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The AIS Win Well Podcast

AIS Win Well Podcast

From winning with integrity, finding a sense of belonging and connection in sport, overcoming failure and adversity, the joy of achieving the incredible, and what it means to be an inspiration to Australians, The AIS Win Well Podcast is a unique opportunity to really get to know the athletes who proudly wear the green and gold on the world stage.

This is a podcast where athletes are in control – each episode features two Olympians and Paralympians in conversation, sharing how they win well both in sport and in life.

The Win Well Podcast is produced by the Australian Sports Commission, one of the 51 organisation who has made the Win Well Pledge through Australia’s High Performance 2032+ Sport Strategy (HP 2032+ Strategy).

To learn more about HP 2032+ Strategy and Australian sport’s united vision to ‘win well and inspire Australians’, visit

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Coaching and Officiating

In this series, we chat with some of Australia’s leading sport coaches, athletes, and officials – including Paralympic legend and coach Louise Sauvage, Basketball coach Carrie Graf, former AFL Player and Rugby Union Coach Mick Byrne, Cricket legend and coach Greg Chappell and many other industry experts on the modernisation of coaching and officiating.

Sport Governance Principles

Focused on bringing the Sport Governance Principles to life, sporting leaders will share their experiences and practical advice for those helping to run our thousands of sporting clubs. The first few episodes feature interviews with Richmond AFL President Peggy O’Neal, Commonwealth Games Australia president Ben Houston and Olympic gold medallist Petria Thomas.

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Coaching and Officiating - Carrie Graf

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's Coaching and Officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, it's brilliant to have Carrie Graf join us in the studio, Carrie has coached teams in the WNBL, WNBA and the Australian national team. At the 2015 Australia Day honours, Carrie was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for her significant service to Basketball as a coach, mentor and athlete, as well as to the community. Carrie is going to offer some perspective on things from the athletes point of view and what the athletes are looking for. Thanks very much for joining us.

Carrie Graf [00:01:00] My pleasure.

Cam Tradell [00:01:01] Carrie. Over time, things have definitely changed and definitely moved in sport. But sometimes I feel that some of the areas of sport doesn't move as quickly as others. From an athlete perspective, how do you think things have moved and how do we service that?

Carrie Graf [00:01:17] Well, I mean, I think it's how coaching has moved to service the new, the you know, the current generation of athlete, whether it be community sport and athletes involved at that level or high performance athletes. And I think, you know, certainly in my time or even over the last 20 years, you know, coaching hasn't changed, or the way we coach hasn't changed a whole lot. But I think the young people that we engage with, as coaches, have changed a lot in how they think and how they consume information, in how they they expect to be delivered information. And I think that's a critical part of coaching, is to be, have a currency in the modern way of communicating in an autocrat, not a less autocratic style of delivering information to people, whether that's young people or, you know, 20, 30 year old high performance athletes. I think that's a big part of leading people in in modern times.

Cam Tradell [00:02:16] Yeah, it's interesting because to intrinsically motivate them to turn up next week and whether you're talking about someone at the grassroots or community level, club level or a high performance player who wants to get better and wants to know how to get better, I'm guessing that the way that that's communicated in a meaningful way becomes important. Have you got any tools in the in the kit bag that you use with regard to how you communicate differently. Have you got different ways or how do you test the waters there?

Carrie Graf [00:02:45] I mean, I think certainly for me and I, I lived through this experience as a coach is that as technology became a part of how we all communicate that athletes more and more wanted to communicate in a new way rather than old way, they didn't want to sit and have a face to face conversation with me. They'd rather do it over text, even if you're on the same bus together. So you can either stick to your guns and do it your way, or you can say, hmm, they like it this way. How do we find a mix? So I think that and I think just the use of technology in how we communicate is how our young people are growing up. And I don't think that has to be a dirty word. I think we can embrace technology in our learning spaces. And and even, you know, I started doing things with just using your iPad to video athletes at practise and show them immediately. You don't need high tech stuff. You just pull out the iPad and they can see themselves. And video doesn't lie either. So, you know, for a long time in terms of, you know, high performance level, there's, you know, video analysis and you do a whole session on video. But even at the community level, you can take your own iPad. And while they're doing a shooting drill, pick it up straight away and say, you know how I was telling you that shoot a bit high here. Have a look at this, you're shooting darts, not a beautifully curved, looping three point shot. So I think and they engage in that because they're on screens a whole lot and they understand information that way. So I think that's certainly a way that at any level of coaching, the immediacy of using technology, handheld technology can be powerful in terms of a learning tool and an engagement tool.

Cam Tradell [00:04:15] With that sort of individualised approach. And I guess it comes with pros and cons, the individualised approach with regards to showing people in real time what's happening, how does that work with the flow on effect with regards to trying to build cohesion in teams and sort of putting together the the individualised coaching areas where, as I say, you're given that real time feedback to then working in a broader group. How do you bring that sort of group structure and communicate on that broader style together?

Carrie Graf [00:04:42] I think first and foremost, it's about understanding your people and whether they're six year olds or 26 year olds, whether they're new the sport or whether they're a veteran Olympic athlete. And I think it's you know, one size doesn't fit all in terms of communication style. Not one person stand at the front berating people or directing them to get in the line or to shut up or whatever it might be. It's, you know, I call it,  kind of coach whispering. It's understanding people. And I can look Cam straight in the eye and I can tell him I need him to do this right now. And he goes, yeah, got your coach done. And I can do that to Paul, and he goes into a shell lost, "I'm never going to turn up here again". So I think understanding different learning styles, different communication styles and how your little people or your big people operate with your style is critical to individualising people's engagement in your work as a coach, to have them interact in an environment where they can thrive, you know, socially, mentally, physically and through their motor skill set in their chosen sport.

Cam Tradell [00:05:47] The different ways that people receive information and how they enact it. When you start to talk about performance people, you start to talk about honing in on skills and you're giving them that feedback and they're still not getting there. What's some of the methods that you can use to really target a skill without becoming over technical. What are some of the ways that you soften that, the conversation with them?

Carrie Graf [00:06:11] Well, I think sometimes it's you know, young people can take feedback in a group and some can't. And so I think that's when there's the the pull side or coach whispering that you can deliver it in a different tone and acquired a thing and not call out a skill. And I think it's having the athletes understand that highlighting to them a skill that they may not be performing well is about the skill. It's not about them as a person, just like the learning they do at school. You know, we're going to try it this way. It doesn't mean you're a bad person or I think you're no good at this. It's this skill. Try it this way. Like you're learning to draw. You do a five backwards. How can we try that another way? So I think it's using the language about can we try that a different way, use an analogy rather than a direct approach. What is it that's going to engage and I think you just have to keep trying until you can work out what your little people can grasp. Four of them might learn it. Well, let's have a look at this, everybody, and we'll give an example of how to do it for four people are wandered off with the Pixies and looking at something else. Let's get in line and I'm going to show you exactly how to demonstrate this to other people. Get it. The other five like this is boring. So I think you have to try different methods to get there's not you can't do it. You can't run a training session or a fun environment just one way. I think there has to be experiential learning. It's through trial and error. Here's a couple of rules. Let's go play. Let's keep it open. The creative people love that. The structured people like, "Can you tell us when we start? When do we finish? What's the score? When do we go? Can I use my left foot, my right foot." They're lost in a creative environment, but the creatives need it. So I think throughout a training session or a sports session, their needs to be all of those catered to. Here's some structure and here are the rules and the guidelines. Here's some free play. We want to be creative. Off you go. There's two rules. Let's play. Here's a physical part. We're all following the rules. We're going to run ten lines, we are going to touch the ball this way. So I think there needs to be all of those elements to try and cater to the group. You're not going to catch twenty, thirty little people, by one way. And I think that's the you know, that's the art of coaching and teaching.

Cam Tradell [00:08:16] It's a great way of putting it, the art of coaching and teaching. And I think that when you're looking at the different layers, I'm guessing that it can become quite confronting for some new coaches coming in that are thinking, I just want to come and teach the sport. And now I've got all these other layers of complexity with regards to how I service. What sort of support do you think? And what are the ways that people could navigate their way around if they do have a problem in front of them. What have you done in the past when you sort of had that little bit of a gap?

Carrie Graf [00:08:49] I mean, I think for me, my journey into coaching was in some ways blessed. You know, I grew up with two school teacher parents, so and I have a degree in sports science education. So I was sort of equipped, you know, and I played at the elite level as a young person and was coached by a whole lot of different coaching styles, mostly men. But I was equipped and I'd seen teaching in action throughout my family life. And if you were a kid that was sick in our family, you didn't not get to go to school. You went to your parents school and you actually saw them in action. So I guess I, I came from a place of understanding how to engage groups of people. And the position I played was a leading position, point guard. So it was a directive role and I wasn't a fast athlete, so I had to strategize. So I was sort of equipped, I think, through my sporting career in my family life and upbringing, education about some of those things that I later realised, wow they're actual coaching skills that I'd sort of learnt by osmosis. But I think you can seek those out through coaching courses, modern coaching courses. And a lot of it now is about people engagement. And I think, you know, often our coaches at the community level, we have the sport, knowledge and expertise. We know the technicalities of how to kick the ball or strike the ball or shoot the ball. But what we might not have through our professional life is are those you know, I won't call them soft skills because it implies that they're less important. But those people skills that are so critical to helping people extract performance from themself or enjoy their performance. So I think that that would be where I'd I'd go is that if I can manage and lead people, I can coach because I've got the technical part about the game. I know that part. I'm an expert in that. But what I don't know is how to control these 30 kids. Oh, my God, what do I do? And I think not to have the fear around it often if we're not comfortable, we go to so much structure. It's not funny. And that's probably the worst thing we can do, because that's not fun for many people and for little people that they're like, really, we've got to stand in another line and we don't get a turn for ten minutes. I wouldn't turn up to that either. I've seen coaches. I'm like, let them all have a touch. Give them all the ball. Yes, it's chaotic, but guess what? That's fun. Chaos is fun. And through chaos, we learn. So and let's be honest, you know, team sport environment. So the high performance level are organised chaos. It's the chaos. It's the learnings we have through playing in chaos that allow us in a pressure situation to make practise decisions in chaotic circumstance. And I think that defines greatness in team sports that can in chaotic situations, we can structure as much as we like. But guess what? Team sports, it isn't structured. You've got to be able to make it up right on the spot under pressure in a big game with one second to go. We can't practise exactly that, but we can create a chaotic environment that allows you to navigate through that with all that duress on you. And I think you can do that. And that's where that chaotic trial and error learning for young kids in developing sport skills is so critical. And it's the coach's role to undo that control bit that we all feel. If I can keep him organised in control, I'm okay. But we have to be open in that space to let it be chaotic. It's okay.

Cam Tradell [00:12:19] It's amazing insight.  Off the back of that, just changing tact a little bit. How important do you see the role of the official with regards to how they create, communicate and how they can set the tone for what sport looks like at all levels?

Carrie Graf [00:12:34] Without officials? There is no sport. And I think certainly first and foremost, it's a huge role of the coach to set an example about how the culture around refereeing and what's okay. It's not okay to abuse a referee. It's not okay to not treat them with respect, as you would a coaching colleague, a parent or one of the athletes that you coaching. And I think the change has to come from the coaching fraternity in terms of the culture of what's how we treat refereeing. And I think it's you know, it's part of the building culture of all sports that, you know, wraping this culture and officiating that says it's not okay to speak to a referee in certain way and that we're we're role modelling to our young people involved in sports that that's okay. Blame somebody. Well, let's start here. Let's check out our own backyard first. So, Coach, what are you focussed on? I'm focussed on creating an environment that my athletes enjoy, have fun in, develop social skills in, learn to win and lose, learn to handle adversity, learn to be persistent. That's my job as a coach, regardless of what the level is. My job is not to say anything to the referee other than great job ref. I might say in my mind, interesting call, but guess what, coach the referees think an interesting call. Why do you call that timeout? You know, we're all a part of this coaching infrastructure and community and it's everyone's responsibility. But I think, you know, officiating is critical to our sports development. And I officiated as a as a young elite player, I wouldn't want to do that today with what happens still at community level sport. Why would I want to do that and get abused by a parent yelling at me when I'm 14? So I think that's a huge part of our community sports that we need to change the culture and the environment around how officials are treated. They are a critical element. And I think the best officials at at all levels of sport are ones just like coaches that have great people skills, that can communicate, that understand the game, understand the pressures. Yes, they understand the technicalities of how to blow whistle and what signals to call and make a decision on a play. But they can communicate with the other stakeholders in that environment. The young people that are playing, you know, as young referees, they should be coaching the athletes, too, is my belief. I used to, I'd coach, referee under tens and coach him at the same time. That was a travel because you did X, Y, Z, he'd have another turn. So I think they're critically important to our whole sport system.

