adults that care about them. And I think that, that's what I want to be able to bring, you know, performance and outcomes is so important. Of course they are, everybody, you know, that otherwise we wouldn't play sport, right? But at that level, when kids are young, it is about ensuring that they're able to develop in an environment that is safe. And that to me, is probably the biggest thing about community basketball. Not to say, I'll have expectations, if we're training hard, you're going to go out there and play hard. But it's first and foremost, they've got to enjoy it. They've got to have fun and they've got to stay in the game. We've got to give them that pathway.

Cam Tradell [00:06:57] I like what you're saying with regards to you create the structure, but off the back of the structure, there's always mistakes. There's always opportunities. There's things for people to then make those instinctive decisions. I kind of like the fact that as well as you drill, there's always a Plan B because it becomes available, because that's what happens, because sports messy.

Lauren Jackson [00:07:14] It really is. Now, that's so true. So I think it's how you, I guess, structure your practises to make sure that you're drilling the the things that you can't control, you know, blocking out, rebounding, shooting, back cuts, setting screens, pick and rolls like you can't anticipate what defence is going to be played, or if they're going to be defensive players at all. You know, you don't know. So I think that it really does come down to the things that you implement in practise. And I guess even just highlighting a few different aspects of the game that you want the kids to work on. And they can do it at home like a lot of this stuff, they can pick up a ball in the backyard, which is how I grew up playing was in my backyard or a little kid down the road here is like out the front dribbling ball every single day. He's got a ball in his hand. And I think if you're doing that, you've got a ball in your hand, you just toss up shots. You naturally just going and rebounding and seeing where the ball's going to fall, you know. So there's a lot of I think just being able to have a ball in your hands and just doing stuff with it, it gives you an idea of what game play is going to be like. And a lot of that just comes from literally just having a ball in your hands.

Cam Tradell [00:08:23] Some of the creativity that comes from kids is remarkable to watch. Did that ever come into play like did you ever, the shots that you were making at the top? Were you ever making those shots as a kid?

Lauren Jackson [00:08:33] Yeah, absolutely. You know, my mum gave me a drill, one drill when I was a kid, you know, and I and she's always said to me, just get your mikan right, mikan, reverse mikan and underneath the basket and to the day I retired, I was doing that every single day before every single game, before every single practise, because it ensured like it ensured that I just got my touch. I just got my rhythm. And it's sometimes that's all it takes is just getting in your rhythm, you know. So I think some of these drills and look, I was so fortunate to have my mum who who had played at that level, and I guess she's got a basketball brain. So I think, you know, I think that stuff comes pretty naturally to us. But I would say that, you know, having to sort of go to drill something that can centre a child before a game, just bring their focus to the basketball game that is critical, you know, and that and it's different for all kids, you know. So it is it is a bit like education. It's literally finding out what the motivation is, how you can centre a kid, how can focus them. It might be one word. For me, it was having the ball in my hand, just doing mikan drill under the ring. So, yeah, it was that's yes, definitely. I had that one drill that one thing in the backyard.

Cam Tradell [00:09:43] I wanted to know if  that move that was you go to, was that your pet play? That's what you went to first?.

Lauren Jackson [00:09:50] No, it wasn't a pet play. It was it was like so if I got a rebound underneath the basket, which happened a lot, right? I just would go up and finish. So it was more of a finishing play. So if you're underneath the basket where I was most of my career, that was what I would go to. And getting that feel for the basketball before a game, it gives you the confidence, I guess, that, your not going to tank it. And then also it was a focus thing, right? It snapped me into gear. Like as soon as I started doing mikan, I knew that, you know, I was about to be either competing and training or in a game. And then as I got older, it just became a flow thing. It was just getting getting into my flow, just refocusing and resetting and also to with my injuries and things like that. Often my body was, you know, not great. And I had to sort of find a way to, I guess, just feel good. And that made me feel good. You know, I think my go to is like a three pointer, like at the end of a clock. But the thing is, they become you go to because you do them so much and drilling is just so important. And learning that routine, especially from a really young age, becomes so important later in your career.

Cam Tradell [00:10:55] You said propping up a three pointer. Is that out of the fact that you wouldn't do it in the middle of a quarter? However, you can do it right at the end on the crux, because if you hit, its gold, if you miss, no one's really expecting you to hit it, if it's right on the buzzer?

Lauren Jackson [00:11:10] Look, I you know, it's same with mikan and I sort of had a bit of a shooting routine and I would shoot, again this was towards the end of my career when I was older. I couldn't do a lot of the five on five training stuff and the pounding so much but I would shoot I get up two hundred, three hundred shots a day and the majority of them were three's or jumpers or, you know, just because that's all I could do. So all I if all I could do physically was shoot, I was going to shoot as much as I could. And it turned out I became a much better shooter when I got a lot older than I was when I was younger. But mum was really incredible when I was younger, because I do remember her saying to me, if you can make it three, you'll go as far as you can in the sport because big people don't shoot outside the paint. That's why I think my career went in the direction it did, was because I had those skills and my mum was the one that encouraged me to learn sort of guard skills as a big. So I was really lucky that I had just her guidance and her support. And look, I fought her every step of the way as a kid. I really did. She'd be like, go out and shoot you shots and then say, no, no way, get off my back. Don't talk to me about basketball like I was a hard kid to to be around. But some of the lessons that she gave me have stuck with me for the rest of my life.

Cam Tradell [00:12:28] Do you remember your coaches or what they encouraged you or how they encouraged you when you're growing up on those moves, you are a finisher, you get the ball, your job is to get that ball in that hole any way that you can. Do you remember the trial and error around working out the different ways of doing that?

Lauren Jackson [00:12:45] Honestly, I was missing out on basketball teams up until I was 13 years old. And then at 13, I got picked on Australian Junior Camp. I turned 14 at the camp and then I was on the pathway. I was within a year or two, I was in the national squad, but up until thirteen I was missing out on, I missed out on a Riverina team, you know, like that. It didn't come naturally that finishing off. And I did overthink things and I was anxious about everything, but it was the way that I dealt with that. And I played a lot better with my mother as coach because I felt safe underneath her. She was someone, even though she was tough, she brought out the best in me. So I would say that it does take time. And that's why with kids, you can't be hard on them because this is where they develop. This is where they get to that point where, you know, when they become thirteen or fourteen or fifteen, things start to click in. If they've been doing the work, regardless of whether they're making the plays at the end of the game, making teams or whatever, if they've been doing the work, this is when that stuff starts to really, you see it happen, you see it evolve.

Cam Tradell [00:13:46] So even in maturation, if you're looking at the maturation rights of kids as they come through systems or they come through just the normal growth spurt, those ones that have got those micro skills as they get into maturation, when everyone else catches up, they tend to be the ones that thrive because they're not reliant on their speed, their power from a young age where they dominate, therefore they don't need those micro skills. And then when they get there, they can then thrive because they've got now the size, the speed, the power or just the physical capability, along with those micro skills as well, which really help the game.

Lauren Jackson [00:14:20] Like I wasn't even the tallest on our team here in Albury up until I was probably twelve, I reckon. I had team-mates who now come up to my below my boob, you know, and they were taller than me when we were ten, eleven, you know. So it's kids they mature differently. So being able to give them a more complete skill set from a young age and having them do all the different things, not sort of putting them into a box is really helpful.

Cam Tradell [00:14:47] Thank you so much for sharing some incredible insights with us today. Lauren, really appreciate the insight into creating a positive, safe, learning environment for participants at the entry level and what it can mean to not just high performance sport, but also how it can help grow people through their lives has been incredible. Thanks very much.

Narrator [00:15:11] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Listen to Mel Perrine & Bobbi Kelly Para Alpine Snowsports
Mel Perrine & Bobbi Kelly

In this week’s Coaching and Officiating Podcast we are joined by Mel Perrine and Bobbi Kelly, who share incredible insights for athletes and coaches alike on the importance of having open communication lines to understand, learn and grow together, and the unique level of trust working as a guide and visually impaired athlete together.

Together, Perrine has won gold and silver in the Women's Super-Combined Visually Impaired 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships. Mel’s ambition is to compete in her 4th Paralympics Winter Games in Beijing 2022.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series Bobbi and Mel_final.mp3

Introduction Voice Over [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cameron Tradell [00:00:07] Hello, and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell, and I am the project lead for coaching officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.

Cameron Tradell [00:00:34] Today, I'm pleased to be joined by two individuals with a truly unique story to tell. Mel Perrine, who is a B2 classified, visually impaired para-alpine snow sport athlete, and Bobbi Kelly, who has been Mel's site guide since 2019 and a coach at her local club in Perisher. Mel and Bobbi have a great partnership that saw Mel win a gold and silver medal at the women's super-combined, visually impaired 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships. Both are hoping Mel will make it to a fourth Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2022. Mel and Bobbi welcome and thanks for joining us. I want to take you back to the beginning, Mel, I'm really keen to know where did it all start? Where did your love for racing come from and who got you in, who got you hooked and what were your motivations?

Mel Perrine [00:01:30] I guess my love of racing originally came from a development ski camp that I went on after I finished high school. I didn't want to go into uni straight away, and I just wanted to learn more about skiing. I think at that point in time, I was just a recreational athlete, so I went over to Canada for two months and I had a development coach over there who basically showed me the ropes in ski racing, gave me a bunch of technical and tactical information, and I just fell in love with the highly competitive nature of it. I've always been an athlete and it was just something that felt super natural to me. I love speed, I love competition and skiing and always been a massive part of my life all through my teen years. And this was just it was like an avenue to a way that I could continue exploring that. And I just loved it from the first from the first time I was in a racecourse, it was just awesome. I loved every second of it came back to Australia, eventually I went away to uni and then I think in 2009, after another year at the development camp, the same one, I was put in touch with the Australian head coach. He watched me ski and then invited me to join the national team.

Cameron Tradell [00:02:45] Do you remember the environment, do you remember what traits those coaches had back on the day, how they created the right environment for you?

