• Stacey Speer

Coaching beyond the sideline... a look at the impact of womens sport in schools.

Coaching is unlocking a persons potential to maximise their own performance. Its helping them to learn rather than teaching them - Tim Gallwey

I have had the pleasure of coaching high school kids in a variety of different sports for the past year, high school kids from Year 7 - 10, all girls schools, mixed schools, muslim schools, all different sports from European Handball to Flag Football to Oz Tag. 

This has been a really great experience for me, I have been able to get a real world look into the perception of womens sport to the next generation.

For me, growing up in a country town I lived to watch the WBNL and the Netball on ABC on a Sunday afternoon. I had finished playing my weekend sports of softball and basketball and coming home to be able to see these women on tv started my obsession with sport. 

Because when you see it, you can be it.

The most influential moment to me was in Year 6 when Olympic softball pitcher Brooke Wilkins came to our school, I had a signed poster and I put it on my wall. It helped that our primary school team had gone all the way to the state championships earlier that year. 

Goulburn North PS Primary Softball Team

This brings me back to the interactions I have had with these kids, through coaching.

In each class, there is definitely a few students who just scream ‘I’m an athlete’ and will play everything, the best they can. To me, these girls already have ‘it’ and I started asking them “what sport do you play” (its usually netball and basketball) and tell them about how the WNBL and Super Netball is gonna be on tv again soon, and are they excited? 

There is one girl, she is very tall, extremely athletic, in year 10 at a girls school. I didn’t even have to ask what sport she played, she was a natural netballer and played basketball, but also did swimming. She is shy, unaware of the potential she has because she gets teased for being ‘too tall, and too good’ at sport. 

I asked her “If you could be a famous sports star, which sport would you choose?” she replied “Maybe swimming, but maybe netball because its on TV” 

There have also been a few girls who I can say benefited from the environment of a supportive coach, one of my classes was a Year 7 class who I was teaching OzTag. This was a mixed group of kids, surprisingly most of them were very athletic and have sparks of talent from the outset. But, there was one quiet, diminutive girl who I could tell could be a great rugby league player, she had the body type and ability - she just had no confidence. 

The hour that I got to spend with this class over 8 weeks was enough for me to be able to bring this girl out of her shell. She started running away from ‘contact’ or being flagged - I told her, ‘don’t be scared, look at you, you are bigger than all these girls - just run it straight!’ It was quiet words of reassurance after drills, watching her and giving feedback in a way she could understand. 

Week after week she got better, running the ball more confidently, she started being more vocal on the field and when my class finished up at the end of term, they thanked me in the best way possible, with a cheer and a round of applause. I left that class hoping that one girl discovers her own power and excels in her life as a result of feeling more confident on the field.

Fast forward 3 weeks and I’m teaching another class, however its raining so its a all in dodgeball game inside the gym. Its pandemonium. Then, I see the girl from my last class, she’s standing taller, she’s vocal during the game, calling out the next person she is going to target and rallying her class to go all out. I felt such a sense of pride, just seeing this one girl enjoying herself and owning her self!

It’s amazing to see the rise in womens sport, finally being paid a wage to do what they excel at on the sporting field. It’s amazing to see so many opportunities for the next generation starting to unfold not only on the field but in leadership positions and in boardrooms.

Girls and women finally have the privilege of having so many options to pursue for their sporting careers. The potential to rise to the top in AFLW, Cricket, NRLW, Rugby, WNBL, Netball are now an real possibility. And it’s awesome.

Talent identification needs to start now in schools and junior competitions, now these amazing female athletes (Ali Briggenshaw, Maddie Studdon, Erin Phillips, Amanda Farrugia, Sharni Layton) are in positions to influence and inspire on mainstream media (albeit not as often as we would like to see), the junior pathway for these sports are given a leg up in potential recruitment. If your sport doesn’t have a junior girls competition yet, you may be running out of time to jump on the womens sport momentum. 

Theres a girl in one of my classes who relishes sport for an entirely different reason - she’s tough, you can tell she has something inside her she needs to unleash. She’s a bit too into contact for a European Handball class, with her classmates telling her to go easy. 

Her face drops, her shoulders slump and she walks off alone - I told her, its ok to be competitive, and being tough is a good thing, we just need to find a sport where you can let it all out. 

Its these girls we need in sport, the ones who discover something about themselves when they play as part of a team. Who have talent, but don’t yet know it. The impact of sport on these girls will shape them to be the leaders of tomorrow, inspire them, identify them early and offer them a place where they can be free on the field. 


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