AFL-grade tactics and a coaching master-class have delivered three premiership wins in one day to a junior footy club.
Upper Ferntree Gully Junior Football Club brought in a leadership training company two years ago to coach its coaches and the dividends have paid off in a big way – with its under-11s, under-13s and under-14Bs all walking away with flags.
Junior footy coaches are often just dads brought in to help out but Upper Gully has taken its teaching roles to a new level – hiring ‘The Modern Game’ to mentor the coaches.
“We had been working towards a premiership but that was never a driving force,” said club president Bruce Begley.
“We’re more about developing the kids’ skills – both in football and life.”
The club’s leadership strategy has taken a page from the AFL book – the under-11s used a zone defence to help break down opposing forward lines this year.
“You can see the difference when you watch a side playing zone,” he said. “You don’t have 20 kids around the ball at once; you only have five or six. The rest know where their positions are on the field and they’re prepared.”
Mr Begley said The Modern Game taught his coaches to be less emotionally involved in the game’s result and more focussed on improving players’ skills. “But it teaches coaching as a whole too – even to the point of kneeling down and talking to the players at their height,” he said.
Mr Begley said a strong local Auskick presence helped with players’ skills before they even took to the field for their first proper game. “The all-around skills are just so much better than they were five years ago.”
But the skills imparted to the club’s players are not just about kicking and marking. They’re also about helping them in their lives away from the game. “We’ve taught social skills as well,” Mr Begley said. “Things like public speaking – inviting the kids to get behind the microphone at presentation nights, “Some of them are really funny.”
Mr Begley said it was all in an effort to teach the players to enjoy life and the friendships they will have years after their playing days are over. “And I base that all around community,” he said. “The Ferntree Gully and Upper Ferntree Gully area have been a huge support to us.”
The team-oriented focus has filtered down to players’ parents as well. Mr Begley said he did not have any problems such over-competitive mums and dads deflecting the spotlight on to their kids. “They know the rules,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on the mantra of a family club, not about winning.”