THE CROSSROADS & BEYOND
The saying goes that, in a perfect world, athletes would coach before they play.
It’s true. If you were able to work as a coach first and a player second, you’d see things in a very different light. You’d watch more vision, understand people, appreciate strategy and better know your opposition. Coaching would make you a smarter athlete.
That’s all great in theory, obviously, but it doesn’t factor in a little thing called biology.
I mean, when was the last time you heard of a coach retiring to become a player? Maybe I should make a comeback to basketball?!
This is where I count myself incredibly fortunate. I can take my coaching experiences and, where appropriate, apply them to my career as a footy player. Matthew Clarke has given me opportunities to take some drills at the Crows and I work with the young midfielders most training sessions. I love that. Watching your teammates get better is every bit as satisfying as kicking a bag yourself.
I was lucky enough to work with Marijana Rajcic last season. She had come over to the Crows as a defender after playing six seasons for Adelaide United in the W-League. She hadn’t kicked a goal in AFLW and I asked her one day if she had a set-shot routine. As it turned out, she didn’t.
We spent a bit of time at training working on one and, in our very next game, she was awarded a 50-metre penalty which brought her in range to have a shot on goal. She instinctively looked around to pass off but I was yelling at her, ‘Just kick the goal! Go back! Go through your routine!’
She did exactly that.
Bang. Goal. And it was an important goal, too, because the game was tight.
That was an awesome moment. It makes you realise, ‘If you can give someone a little bit of direction, they’ll help us win games.’ That was something I picked up from having a father as a coach. Passing on a bit of knowledge can go a long way.
It works the other way, too. I learn things from the other girls all the time. I don’t pretend to know everything there is about footy. We’re all helping each other whichever way we can.
I can’t wait to coach at the end of each AFLW season. I’m that exhausted. While the body is repairing itself after a tough footy campaign, the mind takes over as coach.
When it comes to footy, I have much to be thankful for.
I knew Rio was going to be my last Olympics and I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do afterwards. Tracy and I were trying to have kids, so I knew playing basketball overseas probably wasn’t the right option. Living apart and trying to raise kids? Not a great idea if you can help it.
I was at a massive crossroads. I was in that transitional mindset of, ‘Where to next?’ and I was finding it really hard. And then, all of a sudden, I got a phone call from the Crows.
It changed everything and it came at the perfect time in my life.
There’s a real sense that we’re building something in the AFLW. As it stands, the players are part-time and girls are often rolling up to training after clocking off work. We don’t get to spend much time together as a squad before the season starts, either.
But that’s OK. We’ve come a long way since we started, and we’ve still got some distance to go.
Personally, I’d love to see the AFLW evolve to a place similar to the WNBA. Fully professional. Players and coaches together all the time. A constant focus on improvement.
Not so long ago, that was just a dream.
It’s getting closer to reality all the time.