Mel Perrine [00:02:52] I think the great thing about that development camp was it was everybody was a development athlete. So, the information about ski racing and about technical ability and what we needed to work on from ski tuning, boot, like everything was spoon fed to us in a really clear and direct way. Like we knew exactly what was going on, and also the coach was super supportive of our journeys and that the fact that some of us didn't know as much as each other and he was so approachable and really open to that sort of level of communication and then moving into the national team, that early coaching was a little bit different, but it was still recognised that I was a young athlete and so things were kind of given to me at kind of a little bit of a different level than a lot of the other athletes. But again, it was a massive supportive environment from the coaches that were really pushing me to learn that because they actually cared about my development as an athlete and the fact that they wanted to be to be safe and perform really well on a ski hill. And I think that really helped me stay in the sport as a young athlete.

Cameron Tradell [00:03:59] You've got a unique relationship, especially with Bobbi, who joins us as well. And Bobbi, you're a coach in your own right. You work as the guide for Mel on the slopes and in performance. How did you get into this role? What was your entry into being drawn to play in this role?

Bobbi Kelly [00:04:18] I grew up skiing in Perisher, so both my parents worked for the ski resort that allowed me and my siblings to grow up skiing and having fun along the mountain. That led me to start ski racing myself. I competed till I was around 19/20, and because I love the sport so much, I just started coaching and just at a local club and a good friend of mine, Christian Geiger, who was Mel's old guide and coach for the team, asked me a couple times to guide Mel. However, I wasn't really...  It wasn't the right timing for me because I was focusing so much on my coaching. But after the Pyeongchang Games, I decided it was a good time for me to start skiing with Mel and I've been skiing with Mel and coaching part time ever since.

Cameron Tradell [00:05:08] The relationship that you've got in the way that you compete together is quite unique. You seem in sync. You seem very, very connected. Your communication is incredible, and I guess it's got to be knowing the nature of the sport. I'm keen to understand potentially, Mel, where did that start from? How did you start to build the relationship with Bobbi so that you could start to get so in tune with each other and understand how best to work together?

Mel Perrine [00:05:34] I think Bobbi and I really got along quite well right from the start, actually.  Bobs was a little bit nervous the first time we met, the first time she skated in front of me to the point where I think I was back in in ski school as a 13-year-old. I know we quickly... it was really, it was a very open conversation, very quickly about what I could and couldn't do. And I think that it's kind of set the tone for our entire ski partnership where we're both incredibly open. We're both incredibly honest with each other all the time. And just outside of skiing, like, we found out pretty quickly that we were, you know, we're on the same wavelength with a lot of things, but I think our core values are very similar. So, we laugh a lot together. We have a lot of fun together off the mountain. You know, we're always chatting even when it's not ski season. So, I think the fact that we get on and that we share those core values and we set the tone right from the start that like open communication was going to be our thing. That pretty much kick started an awesome partnership, and we've just built on that the longer we spent together.

Cameron Tradell [00:06:45] Bobbi, from your perspective, the role that you play is guide. But is there much coaching that goes on between the two of you on how you can both work together? So, what's the feedback mechanism that you give to each other to optimise what you're doing? So, you can both play the role that you're playing so you can be as fast as you can in competition?

Bobbi Kelly [00:07:03] So obviously, we have the coach’s feedback, however we do talk a lot, obviously all the time to each other, we're always giving each other feedback, always learning off each other. Yeah, it's just constant chatting between each other, talking, trying to figure out things ourselves a lot of the time. Like, obviously, the coaches can't hear what we're saying all the time. So, it's just that constant feedback; trying what works and what doesn't work. And, we just started journaling, sometimes writing what works for us and what doesn't. So, we just keep it as consistent as possible.

Cameron Tradell [00:07:38] When you talk about the coaches that come over the top, you've got these problems that you're trying to solve and the problem can be, we want to learn how to communicate better, we want to learn and how we can get our technique in sync around certain areas. What are some of the safe environments that you create with other coaches to then problem solve with you? What does that look like and who tends to facilitate that?

Bobbi Kelly [00:08:01] I think it's a bit of both. We're very lucky and fortunate in the way in the sense that we have a very good relationship with our coaches where we're both very open with each other and sometimes the coaches will bring something up that we need to work on. Or sometimes it's the other way around, and we're happy to sometimes say, "Oh no we think differently”, and sometimes they may say the same. It's a lot of problem-solving like Mel said and it does come from not just the coaches and us. It can sometimes come from the athlete. We have family video sessions where we sit with the whole team, and we discuss each other's skiing and brainstorm together. So, it's a very like we're all learning together. We're trying to figure out something together, more so than just one side.

Cameron Tradell [00:08:47] How does that work for you, Mel? When you've got these people, all problem solving together with you and then you're optimising, is there a feedback loop when you do come up with a plan and then you go back to the group to say, we try these five things that we sort of agreed on didn't quite work for us, or these three things worked really well. Can you think of an example where that's come to life for you?

Mel Perrine [00:09:10] A lot of our problem solving is done not only in that the athlete-to-athlete kind of communications space, but also the athlete to coach communications space and a lot of the feedback loop that you just described in terms of communicating back as to what worked and what didn't, I think, happens differently for both of those groups. So, with our coaches, it's more of a formal after every run or after every two to three runs. But it's like, "listen, we try that stuff that we talked about in video, this worked and that didn't work". And then we also discuss the language that we use as well. So, you know, a coach might give a cue to me about a certain body position or what like what in skiing. A specific example was he wanted me to like round my shoulders out a bit more rather than opening up my chest constantly. And to me, that didn't make sense in my body. So, I was just like, OK, well, I think of it like this, and for me it’s like pulling like pulling my diaphragm up, which kind of creates a bit more tension through my core, and that's just how it made sense to my brain. And now the communication loop is he uses the same language that I communicated to him that he gives back to me to make sure that we're always on the same page with our language, which makes a really consistent level kind of communication board. And that's just like one specific example, but that applies in a lot of our conversations, whether it's tactical or technical, like our coaches are always interested in the language that Bobbi and I use when we talk to each other so that they can communicate. They can give us instruction that makes sense in that space that we've already created, so we tell them what works in our partnership and then they try and communicate on the same level. So that's a very formal and then informal, it's more informal with other athletes, other athletes who are just like, oh yeah, that thing worked really cool might work really well. Or, you know, we try that. And gosh, that run was totally crappy sort of thing. So that's a little bit less formal, but we can all see what everyone's working on, and it's the athletes because they're outside that super level communication kind of field that the coaches and us maintain they can sometimes see or throw a different word in or throw a different perspective in that changes the perceptive for everyone, which can, you know, help us overcome plateaus.

Cameron Tradell [00:11:37] The coach’s ability to adapt the way they communicate is key to this clearly, because you both are obviously very clear on what you communicate and how you communicate. I'm interested in Bobbi as the guy you're going down the hill. These are starting to go wrong. What happens in your mind with regards to something's? Not quite there? How do you maintain your level of clear communication? Because that's key, right? What are the processes you go through to maintain your, your head and mind space?

Bobbi Kelly [00:12:07] Describing guiding to people? It's almost like you're juggling a ball and then people are throwing all these questions. One person's asking you a mathematical question, one person's asking you a science question, and you have to keep juggling the balls as perfectly as possible, and you have to just stay focused and still do the job at hand. So, I originally was very overwhelmed by this because Mel's this amazing athlete who have so much respect for, I never really wanted to let her down or screw up. However, I think over this period of skiing with Mel, we figured out what works best for us as a team. And that's something that just, I guess, has come with time. Every guide and athlete will work differently. That's part of a journey as a team. I tend to take on information and I guess even say information a lot more simply than what Mel does. Mel takes on a lot of information, and she can describe things very elegantly, and I'm just really basic. So, I guess something that's really worked for us is Mel does a lot, she counts and she relays information when we inspect and then when we run to the courses and I kind of say, what's happening in front of me and kind of react to things very clear and as simply as possible, really. And that's something that I guess I've had to work on as well, for Mel, her senses are quite heightened. So that means when I speak, I have to try and keep the same tone. I don't want to raise my voice too loud if something's about like something that's happened, that was unexpected. I try and just keep my cool and just try and focus on the task at hand and say it as simply as possible. There's no real time to muck around, really, so I just try and stay focused.

Cameron Tradell [00:14:11] It's a unique skill in its own because you're also skiing yourself and you're giving that guide and then you've got, as you say, an incredible athlete in Mel who not much she can't do on the slopes. So, I'm interested in that in the do you do coaching independently of each other, like when you go and work on different things? And what does that look like? What would you work on Mel away from Bobbi? What are some of the things that you would do with other coaches without Bobbi being there? And part two of that is what's it like when you then come back together, and you've got some slightly new nuances or you got some differences? How do you integrate that into what you do?

Mel Perrine [00:14:49] So I think the fun thing is with being visually impaired is I could never go away from Bobbi. I need her. But we have started to figure out a way that we can actually do that because sometimes you just can't focus on your own skiing if you've got either someone in front of you or someone behind you. So, we do this thing when we're struggling with new drills or a concept that we're just not clicking into, we do this thing called leapfrogging. So sometimes I'll stay in one spot and Bobbi will ski away until the end of our comms system range. And then but then she’ll give me information about the slope in front of me and where she's going and point me exactly where the fall line is. And because she's giving me that information, I can then ski towards her with her guiding me vocally but not having her in front of me. And that will then allow me to work on whatever I'm working on and Bobbi to work whatever she's working on without having to worry about each other. But that's about as far away from each other as we ever get.

Cameron Tradell [00:15:46] Bobbi, if you're working on a new skill or you're working on things that are going to enhance you from a guide perspective. Do you do everything with Mel when you're trying out new things, or do you practise some things externally and then try and optimise?

