Frequently Asked Questions

Becoming a coach/courses/resources
Player development
Coaching strategy/philosophy
How do I become a coach?

All coaches need to be accredited. The first step is to find out when accreditation courses are taking place in your region and enrol. Typically new coaches start with a junior team whilst they continue to develop their coaching philosophy and build on their coaching skills.

Senior coaching positions tend to be advertised through local league website, newspapers, football records and other media. 

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Visit Become a Coach for further information

How do I renew my accreditation?

Coach accreditation is valid for four years. Following this you need to be re-accredited which is managed by Regional Development Managers or State Coaching Mangers.

There are certain criteria you need to demonstrate to become re-accredited, including:

  • Continued to coach throughout the four years
  • Prepared to sign the AFL Coaches Code of Conduct when seeking re-accreditation
  • Continued to undertake further education

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Visit Accreditation for further information

Can I become a High Performance (Level 3) Coach?

The AFL's Level 3 High Performance Coaching Course is designed for coaches involved in AFL, state league or AFL Talent Pathway sides. Applications to the week-long, live in program can be made through the State Coaching Managers. 

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Visit Accreditation for further information

Can I purchase coaching resources?

Coaching resources are available to purchase through the AFL Development Resources online shop

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For the 2010 catalogue and previous editions of the Coaching Edge Magazine visit AFL Coaching Resources.

What is the Coaches Code of Conduct?

The AFL Coaches' Code of Conduct is an outline of acceptable behaviours. The Code is not intended to be lengthy or detailed and does not remove the requirement for coaches to exercise judgement. However it does stand as a model for leagues, clubs and schools to expect that basic standards of behaviour are maintained. 

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Visit Coaching Ethics for more information.

Who can attend the National Coaching Conference?

Anyone can attend the AFL's National Coaching Conference. The conference provides opportunities for coaches at all levels to interact with other coaches and learn the latest trends and strategies.

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Find out more about the 2011 conference.

What is the most important skill in the game and how do you teach or coach it?

Kicking is the most vital skill, although they're all very important. Kicking is something clubs look at very closely when they're drafting players and certainly when selecting teams.

You've got to have a good basic technique that will stand up under pressure.

When you're trying to teach younger players how to kick, they need small footballs because if the ball is too big for their hands it makes it really difficult for them to learn correct technique. Sometimes a player can look awkward but if they have got all the basic mechanics  right, don't try and change them too much.

You've got to allow for plenty of practice of basic technique, both on preferred and non-preferred sides. They say you need 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert so get players kicking from a young age to learn the right technique from the start.

Videotaping players so they can see themselves and their own technique is very helpful. Also, if you can show them someone who's got a terrific technique, that gives them something which they can copy and aspire to.

Visit Basic Mechanics of Kicking for more information

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Chris Fagan

What sort of kicks should players practice?

Once a player has a good basic technique, you need to encourage them to practice all sorts of different kicks.

During games, there are not many occasions where a player just kicks in a straight line from A to B. They have to learn how to kick around a corner, a switch-inside kick, kick to a player leading up at an angle or kick over the back to a player leading backwards.

Players need to know how to kick short, kick long, do checkside kicks, banana kicks and dribble kicks at goal. There are many kicks they need to learn and coaches need to enable them to practice those kicks in drills. They've got to look at the way the game is played and set up drills to practice those kicks that occur in games.

Playing games at training is also important to teach players to use their skills, make decisions and execute.

You can't just practice drills in isolation. You need to do small games or even 18-on-18 or 12-on-12, where the players actually have to use their kicking skills and handball skills and other skills, make decisions and execute.

Give the players feedback on how they're going. If they're a young player and they try a certain kick even if they muck it up if it's the right sort of kick that they should've done in that situation, pat them on the back and say, 'Well done, it was the right sort of kick, you just need to work more on getting better at that'.

Junior coaches especially should watch carefully the kicks players choose to do during games and the way they execute, and be sure to give plenty of positive and constructive feedback on how they're going.