Cam Tradell [00:15:03] It's really interesting because officials don't get called into play until a player in the game makes a mistake and immediately we start to question the call. So the officials scrutinised, but sometimes the players aren't scrutinised at the same level. So it's interesting that the human nature of sport takes over. Carrie, this has been a fantastic session. We really, really appreciate it. There's a lot for people to take away in that around, one, you personal experience, but also in what the future might look like with regards to how we can create these optimal learning environments. Thanks very much for joining us.

Carrie Graf [00:15:34] My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:15:39] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at  My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Coaching and Officiating - Amy Perrett

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our Coaching and Officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and l am the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. In this episode, we dive into the world of officiating with Rugby Union referee Amy Perrett, Amy has officiated at the Women's World Sevens Series, the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the Women's World Cup Rugby final in 2014 and will officiate at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. In 2020, Amy became the first female to take charge with the whistle in a Super Rugby match. Welcome, Amy. How are you?

Amy Perrett [00:00:57] I'm really good. Thanks for having me on the podcast.

Cam Tradell [00:00:59] Fantastic. Thank you. Amy, I'll be really interested to understand, knowing that you have refereed at all levels and seeing you at the Super Rugby level. Do you have a process or what are your processes with regards to making decisions and basing them on what you see and how do you navigate through decision making.

Amy Perrett [00:01:19] Decision making now that I've been refereeing now for 18, 19 years or so. At the moment now it's all based on gut instinct, but to kind of get to that stage, you go through a lot of different things from where you start to when you get to elite. In Rugby, we have checklists for everything because, you know, so much is going on in the tackle or ruck. An average family who doesn't know rugby will probably think what is happening there. But, so we formulate these kind of checklists and they give us a process of what we need to look at each stage of a tackle, of a ruck, of the maul, or the lineout, all the different aspects of the game and as you are learning and developing those kind of decision making skills. They're the things that you going over at each phase. And the more experience you get, the better you get at it. What starts to become that gut feel, that potential kind of decision making mode. Once you figure all that out, it's funny because you start seeing refs then show that they know everything and probably over penalising and become way too technical. So once you realise you come to that stage and you blow 40 penalties in a game, most of the crowd kind of let you know that that's not what they want. We go through it like another stage and talk about making relevant decision. So, again, we can be very technical. I'm sure in any breakdown you could find a penalty that you want, but then we start talking about making a relevant decision. So is that a fair contest then? An even fair contest? That's good. Then we can kind of we can play away from that minor infringement. Is the ball quick? Is the team in attack able to get the ball as quick as they can if they can. And we say, OK, we can play away from that infringement. They are, I guess the two key things that we kind of, talk about, whether it is a fair contest, whether the speed of the ball's been affected and they now come into play around a relevant decision making. And I said the longer you kind of do it, it starts to become more of a gut instinct. And I don't know how many times I've overthought a decision and didn't trust my gut and I ended up being wrong. So that's kind of now what I kind of fall back on. You've always just kind of got the experience of all different styles and types of games to kind of get me that experience to just kind of trust those gut instincts. And there'll be times that I'm wrong. And that's OK, because that's another big part of our decision making process, and the journey to get to where you need to be because you learn from those mistakes and in Rugby,  some really weird stuff happens. And it might only happen once in your whole career, but you learn from it and you move on and figure out a different way so that you prepare for it again or it actually doesn't happen again, or you can pass it on to someone else so it doesn't happen to them or they are well prepared for it as well. And then when you get to the Super Rugby level, you just kind of have to be really confident. As you said, there's a lot of pressure coming at you from the crowd because they can watch a big screen, there is commentators and don't necessarily agree with your decision. Players and coaches are giving their two cents. So, again, just having confidence in yourself to be able to say, OK, this is what I'm seeing, right or wrong, this is how I'm going to call it, and then just move on. And most of the time, you actually are correct. I think that just having that confidence when going to get to that point, once you go through all these different phases, you get to the stage where you can back that. So if it doesn't happen overnight, you will go through this and it's those kind of stages in decision making before you can get to that stage with the confidence. And then you can trust your gut and practices.

Cam Tradell [00:05:44] It's interesting that you talk about the stages, because having that feel for the game becomes really important. And it's when you're looking at the impact of an infringement versus the severity, if you know what I mean. And I like that you talk about it's a real feel. I think there's a lot in that.

Amy Perrett [00:06:01] Yeah. And definitely you don’t just have to have a feel for the game when you get to the professional level. Having a feel for the game is so important at community level. Understanding what the players are trying to get out of out of the game and most of the time, they just want to have fun, play the game with their mates and have a game that can move and not stop and start all the time. So again, like I said, normally when we are refereeing community Rugby, we don't go to that stage and try to prove that we know everything and what those 40 odd penalties in a game which is just way too much. It's really important more so at that community level that you understand that, that you get that flow, let the guys play. You don't have to be perfect and they'll appreciate that better. And overall, I think everyone plays and spectates will have a better experience.

Cam Tradell [00:06:53] You talked a bit there about your communication and the different stakeholders that you need to communicate with.  On the field, you're a very clear communicator. How did you hone those skills, to be precise, to make a call, to communicate well? And then what's some of the other ways that you need to communicate? I'm guessing that after games or in reviews, you've got coaches that may come and ask questions. How do you best find your method or your way of communicating? And how effective do you find that you are in your communication?

Amy Perrett [00:07:28] Communication is a big part of the journey. When you start, you probably don't say a lot. Because you don’t know what’s happening. So its best to say nothing at all, But then again, as you move on, you start commentating the game and talk too much and then you start to learn when players respond, when they don't, depending on what kind of things you might say. And I found along the way this being really short, sharp and to the point is the best thing for players and at the outside spectators around the field, because if you walk along and over-explain something, particularly when people are under fatigue, the ref, like myself might not make sense because I'm tired. The players just probably just don't understand what you said. So if you just keep it two to one or two really simple messages, they have a far better impact on the game than commentating throughout the whole game or saying nothing at all. And it's about picking when you come in and when you need to stay out. You only want to come in when you have to actually have to manage a play and you think we'll get an outcome. There's no point saying stuff if you know you're not going to get the outcome, the desire the probably just going to give a penalty anyway or they've actually done the right thing and you just don't need to say anything at all. And you said the one big thing I found that's helped my communications is refereeing seven's. There's not a lot of time to talk so when you do get that opportunity, it has to be relevant and impactful for people to understand and get those kind of changes that you want to see. So I feel like that's been playing a huge part in where I've got now. Another thing like the first time I heard myself, a community that I think I was doing, a woman, a women's national tournament. And the first time I'd seen footage and heard myself. And it's a very uncomfortable moment with this, you know, you hear yourself refereeing because you just don't realise what you say and how often. And even just the tone of your voice you don't realise it's like that. So you learn from it where you can and listening back to to your conversations, to your tone of voice when you decided to say something, when you didn't and whether that was the right thing at that time of the game. And then communication like post match and coaches can always be a little bit tricky, depending on how the game went. And pretty much the only thing these things the other team were doing wrong, just to put those kind of images in your head and could manipulate me the way potentially. I think that might be the intention. And then post match, now you've got to really think about how you how you talked to a coach after the game. You don't want to put yourself in a corner or the next time you might say something the week after where you promised you wouldn't do. This is really it's a bit of a chess match, almost a bit of an arm wrestle still post much to communicate because there'll be times where they're just venting because they probably under pressure. You've got to understand that and not get overly offended and it's nothing personal, just part of the job. But there are times when you need to just back yourself. And this decision was correct for these reasons and it's a bit of an arm wrestle. And what I find helps is my referee coach, so the person I trust to be able to tell me or to assist me when I review the game this. I'm pretty good. I like reviewing games of around decisions, but not scrums always. That's one area that I'm never one hundred percent confident. I always seek help to make sure I got my decision making right, but around a tackle, I know that kind of area, you know for me, I can sit and review and I go, I got that one wrong or I got that one right so I don't really need extra eyes for that. Where I do need my coach is around those interactions with players and understanding the flow, or dominance, rewarding things being dominant around the game. But whether I set up the game so that it could get that nice flow and open rugby towards the back end and let players do their thing, I didn't have to come in. So it's those kind different aspects I'd go to my referee coach and talk to him about.

Cam Tradell [00:12:23] It's so important to have that sounding board. And it sounds like you've got great self-awareness and self reflection. But to have those extra set of eyes on those areas that you're unsure, I mean, maybe the gaps or where you could improve and be better, that's really interesting that you rely on it heavily, too.

Amy Perrett [00:12:39] Yeah, definitely. I think in all stages, like, no one's perfect and you always have to have that growth mindset and you have to know you're constantly learning something new each game and you're learning a new challenge and you kind of got to embrace if you want to get better, it's never going to be perfect. And there's always something that you can work on for the next game and having that person to kind of bounces those ideas off and it helps you kind of reach those goals that we need to make, because if you're just doing it on the run, you might not realise you do something. It could just be a tiny little fix and it can improve your game.

Cam Tradell [00:13:16] Entering into anything with the growth mindset if fantastic. Shifting gears a little bit. You've been referring fifteens at Super Rugby. And changing gears now to Sevens Rugby, having been appointed to officiate at the Olympics, how do you manage the two of those? Because they're two fairly distinct sports or fairly different sports. Even though the skills are the same, it's a different pace and a different mindset. How do you go about swapping between the two sports, especially at the elite level?

Amy Perrett [00:13:43] Yeah, it's something I think everyone struggles with, even the players coming back. For me, I find it harder to come back into the fifteens, sevens again I think sevens comes more natural and comfortable. It suits the style of my personality, I think, because I actually don't like going up and having to talk to people all the time on the field or do the pre-match where the sevens, I don't have to say much, I can just blow my whistle, move on. The game doesn't last too long. I can reflect straightaway on that game because then I have another game in about an hour or two hours, so I'm not sitting on something for a whole week, overthinking things that I did in the game. I can just get straight into it and move on. But I think the key things that are different and can be very difficult in decision making in sevens is very black and white that we don't operate in that grey area. You've been infringed or you haven't. And there's not a lot of management. So you see something, you generally just penalise and move on. And it's good because the players accept that as well. What they want to do is they just want to take a quick tap and move on. There is no kind of argument or like I said, there's not really that chess match or that arm wrestle with captains that you are trying to deal with. We could try to work with it either way and everyone is trying to manipulate to their advantage. So when I come back into fifteens, what I really try and focus on is making those relevant decisions, taking a breath before I call something, because the instinct is to just put my whistle to my mouth and blow a penalty. And so it's just taking that extra half a second just to see what happens, whether I can play away from something or whether I blow that penalty then and there so it takes a few weeks to kind of get that feel back, like if it's sevens it's that start and stop, not a lot of flow because if you do blow a lot of penalties you might blow ten penalties in 14 minutes, which is a lot. Whilst in fifteens you wouldn't dare to do that once you start giving out all the cards and then the spotlight coming on you, which is again, something you don't really want so for me it takes a few. Even the number of people on the field can be quite difficult around a tackle or a ruck because when it's one on one, very easy to see what's happening. So when got three of four people diving into something, you kind of get a bit lost sometimes. And then that makes you uncomfortable. Sometimes when you're uncomfortable, that's when you revert to what you know, and that probably shouldn't happen. So yeah, just being really that I just need to take my time, get the feel for the game, don't impose myself too much. And in the first ten minutes I start to get that feel back in and they'll still be a few decisions that I will get and review, and, you know, I didn't need to call them, I'm a little bit pedantic with sevens penalty, but yeah, just reflecting on that during the game and after and hopefully the next week, I'm a bit better get a bit more flow.

