Hayley Gossow is an Aussie Rules Football Coach from Australia and currently a Development coach for Carlton Football Club. Having spent her high school years playing the sport, due to a lack of development in the women’s game, Hayley was forced to stop aged 14 – only able to take it up again at 18. By then, Hayley had ambitions of coaching and developing the game for girls of the future and now, thanks to the AFLW Coaching Pathway, is working hard as development coach for the game.
What is it about Aussie Rules you love so much?
It’s exciting, it’s so exciting and fast! It’s a 360 degree game, one of the only sports in the World you can turn in every and any direction and pressure will come in that direction, the footy will come from any direction.
There are so many different skills the players have to master, both in terms of ball skills but also tactical skills and tactical knowledge. It’s also one of the highest scroring sports in the World because it’s so fast and the way the game is played. It’s just so exciting to watch, coach, play, be involved in at all levels, even juniors.
Going back to the community aspect I mentioned, community is such an important part of football. Every town in Australia, no matter how rural or remote, has a football club and it’s such a big part of the life blood of all their communities. Football is there for people when things get difficult and it’s the same all the way up to the elite level, things like mental health or a death in the family. Whatever it is, the hardships that come with life, football communities are your family. So it really brings everyone together, which is a fantastic aspect of the sport.
I have loved it at which ever club I’ve been at, whether its been my local club or in the AFLW. It makes you feel like you’ve got support when you need it, which is just fantastic. It’s so much more than a sport.
How did you first get involved with Aussie Rules and what has your coaching been like so far?
I first got involved with AFL as a player when I was in high school. When I was younger there wasn’t really many opportunities for girls to play, there was certainly no girl only teams. You could play with the boys up until you were about 14, but after that you weren’t allowed to play anymore. You just had to stop playing until you made it to seniors.
So once I turned 18 I started playing senior footy and started studying for a Bachelor of Sports Science and Coaching. During that time I took on a role as Head Coach for the local women’s footy team, and that was my first real coaching role other than just helping with juniors.
The year after I graduated, the AFLW actually started, and I was lucky enough to get the position of Development Coach with Carlton Football Club AFLW team. ?It was through a female coach pathway program the club was running to try and upskill and help younger female coaches to actually get into the game and bring more female coaches into the sport.
Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to coach in a lot of different settings, both community and in the AFLW and the VFLW (this is the second tier competition). In the last 5 years I seem to have entered the coaching World at the perfect time because women’s footy has just exploded in that time. There are lots of opportunities for me now and there are still new teams being started and a constant expansion of local leagues and junior teams etc.
What are your thoughts on the lack of female head coaches in the AFLW and are they doing enough to fix this?
It is disappointing that there aren?t any female head coaches currently in the AFLW, especially after Bec Goddard was so successful in season 1 winning the title with Adelaide Football Club. But there are a number of assistant female coaches in the AFLW which I think is important to notice because we (women) are there in those roles, we just aren?t necessarily the face of the club in terms of being head coach.
There are also a lot of assistant coaches who are male ex-AFL players so they have come in from already being in the system and having that knowledge of AFL because they’ve played. That doesn’t necessarily make you a good coach just because you’ve played at the elite level, but at the same time some of the coaches I’ve worked with have been great.
We do have to remember that the coach has to be the right person for the job, male or female, but there is definitely the need to up skill more female coaches so that we can have more female coaches in the game.
We have to make the game our own, for us and run by us.
I think it’s not just about the female coaches in the AFL at the moment, it’s really about the coaches at grassroots level and the support they get – which from my experience I don?t think is there. The AFL has recently launched a new campaign called the ?Women?s Coaching Crusade which is aimed at trying to increase the number of women coaches in the AFL through pathways and also two financial scholarships (one this year and one next year) to two current ALFW players. This will fund their attendance of the accreditation programmes as well as a study tour over in America.
It is fantastic for those two players who get selected, but in someways I am bit cynical about it because it’s a lot of money and funding; over two years we are only going to get two new female coaches out of that. And they are already technically in the system as players. I think we should be focussing on the female coaches who aren’t already in the system but are striving hard to try and get there at local level.
The way I see it, the funding that is being used for these two AFL players could be used to send a large number of current female coaches in community leagues to go and do there level 2 coaching accreditations or create an apprenticeship position with an AFLW team, like the one I was lucky enough to do at Carlton. ?That sort of thing would really fast track the women who are already coaching rather than waiting for the current crop of players to retire and become the coaches.
I think any push from the AFL to increase the number of female coaches to up skill themselves is good, but I think a lot more can be done certainly at grassroots level.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to become a coach in the AFLW?
Learn as much as you can and take as many different coaching roles as you can. ?Go to your local coaching workshops, go the AFLW Female Coaching Forums, talk to other coaches regularly networking is such a huge thing! Football in a sense is a small community, you always bump into people you know.
Whilst you’re actually coaching, keep a coaching dairy to allow for self-reflection. It’s all about self improvement and learning!
As I mentioned, try lots of different roles – be a Head Coach and learn how to coach your own team, be an Assistant Coach and learn what it’s like to be under someone else?there are so many roles in footy now, AFLW teams have at least 5 coaches.
That will make you a better coach.
What are your ambitions for your coaching career?
My ambitions are more geared towards what I can do for the game rather than my own coaching career which sounds a bit corny! But right now I’m not strong enough to be a Head Coach at an AFLW team, but I really enjoy the skill acquisition side of things, I really enjoy being a Development Coach for clubs.
Mainly, I really try and work with as many community clubs as I can to help build their female programmes and up skill their coaches and also make sure their talented players get seen and help them to take the steps in to the next league.
I want to help improve the quality of grassroots female footy which will ultimately what will help make the AFLW a better competition, by improving the quality of the coaches, the environments and the programmes being offered at grassroots.
I don’t think the support is there at the moment for these clubs from the AFL, maybe they are just expected to get on with it like the mens teams have been for 100+ years – it seems like they may just be taking in this blueprint and plugging it in to the girls program. But it won’t work because boys are just expected to be able to kick a ball for example, but many girls come from other sports such as netball and just want to give Aussie Rules a go. So we need to teach the coaches at that level of how to approach girls and how to talk to them – because coaching girls and boys is a very different experience.