Bobbi Kelly [00:15:59] I'm fortunate enough that I work at a ski resort, I'm always on the snow. I like I live on the snow, so I'm constantly testing out new things and skiing is whenever I can. I am lucky I do go out and just work on things when I can. However, if it's a training day and I just I need to work on something, and I’m not getting it, I sometimes I just have to go "Mel I'm sorry, can you just like, have a break? And I just need to figure it out these skis.  I just need a couple of runs just to get going or something” it’s definitely not, I'm not as young as what I used to be, and I just need a few runs to get me sorted

Cameron Tradell [00:16:39] As you move forward. What's the next piece for you? How do you keep striving to be better? Do you put plans in place, like you said about the process to getting better and optimising what you do? Or is it about "we just set our sights on a tournament to win or something to win"? Or have you got really clear goals on what it takes to be better?

Mel Perrine [00:16:59] I think the one thing that's really held true across my entire career is that the process has always been more important to me, and I'm so lucky that Bobbi also thinks that same sort of way. So, I strive to be the absolute best, most competent, most technically efficient skier that I can be, and I do as much as I possibly can, both on snow and off snow to just be a better skier. And I think my first guide... it was my first guide, Andrew said. He's like, you focus on the process and the results will take care of themselves. It's the process that matters. So, we've got all these big massive competitions coming up, but I'm super excited to get over to the northern hemisphere and train because I think by training, I'm going to get to, Bobbi and I are going to be a better partnership where I'm going to be a better skier. And that's just going to lead to a whole bunch of fun and some cool results like, that's what really matters to me.

Cameron Tradell [00:17:58] Bobbi, is it fair to say fun is the core of everything you're doing? Yes, competition winning is important, but realistically, it sounds like fun is a core component of this.

Bobbi Kelly [00:18:06] Absolutely. I honestly couldn't think of anything better. I'm skiing with my best friend in the mountains. You know, like every day is just so much fun. And I think Mel hit the nail on the head there with the process I think that's probably one of the things we're best at in terms of our communication. I would say they're really good at just trusting the process, and I know that sounds really lame when you hear it all the time, but we just focus on one run and then two runs. I'm just exactly like day one of training. That's all I'm thinking about, leading to the next to the northern hemisphere and just being extraordinary at the ordinary. I think we're both really good at doing this, chatting through it.

Cameron Tradell [00:18:51] I think that's key and core to everyone is the fact that having fun is really important. Understanding the process and the results will come. I think that that is a great philosophy to, to sort of hang true to. How important is it for you to maintain and keep the same communication that you've had that's got you to where you are today?

Mel Perrine [00:19:10] I think we feel such a great foundation that I don't want to change our communication style. I trust Bobbi with my life and to change any part of that, that relationship would be to, you know, undermine that trust. Bobs has ever since we started getting together, she's been awesome at just trying to make sure not only that I'm always safe, but they were always striving for a high level of performance. And I think both those things matter equally to me. So, I said, I don't really want to change our communication style, because it would change the trust level, and I already trust her with absolutely everything.

Cameron Tradell [00:19:48] Mel and Bobbi thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us this afternoon. Incredible insight and a lot to take away for coaches and athletes alike with regards to keeping open communication lines there for people to understand, to learn and to grow together. Thanks again. Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Traddell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Shane Pill Associate Professor Physical Education and Sport, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
Shane Pill
Portrait of Shane Pill

Shane Pill - Associate Professor Physical Education and Sport, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. He joins this weeks podcast.

Over 150 research, scholarly & reports publications. Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) Life Member and Fellow. South Australian Football League 2013: Coach Award. Services to coaching & coach education.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Shane Pill

Cam Tradell [00:00:07] Hello, and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project lead for coaching officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. This week, we're joined by Shane Pill. It was a long and distinguished career as a physical education and science teacher, sport coach, and has worked on developing coaching resources for Cricket Australia, the National Rugby League, Tennis Australia, the AFL, Lacrosse Australia, the Australian Sports Commission and numerous state-based organisations. Shane, your resumé and wealth of experience speaks for itself, and it's great to have you with us to share your insights on coaching. Welcome.

Shane Pill [00:00:59] Thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to the conversation.

Cam Tradell [00:01:02] Shane, you've seen a lot in your role, but also being a sport coach, as well as working in the universities and working with a lot of research. And you see a lot and over time, you get to understand the trends and see how things have shifted from what we used to do to where we are today. We know that these are drop in fine motor or fundamental movement skills and so on, with participants coming through the system. Can you give us an insight through your experience or the research to what impact is that having on today's participants and athletes?

Shane Pill [00:01:35] Well, that's a very, very big area to unpack Cam and I'm a child of the 70s and 80s, and so I grew up with dad taking me to football clubs and having a kick with players before the game and after the game. And dad and mum were also played squash to socially keep fit. So, I grew up around squash courts and would have a hit with whoever was available to warm up with. So, I never had any formal squash coaching lessons but certainly had a hit. One of my most memorable experiences is Nikki Caldwell, Cardwell, who used to float around Alberton Squash Club because that was her home club, and she saw this 14-year-old floating around and 'onto the court fella" and having a hit with me for the practice. Mum played midweek ladies’ tennis and of course we would go there, and you'd have a hit, a tennis hit against the wall. Yeah, these are the opportunities that have disappeared because of the change in social circumstances around people's work lives and the amount of availability that they have, and perhaps some of the drift away from informal sport participation. Yeah, my father and all his friends played squash over summer to keep fit for football season, and that sort of thing wasn't uncommon. They didn't play squash to compete in squash. Football was their sport, but they all played squash because they wanted that fast acceleration training in the off season. Now, in the off season, they'll probably work with a sprint coach, or something defined like that, which of course has its benefits in developing an athletic model. We would come home from school, and we would be kicked out side and all the kids in the street would be kicking a football around playing cricket. We would just roam on our bikes for hours, and I've often had a conversation with mum, and she said, it used to scare her somewhat. But I would just disappear after breakfast and come back sometime in the afternoon for lunch and then disappear again. No mobile phones, no tracking devices. You couldn't go onto your phone and find out where your kids were. It was just a trust that are out there with other kids doing kid stuff. And of course, that's less likely to happen with kids of today, as well, so I've seen since the 1970s when I went to primary school into secondary school and to today, there's a lot less kids riding their bikes to school, walking to school. One of the biggest issues the schools have is how to manage the flow of four-wheel drives through the drop off. Not where can we put all the bikes that the kids are riding to school? Yeah, I went, I went to school, if you got there a little bit late you racking your bike two deep against the fence because all the bike racks were gone. But now you struggle to find bike racks at schools. There's a perception that it's more dangerous to ride your bike. But statistically, it's no more dangerous to ride your bike now than what it was 50 years ago. Of course, it's going to be more accidents because there's more people. Doesn't mean there's a statistically significant more chance of that happening. So there's a there's a general decline in the opportunity to take the skills that you're learning in physical education and apply them in your life, either through forced opportunity because a parent was kicking you outside or school teachers were walking around at recess and lunch and going, you've just been sitting down for a couple of hours in class. Get up and move around. Go grab a tennis ball, go grab a football. This socialisation of physical activity out of our daily lives has meant that we are, we are less movement competent than our great grandparent’s generation. And that's not me saying that that's what the data tells us, the data tells us, despite the fact that our physical education curriculum says to be a standard, you must have coordination and control of majority fundamental movement skills by the end of year four. But the research tells us that now the majority of kids in secondary school without coordination and control of those fundamental movement skills upon which the confidence to be physically active is built upon. So somehow, they're passing P.E without actually meeting the curriculum requirements, because when we talk to these kids and go, "What grades did you get in P.E? Well, I passed".  How could, we don’t say this to the kids, obviously, but the thought process. You can't run, you can't throw it. You can't skip. You can't jump. How did you pass primary school P.E? So, we have a masking of the problem, if this was literacy and numeracy, this problem wouldn't be masked because there's a standardised test called NAPLAN. And one of the things that I had out in the media a couple of years ago was, I think we need to be mature enough to have the conversation that the things that are asses9.sed are the things that we value. And if we actually value developing the movement competency that gives people the confidence to pursue a life of physical activity, maybe we need a national movement skill competency assessment as part of NAPLAN, because that would that communicate to all, that we are serious about making sure that our population has the physical competency that ensures they have the feelings of self-efficacy that drive the choice to be physically active.

Cam Tradell [00:06:53] Having skill and activity does build confidence in other areas, not just in the in the physical, the attributes attached to a sport and a lot of that. I think the ripple effect benefits aren’t also being explored or recognised as well. So, I think there's a lot more than just the competence to be able to catch or play a sport. It's about being physically happy with how your body moves and being able to move. Is that a fair assessment?

Shane Pill [00:07:20] I think that's all wrapped up in your confidence to be selective in your choice to be physically active. And the other thing that those of us that grew up around sports clubs and played sport is the personal and social skills that are developed and also the I'll call it, Community Connections that are developed and the friends that are made for life where you you'll see someone 20 or 30 years later and there will be the water cooler moment. "Remember that mark? Remember that goal? Oh, remember that kick. Remember the day we did this? Remember that situation over there?" These humans are connected by their stories. The Monday Morning Stories and Sport provides those Monday morning stories in abundance, and that's why so many people follow sport. Because as a barracker of a sport team, did you see that goal? Did you see that kick? And there's a sense that we've shifted from being sport participants in the active sense to be sport participants in the observer sense to get the Monday morning stories. And I think if we're going to have a more active and therefore healthy Australia, we need to shift that back to those Monday morning stories coming from our participation. And I've talked about this in one of the blogs how as sports coaches and teachers are we creating the Monday morning story, the emotional connection to the activity, the goal, the kick, the mark, the tumble on the ground that creates the story to tell that you have the capacity to laugh at us because we laugh at ourselves because we tripped over in the moment in the game and got up, dusted off, had a bit of a laugh, got back on with the game again. The persistence, the resilience, the sense of optimism that comes from participating in sport when sport is in its best environment is the reason why sport has been so culturally valued in the first place. Yes, it provides a physical activity and therefore a potential health benefit, but it provides social emotional benefits as well, which is, I think, what you're alluding to say. Through sport, we find a valued connection to all of the things that make something worthwhile in a physical education sense. And that physical education sense is not just the psychomotor development, but the social emotional competencies, the cultural competencies that come from that development as well.