Cam Tradell [00:17:18] Amy, thanks very much for your time this afternoon and sharing your insights. Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Coaching and Officiating - Sharon Hannan

Narrator [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and i'm the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.

Cam Tradell [00:00:31] Today, we're very, very lucky to have Sharon Hannan join us on the phone. Hello, Sharon, how are you?

Sharon Hannan [00:00:37] I'm good. Thanks, Cameron.

Cam Tradell [00:00:56] Thanks very much for your time today. It's fantastic to have you share some of your stories. You've seen a great breadth of athletics and the sport, starting at little athletics and going all the way through to the heady heights of the Olympics. I'd be keen to understand, what's your story? How did you actually get into it and how did you grow a love for coaching in the sport of athletics?

Sharon Hannan [00:59] My daughter came home from school as a nine year old saying she had a flyer and asking me if she could join athletics and we went down the local oval and little town called Gordonvale, just south of Cairns. And yeah, I was given a job to do for the season, which was pulling the tape measure through the discus. So I didn't see a great deal, but my daughter had a great deal of fun and she loved it. And I thought it was a really good environment. I was a single mum and she made lots of friends. And at the end of the season, the people running the club wanted to move athletics from Sunday morning to a weekday afternoon. But I worked probably 30 miles away at the airport. I worked for an airline called Bush Pilots, which then became Air Queensland and subsequently Qantas link. And I couldn't get there, couldn't get there from work in the afternoon. So a couple of families were in the same boat, and I contacted Queensland Little Athletics and they helped us start up a little athletic centre in Cairns. There were centres in little towns around it, Cooktown, Innisfail, Mulgrave and Tablelands, Atherton Tablelands and so there was there was prototypes there and people who knew what they were doing and so we called a public meeting and we got started and we had eighty three kids in our first season. That was just crazy. And then we got stuck into it. Our first zone championships were in Cooktown. We bought a rattly old school bus with no windows, you know, things like that way back in the day then. At the beginning of the year that I started Cairns Little A's, there was a coaching course in Mareeba and so I went up and did that and started my coaching journey. And I just loved it because, you know on sign on days, we had probably 60 of the 83 kids all there on the first day, all looking at us, OK, what do we do now? We will go, whoa, what do we do Shaz? You know, you've done the coaching course. And it was just sort of thrown at me and, you know, but that was probably when I discovered that, "a", I could communicate and "b", the kids listen cause they were so excited about being there. And, you know, so from out of that, it's pretty easy to get some really good results for each of the kids and for the Little Athletic Centre as well. So we became very successful very, very quickly in that we only had a six week season. It was July by the time we got started. And Athletics starts in April up north. So, yeah, that's when I decided I like coaching and I've coached ever since, there hasn't been a period when I haven't coached.

Cam Tradell [00:04:23] And that's, it's amazing. And the power of the volunteers there with, you know, wanting to serve the community. You then made that leap because you've been in, you know, coaching and you've been sort of looking after Athletics or people in Athletics for some time. How did you then sort of make the transition from the early development stages into adults and even performance athletes? How did that all come about?

Sharon Hannan [00:04:47] It was a journey that I guess was happening without me even realising where I was heading. I had some senior athletes that we were doing okay and and I just kept talking to people. And thankfully, there's things called state championships and country championships and national championships and and you just meet and talk to people and ask questions and watch how they're coaching and, you know, listen to what they're saying to their athletes and lots of coaching textbooks. And I was also doing uni back in the day when I first moved to the Gold Coast. And so I had access to the library at Griffith Uni and and I did have, you know, going in and reading up on quantitative analysis from reading up on coaching and techniques and you know, those sort of things, and I learnt sort of fairly rapidly. I learnt alot at my level two course, , which is now classified as a level four accreditation. That was a 10 day course. I learnt so much, not just from the lecturers and facilitators, but from the people doing the course. That was fantastic and I've done a few of those since then and and just coached and just tried to stay a step ahead of the game, no more than, no more than the athletes that were standing in front of me knew.

Cam Tradell [00:06:18] You talk about the strength of the communities around you that support you. How important is it to leverage, you know, other people's experience and to also have mentors to help you with regards to how you develop? Have you found that as being valuable input to creating who you are as a coach?

Sharon Hannan [00:06:36] Oh, undeniably, it's really important. You know, you live in a bubble if you don't seek advice and ask questions and learn from others because so many have gone before. Unfortunately, when I first started, a lot of the printed material that was around was was published in the times of the, you know, the suspected doping in some of the countries, so some of the exercises they were doing in the sessions that they were doing that were published in those books were just outrageous. But, you know, I've never taken a programme from anywhere, but my husband so far has been my greatest mentor. He was level five soon after I moved to the Gold Coast. He was going that was a year long process back then and he was going through that and was awarded his level five in jump and so he's just been fantastic and, you know, I've done a great deal of coach education as well, and he was a teacher, maths and science. People think he was Pys. Ed., but he wasn't he was just heavily involved in athletics. He would sit in the back of the classroom and just write little notes. And then we talk about some of the things that I could do better and  some of the mannerisms that I could lose. Or change, you know, I think he's just being a fantastic mentor. Really, really good. And knew so many people already and introduced me to so many people who I might never have been in conversations with.

Cam Tradell [00:08:21] How do you create that safe environment that promotes that open communication between you two to understand one, how you feeling one day or they're feeling one day or their problems or, you know, what they feel they need to work to. How do you create that trust so that you can get that open communication going between the two of you?

Sharon Hannan [00:08:39] Because I think I'm a big believer in nurturing as a valuable coaching tool, and I think that where a lot of females have a bit of an advantage over males, you know, being a parent, you know, you are justy on the lookout for all the little signs that show someone in a bit of distress or they're a little bit sad or you know, they struggle to communicate with others in the group or whatever. So I guess that's one of my big strengths, is is just being able to notice things and then talk to the athletes, not even necessarily about what I know, but but building a belief in you know, the people around them, belief in them, that falling over or tripping or doing something wrong is not a bad thing. That it is a learning step and I don't know, I think not ever having done sport really when  I was young thats what I brought to the table, was valuable parenting skills, I guess. I was a single parent for 12 and a half years, so, I had a bit of experience.

Cam Tradell [00:10:08] It's incredible how you bring a life experience to other aspects of your coaching and so on. So that really identifying or having that self awareness around this is a key strength and it's also something that's desirable from an athlete perspective. So being a person, good person, first, coach second, to then create those environments, I think that's a really powerful sort of message.

Sharon Hannan [00:10:31] Yeah, I think so. You know, people will be surprised, really surprised at some of the things that kids talk to us about that they wouldn't talk to their parent about or, you know, the number of times that I've said to say a teenage athlete, who is having some real problems. You know, "I can talk to your mom or dad about this". "Oh, no, no". Well, you know, I'm not going to talk about it direct, but I'm just going to go and have a conversation with them and not go and say, you should be doing this. You should be saying that. Or you shouldn't be, you know, feeding them this or whatever. But I just go in and have a conversation with them about, you know, how the athlete feels or what I think would help the athlete improve. And that might better sleep patterns or better food or, you know, all of those things. So I find it hard sometimes to have conversations with parents, but you've got to try and make an environment where the athlete knows that they can talk to you and that you might be able to help them.

Cam Tradell [00:11:50] It's almost like the sport highlights or puts more attention on the need for good stakeholder management. So the way that you navigate through that, that's it's an incredible skill. And again, I guess it would help build those bonds of trust between yourself and the athlete when they see you're actually trying to help in other areas or other ways. I think that's a fantastic insight.

Sharon Hannan [00:12:55] Yeah, for sure and importantly, it works the other way. The parents will come to me and say, you know, I'm really worried that, you know, Joe Blow isn't doing enough schoolwork. And, you know, my husband and I are at the point where we're going to start excluding them from training because we've tried excluding them from social media, from their devices or whatever and that's not working. So we just wanted to talk to you about that. And I said, go, you know, go for it. But, you know, it's good when there's conversation, you know, when parents feel that they can come and seek some sort of backup or guidance or some help as well.

Cam Tradell [00:13:18]  Goal setting is about sensible stretch, but it's also about managing the expectations with how growth is measured. You're saying that most are motivated when they come to you, so therefore they've got their eyes set on something and they just want to achieve it. But setting those realistic expectations is just as important as also building them up with regards to progressions.

Sharon Hannan [00:13:18] Yeah, absolutely. And and a lot of the time they won a race at school or something and they come to you, but you introduce them to, you know, jumps and throws and other events as well because you just never know what body type they're going to end up with? How are they going to, you know, where their strengths are going to be? So you try and give them as much variety as possible. But, you know, on the other hand, I get phone calls from parents of eight year olds every Olympic year and every Commonwealth Games saying, oh, my daughter's the fastest in her grade at the school and she wants to go to the Olympics.

Cam Tradell [00:13:56] I think that multi functional approach is a much more sensible vision to the future for creating physical competence and literacy for young athletes as they develop.

Sharon Hannan [00:14:09] It's very hard to get kids to do field events sport. Because it it's movement that are way out of the ordinary, where, running is just faster walking. In their very basic conversations with themselves and but to get them to, to really think about just going and having a go and learning the skill and starting from the basics, it can be pretty hard because kids still have this real fear of failure.

Cam Tradell [00:14:46] Sharon, there's a lot for us to take away from what you've shared. Thanks very, very much. Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Coaching and Officiating series.

Coaching and Officiating - Lauren Burns

Introduction [00:00:00] This episode contains references to issues that some athletes and people in high performance sport may find troubling. If you need support, reach out to confidential services such as AIS Be Heard and the AIS Mental Health Referral Network. Details can be found on the AIS website

Cam Tradell [00:00:21] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and i am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. We're pleased to have Lauren Burns join us today. Lauren won an Olympic gold medal in taekwondo when the sport made its debut in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Lauren is currently working with the AIS Gold Medal Ready program, assisting athletes preparing for Tokyo and Paris. She is currently completing her PhD in lifestyle practises and mindset of elite athletes, and has published papers of her work in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Welcome, Lauren. It's great to have you on the line.

Lauren Burns [00:01:18] Thanks so much for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:01:21] Interesting journey for you, and I know from winning a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics to where you are today and publishing research papers. I'd be really keen to understand. But what are your research papers? You know, what are they really about? And what was the motivation to actually duck diving down into your subject area?

Lauren Burns [00:01:40] Well, it's funny you ask what the motivation was, because I think with research, it never really well, you don't always go where you first set off to to go. So I my background is I'm also a naturopath and nutritionist, and I was actually looking at doing a clinical trial on organic food and how that impacted athletes. So basically, whether, you know, eating pesticides could impact cognitive function, reaction time, performance, that sort of thing. So that was where we started that we ended up not getting the funding for that trial, and I don't know, I think one day maybe I'll do that. So as part of looking at at food, we were also looking at lifestyle. And that was kind of the umbrella to sort of when you look at the research with athletes, there's a lot out there and a lot of it is sort of broken down into different areas. And they sort of, you know, they silos and, you know, you might have all the sports psychology research and then you got all the biomechanics or the physiology and the nutrition. You know, they're huge. That fit a lifestyle as a holistic framework is not really looked at. So I guess to start with, I decided to go to the top and I chose, you know, Olympic and Paralympic gold, medal winning athletes or world championships, depending on the benchmark of their sport. So, you know, some some sports don't have Olympics like surfing, for example. I has people like Layne Beachley, Ian Thorpe, Russel Mark, Kerri Pottharst, Jackie Cooper, like these incredible athletes. And I purposely sampled them so I had a real cross-section of individual athletes, team sports, in a small team or a team as a big team, so I have Chole Dalton from Rugby Sevens. Combat Sports. I had Carmen Marton who's the world champion in taekwondo. So I had this real cross-section. And really we were just, you know, Cathy Freeman asking what, you know, what do you do with your life? How what did you think? What did you attribute your success? What did you think impacted your performance? Negatively, positively? There were very open ended questions and we didn't really know where we were going to go from that. So it was it was actually fabulous. And I think when I first retired myself from elite competition, I didn't really want anything to do with high performance sport. I didn't think I certainly didn't think I'd be doing research. But coming full circle. I've just you know, I really enjoyed this process and especially seeing some of the results that have come come from it. And then we did a larger study, a survey which we surveyed Australian athletes from podium to emerging athlete. But that was also another they all kind of actually supported the findings that were in our initial study.

