Dutch master Johan Cruyff once claimed that “you play football with your head, and your legs are there to help you”.
Now an Australian-designed grassroots revolution aims to turn thousands of coaches across the country into footballing thinkers and youth leaders, equipped with tools to benefit the young players they mentor, on and off the field.
The world-first program will use football to bolster the emotional well-being of hundreds of thousands who play the game in Australia, via a unique online resource available to the country’s army of coaches.
And it has potential benefits way beyond football, providing youth leaders with skills to help players navigate adolescence, and be a key tool in delivering indigenous and female football programs.
Thanks to a unique partnership between Football Australia, the Socceroos’ own emotion coach and Football Coaches Australia, programs previously only available to elite footballers in the Socceroos, English Premier League and A-League have been adapted for coaches at all levels of the game.
In a football country obsessed with making its young players more technically skilful, the suite of online courses – available here - is designed to tackle the neglected need for coaching players how to think laterally about their game.
Designed across five key areas - Emotional Intelligence and Agility, Leadership, Resilience, Culture and Communication – the Essential Skills programme offers 100 subjects to tackle.
The content aligns with Football Australia’s XI Principles for the future of the game: including Principle V, to “Create a world class environment for youth development” and Principle VI, to “Create a strong culture around coach development by emphasising the importance of the role as a skilled position”.
It will allow coaches to understand the non-physical side to their sessions, and will benefit coaches from elite level to volunteer grassroots mums and dads.
The modules are available through a world- class virtual learning platform as a joint venture between Football Coaches Australia and XVenture, the company founded by Mike Conway, emotional agility and mind coach for the Socceroos.
Live this week, its aim is to bolster FCA’s mantra of ‘Community, Connection and Camaraderie’ between all Australian football coaching cohorts.
The focus of XVenture’s work is developing emotional agility, resilience and leadership (EARL) to enable improved personal and professional relationships, individual and team success.
The ultimate process involves ‘lifting the ceiling’ on people’s thinking to create Winning Minds.
“In my work with elite athletes, coaches and teams, including Sydney, the Socceroos and Olympians, I found three striking aspects underlying the difference between good and great performances,” said Conway.
“At the heart of success, whether in elite sport, or everyday life, lies a blend of high levels of emotional agility, communication and human connectivity.
“I am passionate about football and honoured to work at the national level. I wanted to find a way to share what I’ve learnt in elite sport, business, education and life in a way that football coaches would find valuable for their own development, and in leading their players, coaching staff and even parents.”
Students completing the modules will receive CPD points, but also – in what is a global first - will receive a Recognition of Prior Learning credit for the Bachelor of Sports degree at the University of Wollongong, where Conway is professor.
FCA Chairman Phil Moss said: “We are proud of our partnership with Mike and the XVenture team and excited about the opportunity for positive outcomes for all those who complete the modules.
“At the FCA we are committed to providing world class training and development opportunities for coaches and see the work Mike does as a fundamental on this journey.”