Cam Tradell [00:09:44] You touched then on that job or the role that teachers have, or physical education teachers have. What about coaches and officials? Knowing that they're saying not what they used to see come through? They're now seeing the breed that may be aren't as competent as they were before. What role can they play and how important do you see them being in creating this intrinsic motivation into activity in sport?

Shane Pill [00:10:06] Coaches are huge. Coaches are many kids first induction into a lovely phrase that you use being educated into sport and physical activity, and it's in those Auskick, T20 blast.  I know don't if it's still called Netta Netball, whatever the program's called now in its latest iteration, that's the introduction to a lifetime potential of physical activity. And I think Auskick do it brilliantly. It's not parent on the sideline while coach looks after the kids, it’s the parent in there, being physically active with their kids, role modelling it, doing it with them and that's a powerful communication. You know, I’m here, I'm doing it role model for the kid, provide them with the aspiration through the inspiration of the parent giving it a go. And there's no coincidence that you're more likely as a child to grow into a physically active adult, if you've had parents who role model the importance of physical activity and encouraged physical activity with you and specific to sport, parents are the ones that initiate kids into sport. They make the decision to take them to whatever that sporting experience is. Some great work by Wendy Schiller, Phillip Derbyshire and I think it was Colin MacDougall nearly 20 years ago now, showed that young kids they're interest is in play exploring how their body moves and the capability of their bodies, and they get that cognitive as well as physical development by using movement to explore your environment in teams with others on your own. They just want to play. Sport is a social construction at play that the adults take them to because the adults are interested in the kids playing sport. And on your other point, you know, the coaches therefore capture that interest in play, foster that or not, that interest in play and therefore engage that physical activity, culture or through their practice can turn kids off physical activity culture. That's where coaches play such a vital role. They either capture, sustain and maintain that natural interest in getting my body to move and exploring how my body moves and being active. What does it feel like to be active? Or they shut that down. That's a pedagogical choice. That's a content choice. That's how you set up your environment. So, coaches are absolutely critical.

Cam Tradell [00:12:43] Do you have any sort of thoughts on how you build that value proposition for the parent to come out over the fence and come and get involved and how you sort of sell that to them or using a crude term? How do you sell that value to get the parents over the fence?

Shane Pill [00:12:58] I'll use a personal experience where I was coaching and under eight soccer team, and we started at 3.30ish and again it was majority mums doing the pickup from school escorting their kids over to the park. And the school rule was you couldn't drop and run, because the duty of care stayed with the parent. So, I went over to the parents and said, I've got five games of four on four going. I can only see one game at a time. All you have to do is spot good stuff and say, well done. Whatever you think, you spot good stuff and say, well done, that's good enough, just can I allocate you each to a game and get over there in the mum's went "oh yeah, we can do that". They got up and took the coffees, they are fantastic. And then a bit later on, I said to one of the mums who was a little bit more engaged and knew a bit more about football soccer because of her husband's involvement in it. I said, look, I've got this child who I reckon he's got an undiagnosed special need and he just doesn't know when to run, how to run. And the social engagement is not quite there. Can you shadow this child around this activity that we're going to do? "What do you mean by Shadow? Just move with them, encourage them, say now's the time to go”. That might not have been the best thing to say. Have a look over here now. Kick the ball there just to help with their decision making, as well as the initiation of being active to give them some eventual confidence. And we'll be out to wean that off. I'll said, "oh yeah, I think I can do that." And she got involved. Now, I have this endearing memory now of her, and I won't say the child's name, let’s call the child, Simon. Simon has kicked the ball and I'm at the end pretending to be goalkeeper, which is the end of the challenge and I'll let the ball go past me. And Simon turns to her with the arms in the air. She's lifted up the T-shirt like the soccer players and done the run towards the crowd because she's so pleased with what has happened. Fortunately it was, winter so there was clothing underneath, but you can. You can get what I mean. Where I'm going with this story is, often the parents are just looking for the invitation to be involved, and they're looking for a simple entry point in. And once you've got that simple entry point in, you can grow the capacity for them to be involved from there on. So, I encourage all coaches to see the parents as a resource. To hold a meeting at the start of the season to let them know what you're about, why you're about it and how you go about it and encourage that involvement and find moments to get the parents involved. Because as we've discussed, there's no more powerful role model for young people than their parents being physically active and physically active with them as well.

Cam Tradell [00:15:45] I'm going to fast forward now. We're going to go to 2032. We've got an Olympic Games here in Australia. If we intervene now knowing that there will be some athletes who are coming through young kids of today that have just seen the Olympics being shut down had one good thing. As we lived through COVID, we saw maybe a little bit more Olympics than what we may not have before. Do you think that there is an ability for us, if we change, we create these positive environments, these really fruitful sporting environments for these kids? Is there a chance that that we impact with 2032?

Shane Pill [00:16:19] Looks like I'll go backwards before we go forward. The reason why we have strong is such a strong emphasis on sport in physical education, and I'm not suggesting sport is physical education, but sport is an absolute necessary focus area in physical education. And one of the reasons we had the shift from marching drill, cadets, gymnastics, athletics focus in primary schools, was we won the Olympics in the 1950s, the Melbourne Olympics. So in order to make sure we weren't embarrassed as host country, we developed resources, teaching capacity, coaching capacity to upskill, so we could be highly competitive with the Olympics in our own country. My colleague Russell Brown has talked about that frequently from a sociological perspective. So, we've seen in the past that if we invest, we can make a difference, and sometimes what we need is this event where we're are on world display and we want to make sure we display ourselves well, that means the investment will be forthcoming. So, I think we have an opportunity, I think we have an opportunity to promote why we need it. And definitely, we know that the Australian Sports Commission now Sport Australia has been key to unlocking the potential for the development of the movement capacity of Australians. Since the 1970s and in my own teaching career in physical education, the big initiatives that have driven changes in physical education came from the Australian Sports Commission, who invested in the 1990s in the development of the game sense approach so that we had I play first model of sports coaching. That game sense approach is as relevant now as it has ever been. Despite the fact that it was trialed and released between 1994 and 2006, which makes it, what, twenty-one years old now? Most coaches would still consider it an innovation because it's not their common experience of coaching. So, returning to that game sense approach and its its message of play games, play games with purpose. Know, the educative intent of the game, but play games because that's what motivates. And that's what we're there to do to prepare people to be able to play the game successfully because if they feel success, they're more likely to turn up again. So, let's re-energize that that notion of the game sense approach, which still sits there on the Sport Australia website alongside the Physical Literacy Strategy, alongside the Playing for Life strategy as the pedagogical platform to bring those two elements to life. The Sports Commission invested in the sport education model, translation of Daryl Siedentop’s work into Australian curriculum, and that sport education model replicated all the best features of sport in physical education. So, the social constructs of sport was understood by young people, and I could find an entry point, if the entry point wasn't player. Maybe it was artist representing sport. Maybe it was publicist writing about sport. Maybe it was statistician, recording sport and providing the feedback for the awards and the festivity. Maybe it was as an administrator of the sport experience. And so, bringing those capabilities into the school curriculum so that people could then transfer those out into community. We know that Sport Australia, therefore is the critical player not just for sport, but for sport in physical education as well. Physical education looks to Sport Australia for the leadership, for the opportunity to fund initiatives that will drive better practice in physical education and if we get better practice in physical education, arguably we'll get better practice in community sport. Because often sport will go, oh, you're the P.E teacher, can you coach the under 13's team, oh, you're the P.E Teacher, I see you're the P.E teacher at Ascot Vale Primary School, can you coach these under eight Netball team? And so, you get the physical education teachers active in the sports clubs and then you connect the other coaches to what they're doing and eventually we start to upskill the system because I'm a firm believer, having done a coach development project in South Australia funded by the Office for Rec and Sport a couple of years ago. The single best investment that we can make to retain kids in sport, so we have more kids, more active, more often is to upskill the capacity of the sports coaches because the single biggest contributor to retention in community sport that the clubs can have an influence on is the quality of the coaching that the young people are experiencing.

Cam Tradell [00:21:35] Incredible Shane and there's a lot for us to think about and unpack this. I really appreciate your time this afternoon. Thanks very much for joining us.

Cam Tradell [00:21:45] Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell, and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching officiating series.

Listen to Ben Sutton Pararoos
Ben Sutton

Benny Sutton, a Football coach and former Pararoos player who played at the 2019 World Cup in Spain joins this week’s podcast.

Benny heads up the Paraoos development centre which provides football development training to children and adults with Cerebral Palsy and Acquired Brain Injuries. Ben has a passion for change and equality, entering into coaching to create opportunities for other children with Cerebral Palsy to play football.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series Ben Sutton

Introduction Voice Over [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:07] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I’m the project lead for coaching officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, I'm pleased to be joined by Ben Sutton, a football coach and former Pararoos player who played at the 2019 World Cup in Spain. Ben heads up the Paraoos Development Centre, which provides football development training to children and adults with cerebral palsy and acquired brain injuries. Ben has a passion for change and equality, and he got into coaching to create opportunities for children with cerebral palsy to play football. Ben, very pleased to speak with you, thanks for joining us.

Benny Sutton [00:01:04] Thank you very much.

Cam Tradell [00:01:06] Benny, I'm really interested in your journey. You've obviously done quite a lot in the game and played a lot of roles. I'm really interested in where did you start? What was your first experience in playing and who was really that person that supported you or gave you the love for the game?

Benny Sutton [00:01:23] I started when I was like four so that's when I decided to do it. And then the person who gave me the love for the game, was probably my father, because he was my first ever coach, and I remember one of the first ever memories that I have of playing, is of me in goal, then I got hit in the face with the ball. I saved it, but the ref and my dad counted that as a goal, and I was like, Oh no. But for all and all that's really helped with my cerebral palsy and, it kind of helped with all my balance and doing stuff that I... without even knowing, just going, and helping like balance there's movement, there's, like, also playing. It made me relationships I would've never had.