Cam Tradell [00:04:27] That's interesting. You sort of started to talk about, you know, some of the positives and some of the negatives. Were there common traits coming through with regards to absolute imperatives at the at the development years of athletes that came through is just being key and core to their success?

Lauren Burns [00:04:44] Well, I think, you know, intrinsic motivation, unstructured play a really big markers in development. We didn't really ask a lot about there wasn't a lot about upbringing necessarily. Someone more like, you know, obviously naturally gifted. I mean, Russell Mark talks about like to throw anything in the air and he can shoot it. Like he was just sort of born with that ability and others sort of had to work a lot more.  But that intrinsic motivation was certainly something that was cultivated and developed in all those athletes. It was really apparent. So psychological attributes were just outstanding. So that realistic optimism, resilience, that ability to be knowledge seekers, going out, finding anything, leaving no stone unturned, being really resourceful. That intrinsic motivation by all of those attributes were really strong. And then there were these other elements. So it was really this those psychological attributes, the performance strategies, which obviously we're talking once you talk to athletes at that level, they sort of you know, it's not about their skill necessarily or their talent. I mean, those things are a given. They've worked so hard to get to that point that that's really well established. Then the lifestyle practises, which is something, again, that I as I mentioned, it wasn't really where I thought I was going to go, but that was quite, quite fascinating. And then I think the thing that really stood out to me was the importance of interpersonal relationships and how that can attenuate stress and how intrinsic that is to to performance and those four elements of psychology, performance, relationships and lifestyle, it's like there's a there's this it's like a dynamic interplay. So those elements are like a tilt of where the athlete needs to lean into those areas more. And that's something that's about and is very, very apparent with that mastery level athlete, because it's about their ability to self regulate and to be able to lean into that, like to be able to get those psychological skills to draw on their knowledge in that space and or do they need to go and catch up with a friend and have a laugh or, you know, talk to the coach or hang out with, you know, go to their parents for dinner and, you know, like those. So that's something that those athletes that are at that top level have really they know themselves so well that they're able to do that without really thinking. And that's sort of where, you know, you want to get to in that space is being able to move between those elements.

Cam Tradell [00:07:23] That's really interesting. Did anything come out in your research that talks about, you know, where people do go when they want to get that help and support?

Lauren Burns [00:07:30] In terms of a positive way to motivate people, is this level of challenge and support and I haven't written about that a lot in my papers, but I certainly wrote quite extensively on it in my thesis. And its that level of being able to to challenge someone you want people to stretch. And we're talking about, you know, if you're going to the Olympic Games or you're going for a gold medal, you need to rise to that occasion so that the athletes want be challenged, the coach wants to challenge them. And so you want people to grow and you want them to stretch that they need to do that and have the need to have that respectful environment, and to be able to, you know, have the support backing there as well and to feel like they were supported and I know with me, my coach, my club coach, like he always pushed me and challenged me, especially mentally in ways that I never thought that I could grow. But I always knew he had my back. And he was he had my best interests at heart. And I could say to him, this is too much. Or, you know, I always felt like there was a really open dialogue. But, you know, I think there's also there's just human decency as well, like just being a good person, you know, just and being, you know, getting the best out of someone is not, you know, putting them down or making them feel less than or,  yeah about, you know, specific body characteristics or anything like that. So that that can be quite damaging for life, and one of the things that when I was writing up the paper about the I wrote an editorial piece about interpersonal relationships specifically that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. So I can give that to you. I can give it to you and you can share it with your listeners. But one of the things that we that I highlighted in that paper is that unfortunately, and this is in the world, but certainly in Australia as well as athletes, progress along their journey, as the higher they get in the performance pathway, the higher chance there is of bullying, ostracism, violence, sexual assault, all kinds of abuse, harassment, coercion. Now, that's really unfortunate. So it is topical. And, you know, this is great. We're having these kinds of conversations at the moment because those things shouldn't be happening. And, you know, you think about our kids and we, you know, have great community involvement, that kids go up and play sport and they get involved in teams. And if they want to progress, they go further and, you know, and then they get into this little hamster wheel of a elite sport and you don't want them to have all of those things happen. So I guess part of putting that in the editorial is that we need to speak about this and to, you know, keep talking about it until it's not there anymore. And there's a lot of things that we can put in place to to educate our coaches and support staff and people that are around the athletes, because that's one of the things that we found was highly important. And the athletes, you know, said that they often valued some of the support staff more than they did the coach, so you know the massure, the physio, the people that are travelling. And, you know, I think there's a lot in that. But when I was thinking about that, it wasn't just that the massure was a nice person, but they were human touch, there's regularity. Often the massure's travelling with them, or they're seeing them every day. And there's also a sense of, you know, there might be some more power dynamics with the coach where you've got selection or whatever that might be going on. It's a little bit more high pressure. And when an athlete is just sitting, lying on the table or getting their ankles strapped by the physio, whatever, they can just chat. And so I think these you know, these service providers, you know, they have a great role to play in performance. So and, you know, a lot of the some of the work that I was drawing on when I wrote this piece and I talk about it in the article, is how, you know, quality relationships, so people that you feel comfortable with, they don't have to be, you know its not a Disney. It's not all utopic, but those people that you can be real, authentic self with, they actually being around them, are staying in close proximity, can lower cortisol levels. And a lot of your stress markers will come down to just being near someone which, you know, we kind of all know, like we have good friends that you just hang out with. You feel great just being with them or, you know, you "oh I'm so glad we caught up." it was awesome seeing them, I just feel, you know, they just lift you and, you know, people are like that. We made that human connection.

Cam Tradell [00:12:10] When you talk about that, I think about the role that that community has to to service that with regards to providing athletes, players, participants with that ability to if they do need to talk, they do need help. They do need support, is that it can almost cultivate athletes and condition them so that for the one percent that actually get up to podium performance level or, you know, the small percentage that if we can arm athletes and participants with the tools to navigate through that of they are faced with something like that, I think that becomes very, very powerful with regards to, you know, regaining their power in situations that you're talking about.

Lauren Burns [00:12:51] That's right. And one of the great things about sport is that many of the skills that you learn while you're playing sport or you're involved in, you know, a community level, grassroots, whatever level of sport and recreation, those skills are relevant in so many different areas. So, you know, it's not just getting someone to compete at a mastery level or an Olympic Games or world championships. It's also, you know, this is about growing our community and our culture and keeping people active. And, you know, so there's so many elements to along that pathway that if we can support people and provide skills and it, you know, for their health and wellbeing and, you know, there's just so many benefits, really. So we don't want people having a bad experience and stopping it. And then they always have this negative association with board or the coach so that they don't want to go back to that. But that's not good.

Cam Tradell [00:13:53] I like what you said before. It's about that community cohesion as well, about sort of reflecting your community and reflecting who you want to be so aspirationally you might not want to play for Australia. That might not be what you want to be aspirationally, but you want to be a better person. You want to be better yourself and sports a great conduit for it.

Lauren Burns [00:14:10] Yeah. And we talk talking in the Gold Medal Ready program. We talk about experiential avoidance and, you know, reminding athletes of that it is our job as human nature is that as we get towards something that's harder, we our mind is like go back, don't do this. It's hard. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't like it, you know, but to do any of those great things in life like to finish your degree or to finish running a half marathon or maths or whatever it might be, you have to move. You have to lean into that discomfort. And that's where that coaches and support teams can be really influential and team-mates and, you know, social scaffold. But, you know, those things, you know, sports is such a nice parallel for it. It because, you know, I mean, I took my son got his black gold in taekwondo and, you know, there was times when he didn't want to do it. And that's what he pushed through and he got it. And so now that can be well, you didn't want to do this. And it's the same with you know homework or, you know, study or finishing your work or getting a submission or whatever it might be that you're doing it. Sometimes we have to just lean into that discomfort a little bit, and that's when we grow and we stretch.

Cam Tradell [00:15:24] Fantastic. Lauren, thank you so much. We really, really appreciate your time this afternoon. It's always good to catch up and talk. Really appreciate you've given us a lot to think about there. And thank you so much. Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating, or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Traddell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Disclaimer [00:15:57] If you need support, reach out to confidential services such as AIS Be Heard and the AIS Mental Health Referral Network, details can be found on the AIS website.

Coaching and Officiating - Mal Meninga

Introduction [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I’m the Project Lead for Coaching and Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, I'm fortunate enough to be joined by former Rugby League player and current head coach of the Australian National Rugby League team, Mal Meninga. Mal is a sport Australia Hall of Fame member and is the most successful State of Origin head coach. Welcome, Mal. Thanks for joining us.

Mal Meninga [00:00:48] Thanks, Cameron. Nice to be here.

Cam Tradell [00:00:49] Mal, I'd be interested in understanding your journey with regards to what sport used to look like for you and how it sort of morphed from, you know, your earliest memories of playing sport and where it was.

Mal Meninga [00:01:01] Growing up in in rural Queensland, you know, sport was the social fabric of any community basically in those townships. And Rugby League was central to all that. But how I grew up playing sport was through the school systems. School provided many opportunities for me to play, cricket was and mainly was rugby league in the winter and cricket in the summer basically. But you could play other sports like soccer or basketball or anything you want, swimming. Whatever you want to get your hands on, you know, I played basically. So, I grew up playing rugby league in the school systems, mum and dad were heavily involved in the community rugby league as well, the school systems as well. And eventually that that came into a lot of parents, you know, wanted their kids to play club footy. So I'm going through, I'm sort of mid 60s, sort of late 60s. And, you know, mum and dad with a number of parents would start a club footy up, you know, so you might be and through schools, it was more than the weight divisions as well. So it was you know, I was a nine year old kid, you know, playing footy, playing rugby league in a sort of six stone, seven, you know. So I'm nine, I'm playing against 11 and 12-year-olds, you know. So it wasn't age relative, it was all around weight those in days as well. So, so mum and dad and a number of other parents started club rugby league. So, you know, under sixes and under sevens. Those days in the bush was sixes, and eights and 10s and 12s sort of go up by two lots of age groups because mainly because of numbers. So yeah, I mean I grew up playing that. So, I think, you know, from my point of view, you know, rugby league was central. I loved the sport. Mum and dad were heavily involved as coaching, Mum was, you know, the mum that did the canteen, washed the jerseys, took us to footy if we needed to go to footy or go to the games and things like that. I'll always remember mum sitting on the sidelines, you know, barracking for Dad when he played, you know. He was captain or coach for most regional teams and he went and played because he was very transient as well, lifestyle, you know, because you follow the money, I suppose. He used to work in sawmills or cut cane or whatever the case may be, whatever community he was involved in. So, it was very fond memories, you know, I really enjoyed the environment, loved the experience. And I think because of my upbringing, it enabled me to become a more resilient person. You know, I was motivated because I had the passion for whatever I did always, you know, wanted to be, I was always competitive, always wanted to win, no matter what I did, you know. Even at school, that skill base level, even in my studies, I wanted to be, you know, a good student as well. So that was how I was brought up in Rugby League. And, you know, things obviously change today.

Cam Tradell [00:03:48] You're talking about your father working in different jobs and so on, but still working and playing for the region. When you came through the system, you obviously had to work and also play rugby up until when was that?