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Chris Fagan

How do the fitness requirements of midfielders change throughout the season? 

Most running is done in the pre-season, so our guys will do up to five running sessions a week. Some of that running incorporates how we want to play with our game plan, how we want to move the ball and the running pattern of players.

In season, a lot of the guys are running up to 15 km in a game of varying pace; some sprinting, cruising and jogging. That workout in itself is enough to maintain fitness but during the week we'll do at least one longer session of 80 minutes when they top up their fitness.

A lot of the work during the season is getting players to recover from game to game. Because of the intensity of the game, the players spend the early part of the week getting themselves recovered and ready to go for the main training session and then for the following game.

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Barry Mitchell

Why are players often rotated or benched almost immediately after kicking a goal?

Different teams have different ways to rotate their players. Often the best time to rotate a player is after a goal because the ball is out of play and it's the best time to take players on and off the ground.

Some teams have pre-set rotations. At a certain time in the quarter a player will come off, so if a guy kicked a goal or point near that time he may be rotated then. The number of interchange rotations in games has increased so players stay fresh which helps keep up the speed of the game.

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Barry Mitchell

How much influence do tactical moves on game day have on the result?

Various people say that a result comes down to 80 per cent of what you do during the week and 20 per cent on match day; some people say it's weighted more the other way. Either way, you've got to get both areas right.

When you get down to the wire in different games, at times a good move can make a difference but it still doesn't get you away from doing the basics well all the time. If you do the basics well over and over again chances are you'll win the game.

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John Longmire

As a line coach (midfield, defence, forward), how much influence do you have on making moves on game day?

All coaches operate differently, but all line coaches do have a fair say in each of their areas of the ground, simply because that's their role.

Ideally, you'll have good people in those roles who know what they're doing they've done the work during the week, they've studied the opposition, they know their individual players the best and therefore they should be across their area. They have a large say in what happens on match day in their particular areas.

However, every move goes through the senior coach. He's always the one with the final say but he's very good at making sure everyone has input and is able to contribute.

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John Longmire

How has match preparation evolved?

With the number of coaches we've got and the technology we now have, we can do most things during the week and have all our team meetings a day or two before the actual game. On match day, players have a brief meeting that summarises the key points for the week.

One of the things we've tried to do as an industry in the past 10 years or so is make match preparation a lot more individualised. There was a time when the coach would expect all the players to do the same thing.

But now you'll see some guys in the corner with their iPods on, other blokes reading the Football Record, others kicking the football or getting a massage. We've tried to get players to tune into themselves really well and understand what makes them produce their best footy.

Another change is the on-field warm up. We used to do the on-field warm up just before the game started, but now they're going out 45 minutes before the game starts and doing warm ups on the field for about 15, 20 minutes or so.

Sports science has had an influence and you'll often see different players doing different stretches. You'll see the backline players doing spoiling practice, midfielders doing stoppage practice, forwards leading out and kicking goals and those sorts of things. Often you see teams play small games of six-on-six so the warm up is more like the game they're going to encounter.

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Chris Fagan

Do you have any tips for motivating players to work harder?

Self motivation is the best sort of motivation, and the positive influence of a coach plays a big role in understanding a player and helping them to be motivated.

How you deliver the message as a coach is really important. It's no good telling a player they can't do this and they're no good at that. Focusing on strengths will help get the best out of them.

There's a saying that your strengths are the weapons you take into battle. Acknowledging a player's strengths and finding ways to help them improve those strengths will encourage them to work harder.

You also need to identify areas for improvement and set goals to achieve that development. Asking a player for their advice and input enables them to see you want to help them be the best they can be.

Seeking their opinions also shows the relationship is not one-sided; you want to develop as a coach as well, and how they see things is important to your relationship.

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Chris Fagan

What is the number one quality that makes a good coach?

Having people management skills is where the role of senior coach is going.

Because you've got the assistants to focus in on all the different areas like offence, defence and midfield how you manage people is the most important skill.