Cam Tradell [00:02:19] Yeah, that's interesting, so you found that as you were playing more and more, that the sport was actually helping you grow other, you know, physical attributes that you wouldn't have otherwise had?

Benny Sutton [00:02:31] Yep!

Cam Tradell [00:02:31] Yeah, that's great. And you're talking about the social, can you tell me a little bit about that. How does the social, do you remember early social interactions in sport?

Benny Sutton [00:02:39] My whole under-6s and under 7s teams were my school friends. And when we were in Under 6s, we lost every single game, except for one... And in under 7s, somehow, with that same team, we were undefeated a whole entire year, and I don't know how that happened, but it happened. And then we were in...., I was like 12, when I came into the Cerebral Palsy program and that changed my life forever, because when I brought that up until I went into Cerebral Palsy Alliance until I was about 7, and then I didn't really have that cerebral palsy, contacts centre or any friends, with the severity, so I couldn't really connect with anyone. So, but when I got there, it changed my whole life. I got to meet people from all parts - teachers, people in finance, people my age, so we got to talk about everything and now some of them are my team mates now. Most of them are my role models, even now being an older one in the program now, even the younger ones are my role models, and I think that if I can help you and that makes me so much better.

Cam Tradell [00:04:14] That's a great insight to the way that sports really embedded not just connections and friendships, but how to help support and grow people. And I'm wondering, you said your father was your first coach. Do you remember what made him a good coach for you?

Benny Sutton [00:04:29] He was patient. He didn't care if we did well, he was like even if you did a mistake he did not care. He knew that every time we were going to do something, we would get better and not to get frustrated. That's one of the main things, is I see coaches nowadays get so frustrated at kids going, "Oh my god, why can't you do this?" But I learnt from my dad and my mum that to be patient, and that they will get this eventually, it will take time, everything takes time and practice. If they want to get better, they will practice, so yeah.

Cam Tradell [00:05:14] So it's about creating that positive environment?

Benny Sutton [00:05:17] On field, I’m a very negative person, like to myself, I think I should be at this level at the highest level possible, and I should not make mistakes, because I'm representing my country and I should not do it, but that is the one mindset to have. But as a coach, I am the complete opposite. I'm going everything's fine, everything's positive... "Let's go", "let's do it again, don't be like me, be the best you can be".

Cam Tradell [00:05:51] I love that, Benny. And is it true, Benny, that your very first team you were involved in was more interested in holding hands than actually playing the sport?

Benny Sutton [00:05:59] Yes. So, my under six team we weren't really the best at football. We were more just all school friends, but we were all holding hands and that's where the patience from my dad, I applaud him for that. I would have been, what are you doing? why are you doing this? But he was like, Nah. But then he realised that, so he didn't put us together. Even so, we couldn’t hold hands. And I think that's where, when I went to Under 7s, that's why we did so well. I was patient and then we just went. We actually started to enjoy the team and went down, and we went home with our friends, like our closest friends, that we were holding hands with the year before you before we went "OK let's play now.”.

Cam Tradell [00:06:55] Clearly, that was a really positive experience for you because you stayed in the sport ever since. And you then have started to make representative teams. Can you tell us about when you first made the representative teams and what was the atmosphere? What was it like with your new coaches where you're coming into performance coaching? What was that like?

Benny Sutton [00:07:13] It was very interesting because I actually never had a proper, proper coach until I went into the reps’ teams. So, I always had my dad or schoolteacher or science teacher or whoever it was that was like, OK, let's do this. So, when I hit 12, I went into the New South Wales Cerebral Palsy program, but I didn't actually make the team until I was 17, so in 2010, where we went to Melbourne for the National Championship. And that's where the spirit of that helped me so much like just learning off. I had been with NSW players for five years, so I already knew them. But meeting the Victorians, the Western Australians, the South Australians, and everyone else turned out okay. That's where I need to be. And but the experience they gave me it wasn't all about football. It was about being a good person and like Football's a team sport. So how can I, how can I get from a team sport even into my work? How can I be a better person here and my work, and be a team player? And then in 2017... and in 2016, I got the call up for the national team and that's a whole different level. I thought NSW's camps were hard, and it went up a notch. So, in January 2017, I trained my butt off for like four weeks, and just went into the February camp and I was like "Oh my God!" "ok", apparently, I did well, which wasn't too bad, and then funnily enough, I got my first call up that year and I cried all the way home and then I told all my family. Mum actually organised a party without me knowing, like, at my house that even if I got dropped, she was like oh, everyone, I was like OK, so I went to that actually had 11 people from my family fly over to Argentina to watch me actually play. Which in CP Football we don't get many people. Now we're starting too, but in that time, that was unheard of. And like all the coaching staff loved it. I was like "oh my God, this is awesome" And then, yeah, but the levels of coaches now I have, so much better. So, we are allowed to go into Northwest Spirit, and we've been training with them for about three to four years. And having training with the Imperial Under 6 team and while all round helped us so much because we got faster and strong. And we have to react to it, and we thought that after I get behind them. So, we have to now even train harder.

Cam Tradell [00:11:00] So who were you playing for in Argentina the first time, and then who did you play against?

Benny Sutton [00:11:06] So we went to Argentina, we were playing for the Pararoos We played against the US, Ukraine, Portugal, Japan, Argentina, funny enough, and ... Northern Ireland.

Cam Tradell [00:11:29] Right! That's an incredible experience.

Benny Sutton [00:11:33] I would have never had gone to South America if it weren't for football.

Cam Tradell [00:11:37] Incredible. I also want to touch back on something you said before, and I think this is key and it's the impact that a coach can make if they make it more than about sport. I like what you said is that it wasn't just being about a good sportsperson, it's about being a good person. Can you tell me a little bit about what that means? What sort of things did you do to identify what you could do to be a better person?

Benny Sutton [00:12:01] I know its cliché, but it's treat the way you want to be treated. So, it was like, "OK if I say this to someone, do I want them to say it to me?" No. And how do I get the best out of my skill set to help the team, so at North Sydney, where I used to work, I basically went, OK, I'm very, I hate the shed being untidy and that was me. I was like OK, my job there, ok let's clean the shed. So maybe once every three weeks, I was like OK, this is my job, I can help the team if I can make someone's life a bit easier, I’ll do it. and that's where I kind of went, OK, like, I've done two and a half hours on Sunday, right? Anyway, clean the whole entire shed and then that make's someone else’s life better, and my life easier as well, so I can go bang, bang, bang, so everything works. And then someone else would do that for me and then we all do it for each other. And that the connection that I found at North Sydney, I always only ever had one job. Now I have two. But, at North Sydney, the culture there was so good, we all helped each other, and that's why we were all still so close with each other. Even if someone left, we would still contact them and invite them to everything that we would do.

Cam Tradell [00:13:46] That's a fantastic culture and I must admit, I've lived a little bit of it, and I'm interested in your coaching now, and I love the fact you say that you're a different coach than you are a player. I really like that is the fact that you are hard on yourself, but you want to create those positive environments for the for the new breed coming through. Can you tell us a little bit about what excites you about coaching the new breed? Who are they? What do you do for them?

Benny Sutton [00:14:12] So the new breed, I've actually tried to develop the Pararoos Development Centre, where basically the next generation to come through and take my spot and take all the spots of the current national team. But to have, basically because I didn't have that opportunity when I was younger and I was like, I want that. I want what I had, and I wanted to give it to them. And it’s all about, can I not Impact, but can I change something in them, to make them love to the sport? If I can make... it’s all about loving something, if you love something, you will continue to do it until you are 75 or however how old you are. But yeah, but as you know at North Sydney, we have a guy who's 75 and still playing because he loved the sport. I want that, I want to try and make them, the Under 10s go up and be him and play at 75. I want them playing some of the teams and they can play with me. But yeah, it’s all about just making sure one: They don't quit the sport or if they do, how can I help outside of that as well? How can I make sure that next time I don't make a mistake? For me, it's not everything, but it also impacts me. The way I make sure I've done my job correctly is at trials the next year, if everyone wants to come back then I’ve done my job. If one person doesn’t, I haven't done my job correctly.

Cam Tradell [00:16:14] Geez, you are hard on yourself, Benny.

Benny Sutton [00:16:16] I am. But you always have to be positive no matter what happens, even if they do the worst mistake of their life, put a positive spin on it. If they pass it across goal, and the other team intercepts and scores, then, that's fine. I'd say OK "what can you do different?" how can you do it differently? And then the next time, if they keep doing it, then you go OK, how can we do it differently? And then they'll think, they'll go "Oh I can play on the Goalkeeper, or I can play someone else" and you go, OK,

Cam Tradell [00:16:59] As long as they're learning, I guess, Benny, is that if the mistake is a learning opportunity, then it's not a lost opportunity. It sounds key and quarter to everything you do. The enjoyment factor must be high, too, like if you're putting the benchmark of everyone that's here this year needs to be here next year. You must really drive fun and engagement as being key drivers of your sessions.

Benny Sutton [00:17:22] Yeah. And like what I learnt from everyone I talked with and coached against and even played under was, it is all about fun. If it’s like I found that especially with my under 9 girls this year that I found the one game that they all loved - it was bullrush, they all loved bullrush, and I like perfect. I found a game, that I was like, if you do well lets go do bull rush then, and I'll tease it for like five minutes, and then they will all remember, they'd go "Ben, let’s play bull rush, let's play bull rush" and then I'm like OK play bull rush for five minutes, changes the whole day, and then they all switch on and focus and I can just go once I visit.

Cam Tradell [00:18:15] It's interesting because you've got a unique skill there where you're actually playing to their motivations, in your coaching, to the motivations of the athletes or the participants in your team to ensure that they're not just learning how to play the sport, they're not just learning how to be part of a team, they're also learning that they've got some say over what happens in your session. And I think that's great that buy in that you get is that a sort of strategy of yours?