Mal Meninga [00:04:01] I loved playing the game, but I never really had any aspirations about playing the game at the highest level. Again, I grew up watching or reading Enid Blyton books. Secret Seven, Famous Five, watching Police Force. I always had on police shows on: Division Four, Bellbird, all those sort of, all those sort of shows, I grew up on. Growing up in the late 60s, early 70s, I had ambitions to be a policeman. So I went to the Queensland Police Academy after I finished my junior certificate and I went, so that was 15 years of age. I left home, went down to Brisbane, the Oxley Academy down there and joined the police force, basically. So I was a cadet there and that enabled me then to do my senior certificate and also study police law, then obviously graduate to become a policeman. I was sort of recruited, I guess, my physical prowess as well. And ironically enough for a young police constable, Senior Constable I was, by the name of Wayne Bennett, was actually one of the instructors there at the academy. And he saw me play some touch on the footy field, basically. And he said to me, do you play rugby league? And I said, ‘yes, I do’. You know, I didn't quite know how to answer him, but, yeah, I was a bit petrified at the time. And he said, ‘well, we'll see’. You know, he said, oh jeez, you know, at the academy it was all about discipline. The academy is, you know, ‘get up at such and such a time’, and it's all about routine and discipline and doing your study. It was a really terrific environment and obviously Wayne, mentored me through my early years, you know, 16, 17, 18, 19 years of age. I remember him saying to me one time in front of a group, you know – this is where Wayne Bennett gets his reputation around managing people – he said to me, ‘Mal, you can do anything you want to in life as long as you put your mind to it’. And he brought me up on Vince Lombardi around, you know, goal setting, the will to win all that sort of stuff. And that sort of resonated with me. I kind of liked all that and when he told me that I could do anything I want to as long as I put my mind to it, I went up to my room at the academy and I put down a number of goals. And it wasn't it wasn't police goals. It was rugby league goals, because then I've started to realise that, you know, you can play rugby league at a higher level. So, I wanted to play for my state, Queensland, in 1979 at 18 years of age. And I achieved that, ticked [it] off, and I just ticked off goals ever since basically. When I started to achieve that it had a profound influence on me in those early years, and which led to me, obviously, to the things I do today.

Cam Tradell [00:06:47] The impact that a coach can have on a player, but even shifting that to the impact that a coach can have in the community level on other aspects of people's lives is profound. And I think there's a remarkable, almost a responsibility on coaches with regards to building better people.

Mal Meninga [00:07:05] Yeah, well, we have a program in the NRL called the Rise Program. The Rise Program eventually, came out of the Kangaroos’ systems where we looked at our values and looked at how we wanted to be, how we want to behave, how we want to be seen, how we want to protect the game. And this Rise Program, we talk to the coaches about that very fact, around the influence and the impact they can have on their young players and in their lives and the communities’ social outcomes as well. There's a lot of, we understand that, you know, in communities is a, you know, there's broken families, there's other things that can go with that person's young life. It's not just rugby league, it's school, it's what they do in their own time, it's family backgrounds and things like that. So, if they can have a positive influence on those young people, because that's what we talk about: we don't talk about talent, we don't talk about skill, we don't talk about how good the player is, it's about what how good a person he is. And when we talk about recruitment, we don't, we understand that they're skillful and they can run fast and jump high and they can tackle well and, you know, all those skill sets you need. But we need to know the person. And if you get the person right and you get the characteristics of that person right, well, then you're going to get a very good rugby league player and you're going to get a very good rugby league player that's going to play for their country.

Cam Tradell [00:08:27] And that's, that's an incredible program. I mean, I think that's great looking holistically at people.  Hearing your stories, you came through the system fast forwarding to today. What are the major shifts that you've seen in athletes from back then to athletes now?

Mal Meninga [00:08:40] All the time. I mean, more knowledgeable, obviously better prepared. You know, it's still the same sort of characteristics when I just talked about before and the character of the person as opposed to the football player. They're a much better football player today. A better, well-rounded, very, you know, like I said, well prepared. They're faster, fitter, you know, they jump higher, all those sort of things, maybe because of the circumstances they're involved in, you know, the situations that they're involved in. But the characteristics of the player hasn't changed at all. You know, we want a player that, you know, has got strong character. He's got a sense of resilience, a sense of community about him, loyalty, team, you know, all those all those characteristics that you want in an individual that you know won't let the team down. And when they put that jersey on, they won't let their club down, they won't let their community down, they won't let their state down. They won't let their country down. And that's how I look at things when I go into the representative programs. And Queensland's got, you know, vast history around he mightn't be the best player, he mightn't even be the best player at the club. And sometimes he may struggle to be the best player. He mightn't even play first grade in the club. But we know that the person he is, we know that what's, what the jersey means to him. And we prefer to pick and have those players play than someone that's going to be high maintenance and someone's going to take a lot of work to get ready because, you know, when you come into a rep program, you haven't got long to prepare him. So the person's really important.

Cam Tradell [00:10:22] Yeah, that's not having long to prepare, knowing that you're also getting players from different systems, different regions with different playing styles or different philosophies. How do you go about pulling that team together? I look at the the work with the Queensland team over the years and also with the Australian team, how do you bring those philosophies together quickly so that you can perform at the levels that that you do in State of Origin or international?

Mal Meninga [00:10:48] We have a sort of what I define as a close-the-door policy. So once they walk through the door into the camp, we close the door behind him. Then we then we talk about we know we know they they're all talented. They said they all belong there. It's very, very important that they understand that. They understand the reasons why, the purpose, and we talk about history a lot. We talk about, you know, so when we talk about the Queensland program, we talk about what it means to be a Queensland player and what we'll bring in ex-players and they'll talk about their experiences. But the things that we understand from a Queensland point of view is around trust, around the effort. It's around the attitudes, around mateship. And with the Kangaroo programs, around respect, respect for your jerseys, a respect for yourself, the opposition and what and where you are in your life. That greater sense of gratitude. We talk about inspire because we want young kids to aspire to be a Kangaroo. We talk about selflessness, and that's our team-first attitude. Making sure that they turn up for the team, they do all the right things around their routines, their habits, the way they prepare for the game. And then we talk about excellence, which is around wanting to prove all the time. We provide what I call resilient environment for them to thrive. You know, we're always looking at innovation. We don't want to be boring. We want to be fun. We want it to be enjoyable. But they've got certain obligations, accountabilities with putting those jerseys on. So that's really important. And we play the Queensland way, or we play the Kangaroos way, we don't play the club way. So they've got to accept that as well. They've got to accept that collectively, you know, and it is a collaborative environment. It's not autocratic. It's not. Yeah, it's very diplomatic. The way we go about our business and it's in my role is to make sure that I lead, that resilient environment. You know, I lead it through great communication channels. You know, we talk about, talk through accountability, through recognizing everybody, making sure that their contribution is rewarded. And we always look at how we going to keep on improving the person foremost and send them back a better person and send them back in really good shape. And also, you know, hopefully they pick one thing up they can take back to their clubs, their club, clubland. They can be a better player as well. I think that's really important. So then that in that environment, I think if they want to buy in and take ownership over, it will give us the best chance to be successful. And it's funny through the Queensland program that we never talked about winning because that's not, that is the expectation, but we want every player in that squad to play the best of their ability. We'll provide everything they want to make sure that they're the best prepared. In the Kangaroo system, we talk about winning because everyone expects us to win. So why not get the monkey off your back and talk about winning, how we're going to do that. It basically comes back down a process again anyway. So it's just different ways of looking and thinking about things. But it's the same old process, the same routines, the same characteristics you want in your players and the buy-in the jersey and its history.

Cam Tradell [00:14:20] Yeah, that's incredible the way that you put them together. Thanks very much for joining us today. Now, really appreciate your time.

Mal Meninga [00:14:27] My pleasure, Cameron. Thank you.

Cam Tradell [00:14:30] Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Coaching and Officiating - Rochelle Eime

Introduction [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project lead for coaching and officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. We're lucky enough to have Professor Rochelle Eime on the phone today, Professor Rochelle Eime is the director of Sport and Recreation spatial, which focuses on investigating sport and recreation participation facilities and health for evidence-based decision making. She has strong industry networks within the sport and health sector, including state and national government agencies, as well as sport and recreation organisations. Rochelle has written over 300 peer review publications, book chapters and industry reports and research, and has won a number of state and national research accolades. On top of that, Rochelle has been involved with club based sport throughout her entire life as a player, coach, volunteer and now parent of players and is a board member of Vic Sport. Welcome, Rochelle, thanks very, very much for joining us.

Rochelle Eime [00:01:21] Thanks very much it's great to be here.

Cam Tradell [00:01:21] Rochelle, you've done a lot of research in your role and you've got some fantastic insight to our current volunteers of coaches and officials. And I was wondering, do you have any thoughts on, you know, throughout the last 10 years, the last decade or so, how has coaching and officiating changed in the landscape of sport?

Rochelle Eime [00:01:42] Yeah, I think one of the biggest things with coaching is the qualification of the coaches and the quality of the coaching. So we don't always see that the grassroots that the coaches necessarily have coaching qualifications or updated skill sets that might still be in the mindset of when they played footy or netball or tennis and deliver the sport the way it was delivered for them. And we need to make sure that it's quality coaching that looks at improving their skills. It's about inclusion of all participants, but also it's about improving the skills for everyone, not just those to the best on the ground. And it's about also to the the players having fun and enjoyment. It's not all about winning medals and trophies. And we need to try and change that mindset a bit to.

Cam Tradell [00:02:29] That's great. You talk about accreditation. You sort of are you leaning more towards competence of the people because so many bespoke or different sorts of environments that coaches and officials delve in these days. And it's no longer just a one size cookie cutter fits all approach.

Rochelle Eime [00:02:48] Absolutely. It's not about the certificate in the frame or it's in the drawer. It's about being competent to be able to improve the physical literacy of the children. So that's not just their skill set. It's about making sure the children or adults or adolescents have the competence to be out to play and be active throughout life. It's not just about the skills for that particular sport. It's more broader than the physical literacy.

Cam Tradell [00:03:11] With regards to physical literacy, one or two of those domains of the physical literacy may actually be more important to some groups than others. And I guess that becomes a real driver. And being able to understand that and having an understanding as a coach, what's required in front of you becomes crucial.

Rochelle Eime [00:03:29] Absolutely, because the motivations of why people play are really quite different. The motivation has changed throughout the lifespan, but they also change according to the drivers of the players themselves. You've got those that are driven to exceed in those sports and that those are others that just want to play with their mates or have fun. You know, the main motivations for the adults to play sport is fun and enjoyment and social reasons. And then the physical health and fitness and then performance and competition for adolescents. Again, it's fun and enjoyment, physical health and fitness, but playing with their friends. So it's all about being with others and enjoying that connection with others, it's not about winning and it really makes no one goes out there to lose, everyone enjoys winning, but it's not the main motivator, because if it was, more than 50 percent of people are really disappointed every time they go out to play because only half the people win. So it can't be the main motivator and it's not. But we see a lot of coaches, a lot of club officials and presidents always focus on the men's A grade side, winning or winning the premiership or best on grounds. So how many flags and trophies they have in the club. But that's not a main motivator for why people drive to play sport. And it's not a main motivator why people continue to play sport. And we see a massive drop out across the board in in a club-based sport.

Cam Tradell [00:04:47] Yeah, that's interesting. Fifty percent success I would have been happy with when I was playing. To be honest with you Rochelle,I tend to be on the low side of that. But maybe that says a little bit more about me. With that in mind, with regards to how we grow a vibrant support base, do you feel like Australia's still a volunteering nation? What have you seen with the trends and the research and the data

Rochelle Eime [00:05:10] Club based sport in Australia is a volunteer sector and in an industry unlike some other sort of countries overseas and to the nature of club based sport in Australia is it's generally an individual sport within an individual club. Now you might have footy and netball, but they are still to seperate sports. You don't have the the multi sports sectors that you might see over in Europe where kids can sort of easily transition around into different sports within that one sort of system and sector. The volunteers in sport are generally players, past players or parents of players. And so the trouble is you have quite a big churn rate with those volunteers and especially in the junior clubs. As soon as those juniors aren't playing anymore, those adults aren't going to continue necessarily to volunteer that club. They're going to follow where their children go to school or drop out of volunteering as their children move on. And I'm concerned that due to COVID that there's that loss of transition. So often you have the people that are volunteering the club, their children might be at the older age, so they've been around the club for quite a few years, sort of know what's going on. And they often have that transitional year of sort of being mentored into future roles such as president or secretary or coach, et cetera. And last year, especially in Victoria, when that was lost, I'm concerned that there's that loss of transition of skill set, because often there's not a lot of support in these volunteer roles. And I think that that's going to be a big concern for clubs, especially, too, with an extra layer of bureaucracy and guidelines due to covid. Some and a lot of sports are concerned, not necessarily just retention of players, but retention of volunteers, because without the volunteers, there is no game day.

