By Adam Potter
Coburg Tigers Head Coach
There are different pathways for different coaches. This is what I have learnt along my journey in becoming a VFL coach.
At the age of 22 I could no longer play the game that I was very passionate about. I wanted to stay involved in the game and coaching was something I was interested in and I decided to pursue the challenge. I started with a local under 16 team and we had some success in making a preliminary final.
From this 3 or 4 of my players were involved in the Western Jets. Being a school teacher this allowed me to go along and watch their games. From this experience I really enjoyed what the TAC cup development program had to offer. I applied for a position at the Jets and was successful in gaining a development role in the under 15 program. To cut a long story short I spent 4 years there in their junior programs and talent identification program across all junior levels. During this time I completed my Level 1 & Level 2 coaching accreditation. I also presented at level 1 coaching courses.
I was now very keen to pursue my coaching and take it as far as I possibly could. Developing relationships with people in the football industry is very important. This allowed me to gain opportunities to also coach inter league teams in the Essendon District Football League at the U15/16 level, which was a fantastic experience.
After spending 4 years developing my coaching experiences and education through the TAC, I was lucky enough to gain the role of reserves coach at Coburg in 2006. I then spent the next five years coaching at this level, along the way I had the opportunity to be a senior assistant, run development programs and experience coaching at 2 different VFL clubs. This led to the opportunity to be the senior coach of the Coburg Football Club. Throughout this time I have continued to engage in as many coaching development programs as I can, including the level 3 High Performance coaching course.
The reason I tell my story and write this article is to give others who are passionate about the game and who may not have played at the highest level a bit of a back ground that it is possible. Yes my teaching background has assisted me in the process but if you are prepared to work for something there are opportunities for aspiring coaches.
Football clubs across Victoria and Australia are expanding their coaching departments all the time. There are some fantastic examples of coaches who are in the AFL system now who havenít played at the highest level, none more so than Brendan McCartney the current Western Bulldogs coach. He is highly regarded and had a fantastic career as a senior assistant at two clubs and now has the opportunity to coach his own club. This shows all aspiring coaches that anything is possible if you are prepared to work hard, engage in learning about the game and involve yourself in a coaching program that will develop your coaching experience.
My advice is to engage in coaching conferences, education sessions about the game and complete your coaching accreditation, these are all very important steps. Look at ways you can develop your communication skills in a range of settings whether it be coaching an individual player, small group or whole team. Get out and look at open training sessions of AFL clubs and see what they are doing at the top level. Talk to coaches who are involved in a TAC cup program or a VFL program to see if there are opportunities to become involved in the future. Most importantly continue to put the time and effort in to make sure you are giving yourself every chance to improve your coaching.
Yes it can be daunting coaching against a legend of the game and a great coach such as Gary Ayres or an experienced VFL coach in Brad Gotch, but if you have been on the journey and put the time into developing yourself as a coach then you need to back yourself in to be able to lead and coach a club. Hard work and dedication to the role will earn the respect of the playing group and I continue to develop my coaching working with, listening too and observing coaches at AFL level.
If you are a young coach and aspiring to be involved in coaching at the highest level hopefully this story gives you an insight that it is possible. There are several support networks including AFL Victoria, AFCA (coaches association) and your local league that can guide you with education programs and coaching opportunities to assist your development.
If you are currently coaching at any level, good luck and I hope you enjoy being involved in this great game.
Adam Potter is Coburg Tigers Head Coach. This article was written as part of the requirements of the AFL High Performance Coaching Course.