Benny Sutton [00:18:43] Yes. Master strategy of mine. Because I find that one, even when you learn to play, everyone wanted too, and if I could, I would just want to play games the whole time. But as a player, I would be like "Can we play? because that was so much fun. And then now as a coach I can go, "OK let’s play", but then I can add some rules into it so it's kind of like you're learning more about learning and all of that cognitive learning and going, OK, can I have fun? But also, oh, okay, I'm doing this well, and then you point out what we did well, and then you point out that one thing that they didn't do well and then we go from there.

Cam Tradell [00:19:30] So creating constraints on, on what you what you're providing to people in a fun way, highlighting all the positives. And then let's work on the one thing that you want to get better at. Is that planned before the session? Or do you wait to see what's in front of you and then make decisions as you're coaching, which is real coaching right?

Benny Sutton [00:19:53] A bit of both. I try to plan what I'm going to do, but if that doesn't work, you always have to adapt. Even like the size of a session, if it’s too big and it’s too easy for them, you have to make it smaller but even if anything doesn't work, you cut them into a team and go Okay, I'll just change the roles off the top of my head and then that would be that.

Cam Tradell [00:20:22] Your adaptability there, I like that is the fact that you create the constraint based on what you're seeing, but you wait to see what you see from your players and what they can do, what they can't do and what they need to do. And then you adapt your session to get the best outcome from the players. And then you add in another layer, if we get all this work done, we can also play the game you want to play.

Benny Sutton [00:20:46] Yeah, but it also, everyone has different situations as well. Like I might have a bad day at work. And then I go to training and sometimes I don't want to be there. But it’s the same with kids, they might have a bad day at school, something might have happened at school. Something might have happened at home that we might not know about. And then you find out, and then you go "OK, let's make it more fun, let's make it more fun now, let’s make it easier," and they go OK, cool. And then if you have more than one session, you can go OK, let’s make that day harder. Let's make this one more fun.

Cam Tradell [00:21:30] Benny, I really like that because one that's how you intrinsically motivate people to love sport is that it becomes what it's designed to do. And that is, yes, be competitive. But two, fun to turn up and engage in, we've grabbed a lot to learn from you today Benny, that was fantastic. Really appreciate you joining us this afternoon. It's an incredible insight for us all to take away. Thanks so much for your time mate.

Benny Sutton [00:21:56] Thank you very much for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:22:00] Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Greg Chappell Cricket
Greg Chappell

Australian Cricket legend and member of Cricket Australia Board, Greg Chappell. Greg takes us through the changes to coaching and officiating over the last few decades and how this has impacted emerging talent. We explore the progression of community coaching and the importance of recreating the same training environment as the game.

Since his retirement as a player in 1984, Greg has been a selector for national and Queensland teams, a member of the Australian Cricket Board, and a coach. he has worked as a full-time commentator on multiple occasions.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series Greg Chappell

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series. We will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. We'd like to welcome Greg Chappell to be with us today, Greg provides a multifaceted view of sport. Having been a player at the international level, he worked as a selector for the National and Queensland teams, a member of the Australian Cricket Board, a coach. He's worked as a full time commentator. And he was also with the Indian Cricket team for two years as he filled in as the national coach. Welcome, Greg. Thanks very much for joining us.

Greg Chappell [00:01:00] Thanks, Cam. Nice to be with you.

Cam Tradell [00:01:01] Greg, you've had a lot of experience with regards to what coaching has looked like from the coach's point of view, but also from the players perspective and over the time, what have you seen in reflecting on all that, that the key attributes of of good coaching look like from your perspective?

Greg Chappell [00:01:18] Yeah, it's a very interesting question, because I obviously grew up in an era where there wasn't a great deal of organised coaching. We were lucky that my two brothers and I were lucky that our father was a very keen cricketer and keen sportsman generally, and he encouraged us to play sport. Cricket was always his favourite sport, so that was the dominant sport for us. But luckily, the way he introduced us to the game was very clever. There was a lot of intuitive stuff there. He understood the game very well and he understood coaching better than I think I realised at the time. The three of us all finished up playing for Australia. We all had very different styles and that was because Dad's early introduction was about what he wanted us to do, not how to do it. So he allowed us to develop our own style, and I think that was a very important part of it. The other really important point that I reflect on now, I didn't realise it at the time, but he encouraged us whenever we played cricket in the backyard or with our friends or down the beach or wherever it was, it was always to be played seriously. He wanted us to play with the hard ball from an early age, but he didn't give us any pads and gloves to play with. So the message behind it was always, if you learn to use the bat properly, you won't need pads and gloves. So it was a bit of tough love, if you like. There were a few wraps on the leg and a few wraps on the fingers. But we learnt that if I did miss it with the bat, then it wasn't going to hurt us. So that was important. It also made us watch the ball. He also had a family friend or friend of his who did some sort of organised coaching on a Sunday morning near, well not far from our home and so any of the kids in the neighbourhood or anywhere in Adelaide, for that matter, I mean, I remember kids catching the tram down from the eastern suburbs of Adelaide. We lived in Glenelg and come down to Glenelg and walk down to Mr Fuller's place where he had a couple of nets in his backyard and he would throw balls to the kids and basically teach the defensive aspects of the game. But the part of it that I remember most was that when Mr Fuller was finished with us, Dad would take us into the next net and he would throw balls to us randomly, but full tosses, long hops, half volleys and he taught us to score runs. He encouraged us to look to be scoring runs. And I'm forever grateful that I grew up in that environment because it really did influence my my thinking and my style from a very early age. Then when we got to the elite cricket levels, they were no team coaches, they were no club coaches. They were people who organise practise by the clock, know how long you batted balls and who batted. But no one was giving a great deal of instruction, most of the instruction or most of the learning came peer-to-peer. You know, we would talk amongst ourselves, we would watch what the other guys were doing and watch particularly what the better players were doing and the beauty of the game being a very much an amateur game in those days was that training was only twice a week. You came from work because everyone had a job and you were keen to get there. So there was a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. But also you had the odd test player. You had a few shield players who were interspersed around your training sessions. So you got to look at good players up close. And that's where the learning came from. And I'm just so grateful that with the environment in which I grew up.

Cam Tradell [00:05:19] Those communities of practise in that peer to peer learning. And it's something that is so powerful with regards to, you know, your peers understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are because they see you so often and play against you so often. And I guess that's the piece where a coach can play a crucial role in creating those environments now, learning from all those experiences from the past.

Greg Chappell [00:05:41] Yeah look, I think the other important part of it was that they were also batting, bowling against the same players. The lessons that you were getting were pertinent to that moment. It wasn't just somebody's experience from a day gone by or some somewhere else. It's much harder being a coach, having sort of gone from being a player and got involved in coaching. The games obviously evolved from very much a pastime in the first half of my career, it was a pastime. We had a job and we played Cricket on weekends and, you know, a few in between. You know if you got the Sheffield Shield level or Test cricket, obviously you went further than that, but it was very much a pastime. Then we went through the revolution of World Series Cricket and came out the other side and it was semi-professional. So it was starting to evolve into that professional game. And more coaches came into being. Bob Simpson was the first coach that was introduced to an Australian team. And that sort of came from the pressure that evolved as the game evolved into the semi-professional stage, there was more responsibility, more pressure on the team captain, when you talk about an Australian team. So the decision was taken that a lot of that responsibility had to be taken off the captain. So team managers, team coaches, media advisers and all those sort of people started to come into being and and Bob Simpson was the first one as an Australian coach, and he came at a time when we had a young team and he did a lot of drilling. He did a lot of work ethic sort of stuff, really got the guys working a lot harder. And that was with a change that started to take the emphasis away from the peer to peer stuff and put an individual in charge of the learning. And I'm not sure that that's necessarily the ideal situation, no doubt that peer to peer stuff still goes on. But all of a sudden we had an individual and it doesn't matter who that individual is or was. All of a sudden, somebody became responsible for the information. The holder of the information, if you like, all the wisdom, and I think  the wheel got sort of turned on the side a little bit at that point. There's some good aspects of that, but I think there are some lesser, less good aspects of it and we can go into that as we as we talk.

Cam Tradell [00:08:26] It's interesting because if we take that down to the next level and you talk about what's happening at the top and often community reflects what happens at the top, what would good community coaching look like? What would those environments look like at the community level? How would you see that optimising the coaches role in the community?

Greg Chappell [00:08:46] Yeah, it's such an important one. And this is it wasn't so much what happened at the elite level, that sort of took things off-kilter, in my view, it was what happened at that community level and the club level is all of a sudden we decided we needed more coaches. And so the coach education came into being and then that grew very quickly. And there were some good aspects of that. But the emphasis of coaching became around technique. And from a batting point of view, it became about not getting out and from a bowling point of view, it became about not going for runs. And that's the wrong aspect, in my view, in the beauty of the education that I got, it was about scoring runs and taking wickets. And you learnt everything from that aspect, but I think what's happened over the last 40 years or so is that as we've got more coaches at that community level, I mean, we had our training sessions, were twice a week and they were generally in nets because that was the only efficient way you could get a group of however many people through a training session reasonably quickly and efficiently. But they were top-up sessions. A lot of what we learnt, particularly as kids and in the formative years, was from our backyard cricket, our cricket down the park or the beach, which was totally run by the kids themselves. We had no adults, we had no coaches, no umpires. We umpired our games. We argued amongst ourselves. We decided what the rules were. We decided depending on the location in the backyard, obviously it was a much tighter environment. So you had automatic wicketkeepers and the trees were out and the house was out or whatever. And then down at the park, you maybe had a few more kids. So you had a few extra fielders, but you still have some trees that were part of the fielding team and so on. So you were learning in an environment that was very close to the game. You were making decisions in real-time so that the development of the individual wasn't just about the technical aspects, it was about the mental aspects and the decision making. And what we know from history is that the best players are the best decision makers. They are the ones that are picking up most information and using it more efficiently and effectively than than the rest. It's not technically driven. I mean, if you want a good current example, you wouldn't necessarily coach someone to bat like Steve Smith from a technical point of view. But he knows how to make runs. You know, he he's learnt to to bat in an environment that was about run scoring. And so what I believe we need to be doing at the community level is teaching people the whole game. So creating environments that match the games. Cricket, possibly golf is the other sport that train in one environment and play in another. You know, we don't play in nets, we play in a field that's got spaces and the art of batting and the best batsmen have been the ones who've been able to hit the ball where the fielders aren't. And so if you're not learning in an environment that is teaching that, then you're only learning part of the game. And I think that the problem that I have seen, particularly once I got into the coaching role, was that nets can be good, but you've got to understand how to use nets. But it's not just a matter of bowling a never ending over or batting, you know, just batting for volume, the worst word I here in cricket these days. Where do you get the volume? It's not about volume. It's about the quality of the training and the quality of the learning environment. The coaches role, in my view, is to create a learning environment, not be didactic, not be the owner of all the wisdom, but be able to create the environment that imbues the education.