Cam Tradell [00:07:01] That's really interesting and doesn't really lend itself to to what you were just talking about with regards to parents who are in coaching or officiating for their kids, actually just following their pathway and making sure knowing that their main motivator is fun, it sort of seems to take them out of their environment if they're going up the linear scale of accreditation.

Rochelle Eime [00:07:23] And what we say with the with the linear scale is the issue that the better coaches sort of tend to coach the better kids in that model. I know with my boys footy club that they're involved with that's just starting up again this season. They're struggling to find coaches for the ressies for the for the reserves teams. Now they're the ones that probably need the best coaches to actually improve the skills of those players. So we sort of have this mindset that the better the players, the better the coaches or the coaches want to coach, the better players. But we need the better coaches down at the grassroots, at the entry level, the ones that can really help those those children develop those skills and that competency and confidence. I know actually coaching younger children is actually a lot more difficult to do. And you need really good coaches at that level. And that and that age.

Cam Tradell [00:08:17] A hundred percent I couldn't agree more. The support of that area there is is really lacking. And the ability, the role that people can play, like the parents who are good enough to stick their hand in the air and come and coach at that level the impact that they can make with a little bit of help and mentoring from people who are, as you say, identified as good coaches, can make a massive difference with regards to intrinsically motivating people to remain in sport.

Rochelle Eime [00:08:43] And I don't think that's where clubs necessarily connect the skill sets of their club community with the actual roles. For example, you know, I was a level two tennis coach coached for many years when my children were starting playing football in sort of under 10s, there are about eight, you know, I can kick footy and handball well enough for under 10s footy. I put my hand up several times to help out with training when they asked for people to help out at training. By the third time I'd done that, I wasn't asked to step out on the ground, it was only the dads that were asked to step on the ground. So there was four blokes standing there, there was two lines and one footy and about 40 footies sitting on the ground and the kids barely touched the ball. It was really poorly run. So I think it's about seeing through those biases, and it's not just gender, it could be age, it could be people from outside of sport that could actually be really good in certain roles within another sport. I think we need to match the skill set of the people rather than just this mindset that the best player of the sport is the best one to run the sport.

Cam Tradell [00:09:45] Again, I agree. I think that's really, really important. What would be some of the ways that you feel like we could re-engage or get individuals coming back to sport?

Rochelle Eime [00:09:55] I think it's that I think it's about trying to articulate what the value proposition rather than just sort of seeing as an extra chore or an extra burden that people have to do. You know, there's some great things that people can learn and develop through, through volunteer roles and leadership roles within clubs. And I think we need to highlight what those, those aspects are. And especially for youth. I think we need to get more the youth involved instead of the ' pale, male, and stale' running every decision and and everything in sport. I mean, half of all sports participants are aged between five and 15. So we need more them in decision making. And why can't we have more formal leadership and mentoring of those youth into taking on some of these roles, they see the value in what they're gaining in their skill sets is going to help them out in their career as well.

Cam Tradell [00:10:42] That's fantastic. I think there's some parallels that can really be drawn. What would you say needs to happen next? How do we sort of get to that point that people want to get back to their club? What do you think is going to help us kick start that next?

Rochelle Eime [00:10:54] I think it's about trying to highlight the good of sport, so highlighting the good things we always see in the media, all the negative things with sport. And it's often at the elite end. Why can't we highlight the good things I was presenting to sports this week and state Government and Vic Health, and we're seeing some really good five year trends of female participation. Now, we don't see change overnight, but change can occur and it does occur, but it takes five years. So I think if we can highlight what is good about sport, it's about the physical, the mental, the social health and wellbeing. It's about connecting individuals, families and communities. It's about learning in leadership roles, whether it's coach or other volunteer roles. And I don't think we we highlight the good things about sport. I think it's often about winning or, or centralising good players. We should be centralising the volunteers, the people who've made the sport happen. I think we pick on people, you know, the the bad behaviour we often see towards towards umpires and the yelling, you know, why can't we all just be nice.

Cam Tradell [00:12:03] Exactly. Create these positive experiences. That would be a utopia. That that'd be fantastic

Rochelle Eime [00:12:08] Yeah, if we put enjoyment central to everything. And if we make it about being fun and people having fun and connecting with others in a fun environment, I think we can do so much and that that fun environment doesn't might look different for those with lower skills and those for high skills, and those are really like a real formal competitive model than those that don't. But it's still about enjoyment because that's what people are there for.

Cam Tradell [00:12:32] It's the major motivator for everyone. And there's some flawed thinking around the fact that enjoyment isn't the main motivator for people in high performance. It needs to be the main motivator for people in high performance.

Rochelle Eime [00:12:43] If they don't enjoy it, it's it's it's it's really tough.

Cam Tradell [00:12:46] I'm going to throw a blue sky question to you. Have you got a view on what's the utopia? What's the sporting environment? What do you see as being something that we can all strive for, a really solid stretch target for us to what the environment of sport looks like in this country?

Rochelle Eime [00:13:02] I think it's about being an inclusive, inclusive environment. So that can make a lot of things, but it's about being inclusive of diversity, of skill and of ability and race and of age and but but also to inclusive decision making. So, you know, the board and the committee, we can't have sport run the way it's always been run. We need to have fresh eyes. You know the way,  We need to think about the way sport is delivered. And we have modified sport, which is "fun, friends and fitness and skill development", which is great. And then we have that transition to club competition. Now, that's great, too, but only for those that are really good at the sport and really love that competitive model. I think we need to open our eyes up into more the organised but not so focussed on competitiveness, so the social rec programs, because there's a lot of people that want to play sport but but aren't good enough to play in the competitions or don't want to be in that space.

Cam Tradell [00:14:06] Rochelle, thank you very, very much for joining us today. This has been fantastic, really insightful. And I wanted to thank you for your time.

Rochelle Eime [00:14:14] No worries, thanks very much.

Cam Tradell [00:14:18] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Coaching and officiating Mick Byrne

Sport AUS introduction [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I'm the project leader for coaching officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series. We will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. Today, we're fortunate enough to be joined by Mick Byrne via phone at the airport, Mick was part of a successful Australian Rules football team and won a premiership before successfully transitioning to coaching rugby and has worked across England, Scotland, Ireland and Japan before winning two World Cups with New Zealand. Mick then found himself in Australia, where he took up a role with Australian Rugby Union as the national skills coach. Welcome, and we look forward to chatting, mate.

Mick Byrne [00:01:01] Yeah, thanks, Cam.

Cam Tradell [00:01:02] Seeing things from such a broad spectrum. I'd be really interested in how you see the system working, knowing what community has to offer, what's the richness that can come from community that yes, you get your participation in community, but what does that actually offer to high performance with regards to a value?

Mick Byrne [00:01:22] I think the biggest one for me is the love of the game. I think, you know, the true community, it creates that, you know, as I say, the love of the game and people involved in sport enjoying themselves and, you know, continuing on from when you're a kid, like when you're when you're a little kid, you play sport because you love it and you have fun. And I think community has a role to play in making sure that that stays stays true all the way through. You know, I think, you know, we'll probably talk about it a little bit in greater detail. I think community can also have a have a stronger role in the way they prepare players without without losing that enjoyment, but how they can prepare players for a career. But I think the key is that whenever I talk to any players and, you know, the more I coach, the more I realise that, you know, I'm speaking to, you know, players that have just recently retired after, you know, 25, 30 years in the game. As you know, the thing that they've talked about is, is the reason why they are probably giving the game away at age 38 is the fact that they've had a great innings and they can't do the job that they love. You know, they can't do the game anymore, that they love doing. And that's the thing they talk about. It's it's it's a game that they love doing.

Cam Tradell [00:02:44] Your coach and your officials obviously play such a major role in what that experience looks like with with that sort of in mind, where do you see the benefits for coaches and officials with regards to getting that that, you know, open conversation and dialogue with with athletes and participants?

Mick Byrne [00:03:02] Well, I think, you know, having gone back to community and working with community, one of the things that's never changed and I know it was I know it was something that motivated me, and maybe that's why I chose coaching, but it was something that motivated me as a as a player. I just wanted to be able to do what I was supposed to be able to do, you know? So if I was playing, you know, when I grew up, I was playing rugby league. So if I was if I could break tackles and score tries or make tackles or kick goals when all the shooting like that, that's what I wanted to be able to do. And so every day I turned up to training. I wanted to I just wanted to be able to do those things. And I got frustrated as a kid not being able to, you know, make line breaks or break tackles. And I'd just go away and I'd work on stuff and I'd look on telly and I'll see what, you know, when I was growing up, you know, the players down at Manly Rugby League, you know, I was trying to emulate what those guys were doing. And I think that when I go back now, sport has become a lot more professional than it was back in those days for everybody. I look back and I think, you know, if coaches can continue to provide that at a community level and just keep helping young players get better and to be able to do what they want to do and not get caught up in this watching teams, and this is how this team plays and look at this move that this team does, but just continually work on helping young players and, you know, get better and keep the love of the game and turn up the training and try and be better players than they were yesterday. You know, so the whole concept of being better today than I was yesterday and waking up tomorrow and try and be better than I was today, we can provide officials and coaches and and everything can provide that for young players coming through that I will keep the love of the game because, you know, the more that the more I talk to the young players that that's what they want to do and how do I do that. Or how do you do that or how does he do that? You know, and I think that's the motivation around that is enormous. you know, we talk about intrinsic motivation, but I think we can provide that opportunity for young players, by the way, we coach them.

Cam Tradell [00:05:15] Some great insights there it is. It's the it's the environment that is created and people mistake the word fun and challenges and they sort of get them mixed up, fun is challenging people at their own level.

Mick Byrne [00:05:27] Yeah. Look what I talked about this last year with the team I was coaching. They were talking about, you know, they'd had a bad run, they hadn't won for a couple of years and they were talking about they're not having any fun. You know, they're not having any fun in their environment and we talked about it. One day we went out to train and it was snowing and it was about minus two and we were doing some line-out sessions and we had a big Fijian guy, and he was really struggling in the cold weather and we have these lineout lifting aids, you know, the stretchy ones you put over your legs and he couldn't even put them on and the boys had to help him put them on because his fingers were frozen. And anyway, we got out, we went inside and afterwards and we had some breakfast. And the noise in the breakfast area was unbelievable how loud it was. And we had our team meeting and I said, honestly, boys, we've talked about fun. Did anybody have any fun today? And they're like, Oh, I looked at the Fijian fella, and I said, Did you have fun this morning? He goes NO! "I didn't have fun at all". I said, But how do you feel now? He says, "I feel unbelievable. I loved it" because it was the fact that you went through it together. It was the way we created the training and and the fact that they got through that together, that created an enormous amount of enjoyment from them. And we didn't go out there to try and have fun. But guess what they had in what was the worst environment was they they finished training and they're like, oh, how cool was that? It was awesome. And so, yeah, I think it's if you create the right environment and, you know, we've talked about this before about creating the right learning environment where players are finding things out for themselves and problem solving. It doesn't matter what what you're doing, they'll have fun. At the end of the day, they're going to have fun.

Cam Tradell [00:07:15] It's interesting, because you're talking about the the team meeting afterwards. And, you know, when you started to interrogate afterwards and you're getting that player feedback that really helped you so that you start to create that environment. How important is that feedback for a coach to learn and to understand themselves better?

Mick Byrne [00:07:31] I think if you're, if you... I think for me, Cam when I first started, it's important that you realise you've got two ears and one mouth, and when I was young, when I was a young coach, I forgot about that proportion, you know, so I tended to use my mouth like I had to two mouths and one ear you know, like I was I just didn't I thought that was my role as a coach. And, you know, really, you know, if you use that, you know, the two ears and one mouth concept, then you got twice as much listening, as much talking, and you're probably going to be a reasonable coach. And, you know, you do have those moments through your career where if you're listening, you actually hear some some things that you can learn from

Cam Tradell [00:08:16] looking at those those moments that that the "aha", the penny drop moment for an athlete, with you with regards to this could be in high performance, or community. Have you got any sort of insight  to methods that you use to sort of bring the best out of players and how does that sort of  work for you?

