The Sutherland Shire Football Association (SSFA) removed one of the biggest obstacles to football coaching education last season when it pioneered its Football Development Officer (FDO) program.
Headed up by SSFA Football Manager Jon Long, the program took the Association’s best coaching resources out to community clubs, where they would take training sessions and provide priceless education to local coaches.
What started as a 10-week program soon evolved to something much bigger as community clubs jumped at the opportunity to have the Association’s best coaches work at their clubs, sharing their experiences with coaches and players alike, and allowing their own coaches the chances to earn the local coaching certificates along the way.
The FDO program involved the provision of money for clubs to be assigned a suitably qualified coach, who would attend club training sessions and either directly coach a team (in conjunction with the team’s coach) at the club, or run educational sessions for the coaches, according to SSFA treasurer Giulio di Stefano.
“We basically allocated our rep coaches to one club each and the clubs were able to use that coach to coach their coaches and the kids,” Di Stefano said.
“It was meant to run as a 10-week program but it ended up going for much longer by being either extended or replicated for additional teams. The community coaches were able to get their certificates by taking part in the program and it led to some great outcomes for the kids, coaches and parents alike.
“It was sort of up to each club how they ran it (within guidelines that were established by the SSFA). The Caringbah Redbacks wanted to get a few teams involved, so their Football Development Officer, Steve Brown, organised two training sessions for them on a Wednesday. The Miranda Magpies, for example, put their teams through one-month blocks.
“They had the under-10 and under-11 boys and girls from 5.30 to 6.30 and then the under-12 boys and under-14 girls from 6.30 to 7.30 and that way they were able to hit a lot of players at once.”
Not every club in the Association took up the offer, but after seeing the success of the program in 2017, the SSFA is expecting almost every club to utilise the service in 2018.
“We had one club that took up the offer and they had an under-10s team which was struggling to win games,” Di Giulio said.
“They were coached by two guys who had sort of just been thrown into it. So we got the FDO out to work with them and he sort of helped them to understand how to plan their sessions and helped them run sessions which would help the players to achieve certain goals.
“He even attended their matches to help give the coaches some direction around managing the players on game day and in the end the team ended up winning a few games, so it was really successful for them.
“Little examples like that have really encouraged a lot more clubs to enquire about it, so next year we’re expecting between 20-25 clubs to get involved.”
The other pleasing aspect of the FDO was the willingness of the Association’s WPL representative female players (who consistent primarily of local talent that have played for an association club) to get involved in the coaching.
“We always try and encourage our rep girl players to take up coaching and pass on what they’re learning back to their local clubs and we’re always pleased with the uptake,” he said.
“So it was good to see some of them get involved in the FDO program too and they would regularly attend with the other coaches and help them run their sessions.”
-By Matt Galea