Cam Tradell [00:13:13] Incredibly insightful because context is key, taking that to another level. What are some of the key aspects that an official, an umpire can provide to assist at any level of the game?

Greg Chappell [00:13:27] Yeah, it's a really good question because the good umpires stand out. Generally, they're good human beings. They are the people that have got a little bit of an understanding that not everyone's perfect, perhaps no one's perfect and that people are going to make mistakes. Cricket is an emotional game or sport is an emotional activity. And sometimes emotions run over and people say things and and maybe do things or threaten things that may be not appropriate. And the best umpires have been the ones that have handled the whole environment the best. They generally were good decision makers. Some of the worst numbers were the ones who were so fixated on getting the decisions right that they the environment got out of hand. Whereas the better umpires sometimes make mistakes, umpires will always make mistakes. You were prepared as a player to accept a mistake from an umpire that you knew who was a good bloke and ran the game well, understood that they was going to be some emotion running over from time to time. Mel Johnson was one who stood out in my time. From an Australian point of view, Mel hadn't played first class cricket, but he played premier great cricket. He understood the game. He was a school teacher, so he understood young men, young people. And so he he could read the situation. Well, know Dickie Bird in England was another. Now the good umpire for the same reason. I mean, Dickie Bird had no right to be a good umpire. He was the most nervous, anxious individual that I ever met. But somehow he got his decisions right generally. But he also allowed the game to ebb and flow. But when something looked like it was going to get out of hand, he would step in. And the good umpires did that, they would just say to the captain "mate watch out this situation starting to get out of hand. You better handle it." They never let it go too far. And there was a little bit of give and take, you had a relationship with those umpires, they weren't the only two, they were other good ones around. But you actually had a relationship with the umpire as a player and as a captain. And it was really important. You didn't have to be the best of mates with the umpires. There had to be a bit of distance. But a good relationship between the captain and the umpire made a really big difference because all the umpire had to do was say, "Greg, this is a bit of an issue you better sort it out" and you knew that he meant it, and you knew that if you wanted the relationship to continue, you had to handle it. And so most things were handled on the field. I think what's happened since we've got match referees and third umpires, fourth umpires, DRS and all of that, the responsibility has been taken off the field. And I think that's made a huge difference, and you're not getting, I don't see the same relationships that existed before you took the responsibility off the field.

Cam Tradell [00:16:44] There's a lot to sort of unpack there because, I mean, those relationships become so important. The environments that they create with the coaches, the officials and the players all communicating well tend to be the the best environments to compete in any way.

Greg Chappell [00:17:00] Communication, you mentioned the word communication. That's key in any environment. You know, if you've got a standoff where you've got someone who's saying, look, that's not my responsibility or no, I've got to focus on this, I can't afford to distract myself by all that sort of stuff, then the environment is going to go downhill.

Cam Tradell [00:17:19] Fantastic Greg, thanks very, very much. We really appreciate it. There's a lot for us to think about and a lot for us to take away and I'm certain that a lot of community coaches will learn a lot from that. Thank you very, very much for your time today.

Greg Chappell [00:17:30] My pleasure, Cam. Nice to talk to you.

Cam Tradell [00:17:35] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Listen to Brad McGee Cycling
Brad McGee
Portrait of Brad McGee

Brad McGee OAM is an Australian former professional racing cyclist. He joins this weeks podcast.

He started competitive cycling at the age of ten, joined the NSWIS squad by age 14 and further developed under the AIS track cycling program between 1994 and 1999 before competing as a professional for 11 years predominately with the French outfit ‘La Francaise des Jeux’ and is a 4 time Olympian.

Coaching and Officiating podcast series - Brad McGee

Cam Tradell [00:00:04] This is a Sport Australia podcast production. Hello, and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project lead for coaching officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.

Cam Tradell [00:00:35] Today, we are lucky enough to be joined by Brad McGee, a former Australian professional racing cyclist who has competed at four Olympic Games, as well as the coveted Tour de France. Bradley is an Olympic and Commonwealth champion across four Olympics. He has won one gold, one silver and three bronze medals. He's a five-time Commonwealth gold medalist and a member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. As a coach, he has been head coach of the New South Wales Institute of Sport from 2012 to 2020 and has also become the National Men's Road coach from 2013. Brad is passionate about enriching the Australian community through a strong international sporting presence. Brad, your résumé and experience speaks for itself, and we thank you for joining us tonight.

Brad McGee [00:01:22] Cam, my pleasure. I feel quite honored. I've listened to many of these and really appreciate them.

Cam Tradell [00:01:27] I really appreciate the support. You've had a career in cycling that sort of went to the heady heights, but it all started somewhere, and I'm really keen to understand where did it start? And do you remember when you fell in love with the sport, and do you remember who helped you?

Brad McGee [00:01:45] Oh, definitely. Memory lane is wonderful. It feels so long-ago Cam. It really does. Essentially, it all started at the Parramatta Cycling Club way back in the early 80s. Youngest of four boys. So, my oldest was doing a little bit of triathlon, wanted to be cycling, and so that meant we went off to the local cycling club, Parramatta Holroyd Cycling Club at the time. And it only transpired years later that my grandfather, who we're very close to my uncle, were big, big-time members of this club. But we knew nothing, nothing of this until years later. But I sort of fitted in with the what the feeling was when we went into this club. It felt like family almost immediately, just welcomed in. Everything was new and before you knew it, you know, my eldest brother and all the other brothers followed into the sport, and so did my father and my mum made a lot of sandwiches to feel it all really, but there was just a lovely club culture.

Cam Tradell [00:02:44] Do you remember your first coach and what they used to do to one either make you love the sport or question your love for the sport?

Brad McGee [00:02:51] Well, I need to put my old man John down as my first coach as he is, and I'll call it out. He might disagree with this one, but we're at Dubbo going to the Easter carnival. I went up there, didn't have a bike, but my brothers had all started the cycling thing. I was a soccer player Cam, loved it. And before you know it there's a competition for my age group. It must have been under 12s or under 10s or something and but didn't have a bike wasn't a problem because my brother Rod was in the race just before. So, the plan was that when he finished, I could jump straight on the bike, but things sort of turned around a little bit and technically I was a bit challenged because it meant that I was on the first race. My dad would stand about 50 meters after the finish line and catch me, we weren't allowed to do one lap wind down on this 400-metre flat track and my first coach, John my old man, is coaching with brilliant is like "Great race son. Get off" and here I am, going around in sneakers and stubby shorts and a hand-me-down Parramatta jersey with a number that basically wrapped around me twice. That was the start and that was punched on. It wasn't too long before I was coming through the ropes, and it was time to get a real coach early. And that was my dad making a decision because he couldn't keep up with me anymore at training. And so, coach John Beattie, dear old friend, God love him, rest in peace John. But JB was just a classic club coach, absolutely dedicated to the cause, and he was there to help anyone and then know as, he was there to help anyone in measured ways that were appropriate to that individual. So even as a 13, 14-year-old, I was allowed to go out in some of these rides, but there's no way I was allowed to have a training program. It was all measured and just, you know, just enough for you to keep getting better and no more. And so, my first program with JB wasn't until I was about 15 years of age, and there were probably three days of written training sessions on the program. A couple of free days, do what you want type thing. I love those days Cam, because I could go out and absolutely rip it to pieces. I wasn't, I didn't have to be so controlled. But again, J.B. and his measured appreciation of what each individual needed is what I like to think of. We talk about high performance. He was a high performing coach.

Cam Tradell [00:05:16] So he's servicing the motivation. So, could he tell the difference between someone who is motivated to go on and be the greatest rider they want to be? And then also, those other ones that, yeah, sure, they wanted to compete, but were never, ever going to ride for Australia. Could he differentiate between the two and sort of challenge them at different levels.

Brad McGee [00:05:34] Absolutely. That was the key. So, a lot of group riding and it wasn't just JB, if you had a Group ride as young kids, every one of your elders is like a coach looking at your peddle style, you know, your position on the bike, giving a little tips and feedback. And then JB could recognise and after reflecting back he could basically see the potential I had. He was training me towards bigger and better things where a lot of guys and girls in the club, they were happy to be club champions on the Saturday. I would have been too. I wasn't realising at the time, but he was training me for bigger things, constantly layering in that extra pressure, on the pedals, not pressure to win, but just always, you know, I just feel like every session was almost achievable if you just focused and put in. And there was a lot of there's a lot of lost lunches, sorry mum, some of those sandwiches went to waste. But I loved every minute of it. I was just challenged, suitably challenged right in that sweet spot.

Cam Tradell [00:06:30] Really interesting. You remember when it changed? Do you remember when you emerged on the stage and you actually started to set your eyes from not realising that you're just being challenged and getting there, to, actually, I think I can be good at this sport. Do you remember that little transition in your own mind?

Brad McGee [00:06:45] Oh, absolutely. I was beyond my miles. Very obvious. Essentially, I went through puberty quite late, like between 15 and 16, so it was between a state and a national championships that I went from an also ran kid that tried really hard and threw up off every race to a kid who tried really hard, threw up at every race and was winning them at a national level. It just come on in a flurry. And so, for me, I was just trying as hard as I could, whatever the challenge was in front of me. The only difference being now was, you know, with a bit of physicality that I was able to win by races. And that was like, oh, wow, this thing really works, you know? Suddenly, I wasn't thinking about being a soccer player anymore.