Mick Byrne [00:08:35]  Yeah, I think for me, you know, you'd spend you could spend a lot of time, you know, imparting your knowledge and it not be received. And and I think one of the things I've learnt is to create Problem-Solving opportunities of training and asking questions about, you know, where the where the knowledge is that from your playing group. And I went out did an under 10s coaching. So is this works for the community as well, you know, and you go out and you do you know, I worked an Under 10s team up on the Sunshine Coast and we were doing some tackle tech and we were working on getting there, getting their wrap and getting their feet in. And we were doing it on the tackle bag. And and the thing is, I just asked the question, you know, you're sort of working away and you say, you know, tell me, how did that feel? Did you get a good wrap on there? Where were your feet when you made contact and, you know, were you feeling strong or were you in the right position? And they ask. And then the thing is, when you ask the question is you wait for  the answer and sometimes you don't get the answer. And when you're when you first start off as a coach and you start asking these questions sometimes five seconds can feel like five minutes and you've just got to be patient and let them sort it out. You know, because I hear a lot of coaches these days because they've been told, you know, ask questions, ask questions, they ask the question. And if I don't get an answer within two minutes, two seconds, they're like, well, that's what we need. What we need to do here is we need to get our feet in close. And everyone, justs nods their heads, but they don't understand what they're actually nodding their head about. So I think it's for me, it's about asking questions and giving them time to answer. And if they do give an answer that they're not quite sure of. And I know you've experienced this with me a couple of times. I might say ask a question. And they. And the guy look at me and like," well what were your thoughts", and he might say something with a with a sort of an inquisitive answer and I'll say, do you think is that what you think or are you guessing? "Oh I don't know..." Well, let's do it again. Let's just let's just do it again and see what you feel and tell me, "Oh OK...", and then you might ask him again and he goes, obviously, I'm not doing it because you keep asking me questions and I'm like "that's ok mate," and then all of a sudden they'll turn around, and they'll go " Oh, now I feel it" and then you're done, you know, like the fact is that, you know, some players that some, especially kids, they don't realise, they think they're doing something and until they actually realise they're actually not doing it or your instructions aren't going to help them. And I think that's the thing I found with when I went to the Under 10s, even at Under 10s. And then I come up afterwards and this kid gets knocked over in a tackle and his dad says to him, "Oh what happened there?" he goes. Well, I just didn't get my feet in close, and I knew it as soon as I got hit. I didn't have my feet in close and I just got knocked over. And he Dad looks at me and goes " What have you done to my son?"  And I said well, he's done it himself mate, I didnt do anything. He did it himself. You know, he found that out for himself. And I think that's the you know, that's the challenge as a coach is to create these learning environments where you're asking questions, but you're allowing the players to find the answers themselves. And, you know, some players are really good at it. Some players have great awareness. And, you know, like straight away, they realise what they're doing. Others take a little bit longer and we can grow this into a team environment as well. What do you think we should do here, this position on the field and have they have the have the team sorted out for themselves as well? And it's very easy. I like to make the sort of I won't use the words I usually use here Cam, but we we you know, you can have great Mondays to Fridays and average Saturdays as a coach, or you can have average Monday to Friday and great Saturdays. And what I mean there is you can you can be a coach who runs you really great training sessions, tell players what you want and players go out and do exactly what you want. And I get the Saturday in this struggling or you can create Monday to Fridays where there's a bit of chaos at training, there's Problem-Solving. No one's really going well. You finish training, and you thought" gee that wasn't a great session, we really struggled through that". But then you come out on Saturday and the players deliver everything you've asked of because they sort sorted it out for themselves during the week. And that that to me is one of the big things is, you know, if you can create an environment as a coach, you have to get comfortable with this. You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable in sometimes your training sessions just don't go exactly the way you'd like them to. As long as you've created problems and they're getting solved, you know, the answer will be good at the end of the day. So. I think that's the challenge that I sort of found myself needing to change.

Cam Tradell [00:13:39] That empowerment for the players. And the moment you almost had those dual celebrations between the coach and the athlete and them making the instinctive decisions on the field, I think becomes so important when they're competing rather than the conscious mind taking over rather than the instinct and having that chaos is so crucial at the training.

Mick Byrne [00:14:01] And you don't want to be out of control though, you don't want to be just throw the ball into the middle of the field and say, let's go for it. Or, you know, what you're doing is you're creating the environment that's in the context of the game so that they can sort things out. And and that's the challenge of a coach, you know, like "What do we want to achieve here?", we want to achieve that player's awareness of what we're doing, I want them to be thinking about the decisions they make in a game. And the big one is we want them to be able to enjoy the fact that they're contributing to it, you know, and and they're not going to do that if you're saying things and the players don't really understand what you're saying. If players are sitting there in a room and not so, I don't really know what he means by that. And they're too embarrassed to ask the question. And I'm only saying this because I went through it as a coach, you know, like you don't realise it, but you sit there and you're delivering stuff that's really good because, you know, you've done the the hours of the research. You've looked at the footage. You're really clear in your head what it looks like and you get up and deliver something. And if someone doesn't understand it, it's like, well "what's wrong with them?" You know it's pretty clear to me what what we need to do. And for any coaches that that are feeling that, you know, try and teach a, you know, a primary school kid, that three plus two equals five. And when they don't get it, try and explain to them. Then you'll know whether you're a good coach or not. Just, you know, because three plus two equals five. Yeah, well, we all know that. But at the end of the day, when you're learning it for the first time, sometimes it's not as simple as we think. And this is the part of being a coach.

Cam Tradell [00:15:35] Fantastic inside there, Mick, thanks so much. The having clear purpose and context as sessions becomes so crucial to creating these positive learning environments. Mick Byrne, I want to say thanks very, very much and I look forward to catch up again soon.

Cam Tradell [00:15:52] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Coaching and officiating Claire Polosak

Intro Voice over [00:00:03] This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system.  Each podcast we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics.

Cam Tradell [00:00:34] I am fortunate enough today to have Claire Polosak join us on the podcast, Claire's the first female ICC umpire to officiate in a men's cricket Test match in the world. So we're very, very fortunate to have her and to speak to us. So welcome, Claire. Thanks very much for joining us.

Claire Polosak [00:00:50] No, thank you very much. I'm looking forward to the experience of having a chat with you.

Cam Tradell [00:00:54] Thanks very much, Claire, I'd love to get some ideas or some sort of background on some of the ways that you make decisions on the field and being an official or being an umpire. Did you play cricket growing up or were you exposed through the umpiring pathway?

Claire Polosak [00:01:10] Yeah, I never played cricket growing up. I grew up in a regional town and at the time there wasn't that I remember any girls’ cricket and I didn't want to play with the boys. I guess I was too scared to and I know lots of girls did play with the boys, but I was a bit scared to do that and then I followed cricket from a distance. I had all the cricket players on my walls growing up and then every year mum and dad would be our family holiday would be to come to the Sydney Test match. And then when I was about 15, a friend, actually her dad, suggested that I complete the umpiring course because I like cricket. And so it did take me, I'm not sure how many times, but it was at least three times to pass the exam. I think being 15, 16 and never having played cricket definitely impacted the knowledge and the awareness around the laws of cricket. But every time I completed the assessment, I got a little bit better. And so it was just something I was really determined to do. And what I was I was forever jumping up and down when I finally passed the assessment task.

Cam Tradell [00:02:06] In really high-pressure situations. It's got some real learnings that we can take from what you do to what happens at the community level, knowing that there's different levels of pressure and so on at the community. But I'd love to sort of get an idea of some of the processes that you've got with regards to how you make your decisions. And if you can sort of broaden out on that when you do make a bad decision or you're aware of making a bad decision, how do you go about managing that on the field, knowing that you're out there for a long time?

Claire Polosak [00:02:34] Yeah, great question there. So I think at umpiring at any level, if you are striving to be 100 percent in every game that you do or even if every over that you do, it's potentially setting you up to not be perfect. So you really it's all about striving for excellence and what are the processes that you can put in place to ensure that you're doing the best that you can in order to make the best decisions as possible. When I am out in the middle, I have found that when I've made mistakes, it's usually because I've rushed my decision making processes. So it's really about slowing it down. You've got if you're umpiring, particularly in cricket, between, you know, the delivery, the fielders appealing and then you having to make your decision, you've actually got more time than what you think you do. So just taking it, taking a second to have a breath replay, I replay the ball in my mind to make sure that what I saw the first time matches up with where I where I'm thinking and then make your decision based on the information in front of you. Umpires in cricket are making decisions every delivery, even if there's no appeal. And so it's just about making sure you can tick off those boxes as you get towards the final result. So I think for an LBW decision, for example, if the ball is going on to hit the stumps, that's actually the last question I ask myself. You start off with, is the ball a fair delivery where did the ball pitch, what was point of impact? What was the line of the interception? And then was the ball going on to hit the stumps? So it's really about slowing your processes down to make sure that you can take in all the information that's available to you and to use that to your best of ability. But something that with all sports, I imagine that new umpires or new officials are going to make mistakes, and it's about learning from those mistakes to work out why they occurred and then to improve on them next time. So that with it comes into routines. So you mentioned about being on the field for a long period of time, if I start a day of cricket an 96 over day and I think I've got seven, six and a half, seven hours of cricket in front of me, you usually exhausted before you start. So I'll actually break the I'll break the over down or day down. I'll break the day down into even just two over blocks, so when I'm at square leg I'll say to myself, "let's have two good overs Claire, let's have two good overs". And then every time I'm at square leg, I repeat that to myself. When I'm at the bowlers end, I have a couple physical triggers and also some mental triggers that allow me to switch up when the ball is about to become in play and then to switch down when the ball is dead. We don't really talk about it a switching on and off because there's always something for us to be looking at. But there are certain points during the game where we don't need to concentrate as hard as when the ball is in play.

Cam Tradell [00:05:29] That's really interesting. where you're talking about always something to be looking at and I'm guessing that there's times when the things off the delivery, so outside of the delivery with potentially, you know, the chatter around the field or a little bit of banter, someone isn't happy about a decision, whether it's one that you've made or one that one of their friends have made or, you know, team mates where there's a dropped catch or there's where they think they've been hard done by. And you've got those other by playing things going on. How do you manage that with regards to trying to keep your focus on what's important on the field when you've got all these other things to sort of manage as well?

Claire Polosak [00:06:01] Yeah, I think it's important to acknowledge when potentially there's a decision that hasn't gone the right way has happened. If you acknowledge it, it means that you contain it, which means that you can then then move on to it, move on from it. Sorry. And I have in the past, you don't really want to be doing this a lot of the time. But I had a game where I made a decision. It was incorrect and the captain was very agitated about it. And he came up to me and he wanted to talk about it. And I just said to him, I know I've made an error, but we can talk about it after the game. And when we did talk about it after the game, he actually said that acknowledging it enabled him to relax. He knew that he wasn't going to have to have had a discussion with me about it being wrong because I knew it was wrong. And that just sort of cut it, nipped that behaviour in the bud. And he was able to go on concentrating with his own captaining of his team. But it's not something you want to do all the time. And I think it's really important to push if you have made a real or perceived error, you should try, and it's easier said than done, just like playing,  officiating practice is what gets us there. But if you're able to push it to the side so that you can focus on the next delivery, because if you're focusing on the next delivery or the next passage of play, then you'll still your mind will be in the past. And in order to avoid making errors, we need to make sure our mind is where our body is. And that's and so it's so much easier said than done. But if you can push it aside for me, I actually write it down in my notepad, so it's like a shopping list that I don't have to remember to remember it later on and then I can go back and go through, hopefully not a too long a list, but go through the instances where I have potentially made an error and try and work out what happened that didn't enable me to make a really good decision at that point in time.

