Leigh "Lethal" Matthews' coaching days might be over, but he still has a lot of wisdom to share with his colleagues

Lethal Urges Coaches to Listen

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

By Peter Ryan

About 7.15pm Friday night, four-time premiership coach and television commentator Leigh Matthews took the stage in the Grand Ballroom at Sydney's Allphones Arena to make the opening keynote address at the 10th AFL National Coaching Conference.

Held in Sydney for the first time, the highly regarded conference attracted 540 delegates from around the country. The delegates were a range of elite coaches, community and junior coaches, AFL players (current and former) and umpires.

Matthews' presentation kicked off a weekend of coach education, for coaches of players and umpires, designed to create quality club environments from the elite level to the grass roots.

Attendees heard Matthews emphasise the key aspects of coaching from his perspective including time honoured gems such as 'say it, live it' and 'back your judgment'.

The presentation was typical Matthews: direct and informative, with a touch of wry humour thrown in to balance the material. Above all Matthews' presentation emphasised that the greatest asset a coach can have is the ability to listen.

Listening was a skill everyone was practising as former test bowler, and now international umpire, Paul Reiffel spoke about his sporting career and the challenges and rewards that have come through his transition to umpiring. Reiffel made the point that great games don't happen without great umpiring. 

Reiffel said more should be made of the fact that umpires have the best seat in the house and challenged administrators to find ways to attract umpires and make it an attractive proposition for people. He thought umpiring was cool and posed a question about how we can make it cool with young people in the community.

From that moment on, the conference was alive with discussion and information and thought provoking questions as some of the best football (and sports) thinkers in the country covered topics that extended from Ruckwork to the subject of Effective Teaching-Facilitating Learning.

In between presentations that included keynote speakers GWS Giants senior assistant coach Mark Williams (who conducted an insightful practical coaching session around developing kicking), Sydney Swans' coach John Longmire and Western Bulldogs' coach Brendan McCartney the conversation ranged between footy and more footy. Longmire emphasised that basic is best, even at the elite level, while McCartney showed the value of a lifetime coaching footy when he outlined the philosophies that underpinned his coaching. In essence McCartney's recipe for football success was that team is all that matters. He showed the Bulldogs to be in good hands.

As well as listening to speakers, delegates travelled to Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday night to watch the opening round of the NAB Cup. It set the scene for the following day McCartney able to make some observations about what had happened the night before from a coaches' perspective.

A panel discussion reflecting on playing, coaching, recruiting, umpiring and technology, featuring Kevin Sheedy, Kevin Sheehan, Luke Power and Michael Vozzo, wound up another successful conference.

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