Communicating constantly is probably the main thing. It's very easy for a player not to speak to a senior coach for maybe three months and then they start to doubt themselves.

You've got to be constantly in touch with what's going on and in the loop. It does take up a lot of energy, to sit down with a player even once a week, with 48 players on your list. You've got to spread your time evenly with all those players and it's a very demanding role.

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Paul Hudson

Is there any value in sometimes just telling the players to go out and play instinctive football? Can structure in games inhibit the natural flair of players?

Undoubtedly, structure can inhibit natural flair of players, some more than others.

You'd like to think that as players become more experienced, they just need some guidance and reassurance, a little bit of readjustment at times.

The younger players do need a lot of structure and a lot of coaching because you can't be slow-witted and play this game at this level anymore. You actually have to think your way through problems and the better players have an ability to solve problems out on the ground and work through things.

There's a scope for playing instinctive footy, but there is a need for players to follow team pattern and structure. Good coaching panels find that balance between letting them play and giving them some direction. But the good players make good decisions and have really good fundamentals.

The great players generally just repeat the basics, day-in, day-out, week-in, week-out and they rarely move away from them.

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Brendan McCartney

A few of my young midfielders have received some big knocks. Are there drills to improve players' vision and awareness around the ball?

It's sort of a turning technique. You've probably got to work with block bags and teach players how to use their hips and shoulders to protect the head and ball. I'm assuming head high contact occurs when the head is over the ball and the player is down low.

You can try to protect the head by correct positioning of the shoulders, hips and bottom. To practice that skill at training the coach would roll a ball to a player, who would run out and get some attention from a third party player holding a padded block bag.

When the player attacks the ball, he needs to turn his body in the direction of the pad or oncoming force, so the defensive player makes contact with his shoulder or hip.

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Mark Riley

What is zoning and what are its benefits?

Zoning is where the defensive team or the team without the football occupy positions rather than players. It's done to gain a numerical advantage in your defensive aspect.

For example, you might send 18 players up into an area where the opposition only have 15 players and therefore it makes it harder for the offensive team to penetrate.

Successful teams play their own brand and their own style, so just because Hawthorn won a premiership by playing a zone, it doesn't necessarily mean that's the way to go for all teams. Especially at a junior level, coaches should forget zones and teach the fundamentals of player-on-player football.

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Mark Riley

How do coaches improve their skills and knowledge?

A variety of things:

  • Attending regular coaching seminars
  • Soaking up the information different people bring to the table whether it's their own ideas or ideas from other coaches
  • Cross-pollinating with other sports such as hockey or water polo or watching games such as basketball and netball. They have some wonderful drills for sports confined to a small area
  • Attending and presenting at AFL courses

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Mark Riley

Are there any defensive tactics in other sports that could be implemented in Australian football?

Zoning has become a bit of a buzz word in football, so you certainly look at how other sports protect certain parts of the ground. Soccer, hockey and basketball are all sports which play zone defences.

AFL coaches are looking at these sports as they aren't just played nationally, they're played internationally, which means there's a lot of knowledge coming from all over the world.

Water polo is also looked at to see what their defensive strategies are, how they like to set up, how many numbers they put behind the ball and whether they zone player-on-player or use a combination of player-on-player with a zone.

AFL is a unique sport but there are common threads in terms of defensive structures with other sports.

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Sean Wellman

What sort of research do coaches do to prepare defenders for the next game?

Coaches try to get to as many live games as we can. Obviously when it comes closer to playing a certain team we look at them more, so usually about three weeks out we'll start concentrating on a team.

From a defensive coaching point of view, you certainly get more out of the game by watching it live. When you are at the game you can see what the forwards do, what patterns they run, which players they use in certain parts of the ground and how they set up at stoppages. You get a really good read on what the opposition is trying to do.

In terms of player development, we also try to get our players to come and have a look at the opposition as well. But sometimes the defenders won't only focus on the forwards; they'll also look at a defender to see what he does and how he positions himself.

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Sean Wellman