Cam Tradell [00:07:23] That's really interesting. So, you were coming in the middle of the pack, so to speak, but you've learnt the micro skills, you've learnt all the skills. So, when maturation took over, all of a sudden that's what elevated you to being an elite in the sport.

Brad McGee [00:07:37] Yeah, there was definitely no, I wasn't being lost and confused by any oh, you could win this, you win that idea at a young age, it was focused on your style and your breathing and aerodynamics. I'd come back from a race, and I remember announcing to my brothers and my old man, John, "I was spinning, dad I was spinning". You know, I must have just learnt that one the week before that spinning on the bike. That was a big, big sensation and win for that club race. And I guess that was the focus that John and the other members of the club were able to put on us. It was more around the technical skills and the acquisition and there were small wins all the way. The actual winning bike races, it was never the focus, it was so far from the focus. Yeah, sure, there was medals around and things like that, and that would be nice. There was a bit of prize money, maybe some flowers for mum, but it was the least thing on my mind up until actually I started winning and that almost came by surprise.

Cam Tradell [00:08:38] Incredible. And then you've got that next journey where it's not just winning the race, you're actually being the best in the world, you are sort of making that transition through that, which must be incremental. Now, other factors, other pressures start coming in. How did you navigate that and who helped you through that sort of transition phase?

Brad McGee [00:08:59] Yes, I guess that's when, you know, as a 16, 17-year-old, kind of knocking on the door of national team, the future national teams, this is a lot more people in the picture there. You go from your, your father, your brother's, club coach JB and a few other regulars at the club, to the junior Nationals coach Pete, there was a state coach Gary Sutton, there was national coach Charlie Walsh knocking on the door and wanting to have a conversation. And then, you know, there's a lot more influence. But for me that J.B. was there with me the whole way through and we, you know, I think he just installed in me just, you know, keep it simple, keep it specific, don't overdo it, was a big lesson. Kind of leave a little bit in the tank for tomorrow, and slow and steady was definitely the approach, and we were able to influence up with that. I remember my father specifically talking with Charlie Walsh, "don't burn him out, he doesn't need a lot". You know. And we were still quite fresh to the sport, we didn't know much about what was really needed, but we knew what was needed for myself. And so, I guess just maybe out of naivety, we were able to influence those other coaches that you start to be introduced to.

Cam Tradell [00:10:14] It's amazing, isn't it? The journey seems seamless. It seems accelerated through the fact that it wasn't actually winning and being the world champion. It was all actually driven by a love of the environment that the sport created for you.

Brad McGee [00:10:30] Oh, absolutely. And I just loved going fast on my bike, and I was absolutely obsessed with the processes around that. You know, the winning bit was almost symptomatic, I guess. You know, "oh yeah. and I won". But the self-assessment, even on a win where I could have gone a little bit faster? Could of I held my head down? Well, if I didn't push the heart rate up quite so early, I wouldn't have vomited before the finish line, I would have got an extra couple of seconds. Yeah, things like that. Really just, you know, just fascinated by all of those processes. The winning became nice, but it was a value add, I guess. I think I was just fortunate Cam that I didn't have that physical presence at a really young age. The winning part and the complexities that winning brings was kept from me for a number of years, I got those early years of development, coupled with JB's approach. I was just very fortunate. It's a difficult thing to sidestep. I know I've had young kids come through sports and how do you distance the win lose effects and focus on those early processes and celebrating those? It's really tough, tough measure. Again, it takes a high-performing coach at that level. I was completely committed and capable of the coaching and measured doses for appropriate ages and skill levels.

Cam Tradell [00:11:51] You've now done the full loop because now you're back coaching other people. How much of your coaching method is built from the experience of everything that happened to you and then you brought to life? And how much of it is yourself? How much of it do you bring out? And what are some of the philosophies you use in your coaching?

Brad McGee [00:12:09] Oh, definitely. If you talk about philosophies of carrying that, don't try to do it all today. You know, training, if you like what you're after, is that adaptation and adaptation just needs a measured dose of stimulus and recovery. And you've got to think in your cycles, you know, your micro to your macro cycles, but just enough to get that adaptation is what you're after and that takes some practice. But it's something I've really grown and formed into my coaching philosophy now and I'm early days in that coach development space now, and I'm intrigued by how many of our amazing coaches take on this as well. It's definitely present and we talk about success, but we talk about sustained success. This is why it’s heavily linked, going from a high performer to like a recidivist a high performer, that's what we're after, were trying to achieve mastery here. That's not just from a pop-up flash in the pan result, that's from years, if not a decade of continued success at the top end. So that measured dose is something I've really grown since working with JB all the way back in the early 80s, and I think some of the great coaches I've been exposed over years. Just had that in, you know, in your Gary Sutton's or, your Macca McKenzie's, they knew that that was super crucial and you're not really holding the athlete back, you’re just enabling the athlete to have an autonomous element into how much they actually do. It's not, I've got too, oh I get too. It’s a change in mindset but has a completely different result in the adaptation space.

Cam Tradell [00:13:48] I really like that intrinsic motivation to be there is that I'm doing it because I want to be here rather than it's a Tuesday and I have to go. You're right. It's a nuance, but it's a big one.

Brad McGee [00:13:58] Absolutely. It's just leaving that little bit out for the athlete to springboard off, I like to think of it. They take that leap of faith in knowing that there's support around and then they'd be maybe more than willing to push down on that springboard, which is the platform that you've built as the coach, and they'll jump into the darkness knowing that you're there to catch them on the other end. I look back to what would that look like in my days as an athlete? As a twenty-one-year-old under the Charlie Walsh regime, was a eleven months program given to you in a folder about that thick, and at every breakfast, lunch and dinner and training session for the next 11 months, fell out. And I took that on board, and said yep, but me being that egotistical little kid that I was, I was like, I'll do all that and I'll do mine as well. So, I'll put a few extra sessions in there and look on the Australian record as it was and things like that. I was nuts. But that was how much I believed in me that I needed to have, that I needed to have my own imprint on what I was doing.

Cam Tradell [00:14:57] To have your ownership to what you're doing and then see the value and I guess, allow your athlete to make some mistakes to learn from. To understand where the guidance comes from, how important do you think that is?

Brad McGee [00:15:08] What does it look like today, you know I’ve worked through the, you know, the professional ranks there with guys like your Richard Ports and your Michael Matthews and you know, Alberto Contador’s and in recent years before, you know what I'm doing now with the Australian women's team, the Amanda Spratts or Chloe Hosking, what they look like today? It's these athletes having their own confidence, their own circle of trust, their own support network, no matter what team or structure they're with. And I think these are key elements to enabling that athlete to have the feeling that they've got that autonomy in really dictating their career and their performances. I think once you get up into the big game, it grows beyond just you. You need that close circle of trusting supporters around you and that can be anyone. It could be more technical support side of things that could be just emotional. You know, there's many different shapes that that takes, but it's part of that autonomy that we need to bring in and enable in our athletes. And I've seen it time and time again in our top performers and how important that is.

Cam Tradell [00:16:21] Those interpersonal relationships become key. Sometimes an athlete or I mean, even at the club level, doesn't want to tell the coach something, but might tell the strapper something.

Brad McGee [00:16:31] I believe our coaches need their own small, I call it small because I think beyond two or three is probably starting to get a little bit to unravel a little bit. But having you know, your own team of confidants. It is a critical friend, mentor, coach, whatever you want to call it. Having your people, that you know that you can rely on no matter what organisation or jersey or colour you're sporting.

Cam Tradell [00:16:57] Do you feel that's important at all levels of coaching, knowing that they have other pressures? They got work. They've got other things. Do you see that as being a key component to coaching at all levels?

Brad McGee [00:17:06] Well, what it relates to I think, i think back to JB. Yeah, he was more than happy to hand over, if you like in star athlete to Gary Sutton or a Peter Day, knowing that you know he's impact, his time was done. You know, he's forever in my heart. I'm forever thankful to him and his family. But you know, the actual coaching space was probably only about two years, but I actually worked intently, with JB and then it was time to hand over in transition. And that at the time, reflecting back was an amazing feat. You know, it was at a time where coaches held on to their athletes, coaches held on to their knowledge. What we now recognise, you know, sharing knowledge is more powerful than holding knowledge, being able to transition athletes and being an active participant or be it at a lessening intensity, I guess as we transition our athlete through, we know that's important. You look at what our swimming teams just done in Tokyo and in getting that transition piece, right. It's absolutely key in performance. But JB back in the 80s, you know? He had that. I don't know where it came from, but he had that and that was. Imagine if they try to hold on to his young charge for an extra year or two and I faulted and didn't make that state team, didn't make this national team. Maybe the soccer pathway might have had to be put back on the agenda Cam, I'm not sure, I wouldn't have lasted longer. Both legs mate, I was going nowhere.

Cam Tradell [00:18:35] It's incredible because I think those communities of practice at all levels and you're right, the critical friend, the person, the mentor, the one to speak about other aspects of your life. But what's going right in this session? Because the external view to what's happening when, again, the old saying You're too close to the woods, the sea, the trees, sometimes they hear the conversation. What did I say then? What was the action? What was the reaction? And to have those people to provide that insight? That's key to learning and growing.

Brad McGee [00:19:06] And the beauty is, you know, Australian sports get so many opportunities of experience opportunities to reflect through and grow from. Now, I don't believe we have to create too many more learning experiences, reflect through them with your trusted team, personal team, and that's the growth and development, or a big part of it. It's, you know, and we can even go back in time and reflect through past experiences. But you've got to build up those trusting relationships for that to be effective.

Cam Tradell [00:19:35] Look, Brad, we've got some incredible insight today and agree 100 per cent. That's it sounds like your journey from the first time you've got on the bike to all the heady heights to now re-engaging back in the sport, you can still hear it. The passion for your sport through that experience that you lived through is clear. It's evident that this has impacted heavily on your life. Thanks so much for your time this afternoon.

Cam Tradell [00:20:06] Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching officiating series.

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