Cam Tradell [00:07:52] That's fantastic insight to the self awareness you've got. Do you ever write down things that are positive, that have happened? So something that you picked up and that's almost a skill that you want to put in the bank to perpetuate that behaviour? Is it always a negative that happens or is it sometimes reinforcing a positive?

Claire Polosak [00:08:08] Yeah, it's funny you say, I think humans recognise or notice negative things seven times more than positive things. So it is only the incidences, I guess, that don't make my own expectations that I write down to address and to work out why they occur. But you're right. I mean, I think acknowledging it and celebrating the wins are really important and teamwork, it's sort of teamwork is really important. You know, we're out there on two people versus 11 people in the field. And, you know, when your partner makes a really good decision, give them a little thumbs up. Don't make it too obvious. But, you know, if your partner has made a really good decision, if my partner has made a really good decision when the ball is dead and I’ve got eye contact with them because we have eye contact, every delivery, just a little thumbs up by the side, just reinforces what you're saying there. The positive decisions that they've made say this to acknowledge that that I have had a really good decision there so that they can be  confident and comfortable in what they're doing as well.

Cam Tradell [00:09:13] It's interesting because you're talking about the ways that you're supporting each other as another team on the field, which I think is really, really important. And seeing what happens at the elite level where the scrutiny under a decision is so intense with regards to it must come up on the big screen or it used to come up on the big screen and you can be scrutinised and at least you can get some closure with regards to good, bad decision. But at the community level, I'm guessing it becomes more difficult because it becomes about an opinion and everyone on the field has got an opinion from their angle. You know, from cricket terms, people calling LBWs from fine leg is a bit of a stretch. I just I love the way that good umpires can really manage that. Keeping in mind that the experience on the field becomes so important, do you try and influence the feeling on the field, or manage it being an upbeat environment?

Claire Polosak [00:10:02] Yeah, I think having clear communication and good people management skills will get you a long way on the sporting field. In cricket, it's very much that umpires are there to facilitate the game. It's not about us being the centre of attention and we are only brought into the game when the laws require us to be. So when I'm umpiring, I actually imagined myself as a jack in the box, so I only come out onto the only come out or I only speak when I'm spoken to by a player unless obviously, I'm required to do so, I think remembering that the game is there for the players at a community level, the players, and this is just sort of said to me just the other day at players, you know, they pay heavy subscriptions in some competitions to play cricket and it's their outlet for the week. And so they want to enjoy the game as much as you do as an official. So it's really about just ensuring that you can facilitate the game within the laws, within the spirit safely and just allow the games to happen in front of you.

Cam Tradell [00:11:04] Fantastic insight. That's amazing. I think that that's the piece that becomes so important is that enjoyment is really the factor.

Claire Polosak [00:11:13] If you if you if you don't enjoy umpiring and I imagine it's for any sport if you don't enjoy it, there are so many other things you could be doing with your time than officiating the sports, So I agree enjoyment 100 percent.

Cam Tradell [00:11:26] With that in mind, as you were coming through the system, you're talking about, you know, the difference between where you're at the moment in performance, working also in community and also working with the state side. Way back when you were coming through the system, was there ever a piece of information that you wish you were armed with to make your experience as a community coach coming through the system better?

Claire Polosak [00:11:52]  The one thing that I wish I did more was ask more questions of my other officials that I stood with, because when we're just learning out there so much, we don't know and you don't know, you don't know it. So I wish that when I was coming first coming through when I first started umpiring, that that I had the bit more courage, I guess, to ask questions, to ask why umpires do something in particular. And it just might have got me the information a little bit quicker than having to sort of find it out and bumble along by myself. So, I mean, the support networks were there. I just didn't use them probably as effectively early on as what I should have.

Cam Tradell [00:12:27] Yes. And when you were coming through asking people what they will almost help you with regards to that review process is important. When you were doing education and training, did you find that you were able to ask those questions through your courses, etc., or did you find that you did most of your learning when you're out out in the field? In the middle? .

Claire Polosak [00:12:50] Yeah, you can't replace watching balls in the middle to a large extent. And just getting when you when you first start out, just do as many games as you possibly can. I would even head to my local cricket team and standing in there nets during the training sessions just to again, just to listen to the sounds, to watch the ball or to watch what's happening, just to increase the number of balls that I was seeing to to increase the number of experiences that you can put in your backpack so that when you are in the middle of the field, you can pull them out of your backpack or pull them out of your toolkit for things that you've already seen. Because as we know, the more you do something, the easier it gets.

Cam Tradell [00:13:27] I can just imagine you look where you are now and you think about... What a journey.

Claire Polosak [00:13:33] And if you'd have told 16-year-old Claire the opportunities you would have had by the time she was 33, then there's just no way that she would have thought it was possible. So I think it's really exciting to see what comes next, not for me, but for the next generation of officials of any sport coming through with the increased opportunities that are coming around for everybody.

Cam Tradell [00:13:51] I'm so excited for what's happening next, for Claire Polosak, because understanding where you're at and seeing what you've done and the way that you handle yourself on the field, the way you handle players is second to none in this country. And it's something that I genuinely enjoy watching and it honestly adds to my enjoyment when I watch, and I'm certain that that's the case for a lot of other people. Thank you so much for joining us today, Claire. Really appreciate your time.

Claire Polosak [00:14:18] No ,you're very, very welcome.

Cam Tradell [00:14:22] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Coaching and officiating Louise Sauvage OAM

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell, and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. And we're fortunate enough to have Louise Sauvage join us today in the studio. Louise is recognised not just for the extraordinarily successful career as a wheelchair racer, but for her pioneering efforts in raising the profile and perception of Paralympic sport and athletes in Australia and all around the world. Welcome Louise, thanks for joining us.

Louise Sauvage [00:00:51] Thank you for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:00:54] Louise, you've got a vast experience and a long history in sport as an athlete, but also as a coach and developing athletes coming through the system. Given that you're working with professional athletes at the top end, but also developing athletes and people entering into sport, how do you go about setting acceptable challenges if you've got multiple athletes in the same group or environment?

Louise Sauvage [00:01:19] Yeah, it can be a bit tough unfortunately. In our sport, there's not a lot of coaches and not a lot of people involved in our sport. So it's a very small community. So we have to be a kind of a jack of all trades to a certain extent. Having my group on a Saturday morning, which is it doesn't hold the really elite guys, it probably has a gamut of, as you said, beginners right up to some athletes that, you know, are knocking on the door, so to speak. And you're training them all together. I think more than anything, we set different goals and different sessions for them, but then we try and work them all together. You have people chase each other, have different goals, set them time goals, set them off, handicap them and that kind of thing on the track and trying to make it fun as well as them getting a lot of a lot out of it and achieving their goals and acquiring the skills. So it can be interesting, but it does give you the full, I suppose, range of your abilities is stretched as a coach to know that you have to deal with every single level.

Cam Tradell [00:02:24] I'm guessing that your experience over time to put a little bit in your in your kit bag with regards to how you service that, knowing that you've got different talent coming through and different abilities coming through. How do you get that mix between people who are really aspirational and wanting to go as far as they can go in the sport? How do you set those goals for those people with regards to achievable milestones, considering that you've got others in there that that are never, ever going to really make that the top level, but are really keen to sort of be there, be part of the community and compete?

Louise Sauvage [00:02:59] Yeah for the guys that obviously show a lot of talent and want to get to the next level, and they're motivated to do that obviously, we have different competitions in different times. Obviously, my sport is worked on on times for different events. So we do set goals within the year and also different competitions that they can go to. You know, that's been a bit hard in the last year or so. But, you know, a lot of my guys compete regularly during the season, so they have goals to compete for, especially when they come to Canberra and go on a nice track. So they really love coming here and they get PB's and it just spurs on when they get home and get back on a slow track. So it's really good. But within the group that I have on a on a Saturday, there are the guys that, you know, possibly won't make that level, but they're definitely there to enjoy the sport and they all mix really well. It's a great community, actually. And, you know, maybe they do or they don't know how far they want to go in the sport. But it doesn't matter even if they decide, you know, a couple of years down the track that ‘I actually do want to have a crack’ well, then, you know, they still there and I'm still there for them to try and help them achieve whatever goals they want to. And not everyone will get to a Paralympic level, but they could get to national level. They could increase their 10K, you know, decrease the sorry, the 10k time. That could be their goal. So it's all relevant for the different athletes. And we try and see that they're individuals that way. You know, just getting around the track for some of the athletes and staying in their lanes is a goal. And some of my guys still struggle to do that. And so it's just it's all relevant to the to the person and the age they're at. And when they started racing.

Cam Tradell [00:04:36] It's incredible the way that you work with that vast range of people. And over time we're talking about, you know, what's in your kit bag. I'd be really interested to know the different ways that you communicate or that you personally as a coach that you've learnt over time to get different messages across.

Louise Sauvage [00:04:53] Obviously, with the elite guys, we do a lot of video analysis, photos, we do a lot of different things to show them what they're doing and how they're doing it and analyse their races and then that kind of thing to try and get them to say also technique physically actually being there with them and showing them. And you talk about the communication styles. It's funny, when I work with the national team and those guys, I seem to have a different level of communication just because they know that I've been there and done that. And they kind of know that. They know that how I know how they're feeling at a crucial moment and what they potentially might need. And they don't have to explain themselves. And it's kind of nice, I think sometimes that you don't have to do that and you get to learn the your athletes as well. And you've got that trust between you as well. So it all comes down to how you communicate, I think, and how you get along with that person. But when with my younger crew, it's just treating them like regular people and asking them questions and a lot of the time. And I can only speak from my experience a lot of time when athletes with disabilities don't always, or people with disabilities sometimes don't get talked to sometimes. Especially the younger kids, their parents are always there or someone's there and they get spoken to in that respect. When I talk to them and I'm asking them about their disability, what they can and can't do, what they can feel to a certain extent and what they can't, they kind of look at me as if to say, ‘oh, no one really asks me’. And it's kind of cool. And I'm not kind of, I don't know. I don't care what your mum's got to say, I want to know what you say and I want to know what you [feel]. And so it's kind of different to be able to talk to them that in that respect, I don't mind if they're six years old. You know, I always say I'm going to change my language, but you know, they're 13 and they're giving me a hard time because I don't know who the Avengers are. So there's lots of things like that. There's different communication levels in that respect. But it's good. It's a good little community. And, you know, it doesn't matter if they know who I am or my history. It's just the way I can relate to all of them. And we have something in common with most of us who will have a disability.

Cam Tradell [00:07:03] That's incredible in the fact that you just sort of brought together a philosophy of coaching, I think that's pretty much across anyone that you've got in front of you is you said that you find out what they can do. And I guess any coach that's standing in front of any group realistically is looking at what can they do, what can they do and what do they need to do and how you co-create a session that's suitable for the people in front of you. I think that's an art in itself. But it sounds like it's really exacerbated here, or highlighted here, because you've got people with the different abilities that it sort of makes you really coach and really innovate. Would you say that's a fair sort of [summation]

Louise Sauvage [00:07:41] Yeah, I think it makes you a better coach. Nothing's stock standard, when you're coaching someone with a disability, you're always finding ways to think outside the square, how to adapt, how to make it work to what it should look like or how it could look like. And even if a child or an adult or teenager says to me, what, I don't think I can do that, well, let's have a crack, you know, let's see what you can do. And, you know, I'll be here, and if it hurts or, you know, you don't think you can do it, then we'll stop. But let's try this. And, you know, and lead by example as well. You know, I often use the other the other kids in the group or adults to use as an example. This is how I get in and out of my chair. This is how I push. These are the gloves I use that you and I have got those or you know, this is where you trying to contact on the rim. You know, I will use my 13-year-old to help my six-year-old. You know, I go around the track and fix their steering, so it's all about, them all teaching the new people and, passing it on like I suppose I do to a certain extent. So it's good. It's really good. You know, how you can communicate between them as well and everyone's equal. It doesn't matter. I mean, I don't care. You come down on a Saturday morning, you're in a race chair, you can have a crack. I don't mind what your disability is and what level you're at.

Cam Tradell [00:08:58] It sounds like your communities of practise, which is an extremely well researched and understood area. So where we're trying to get to with nationalising, coaching and officiating, especially with regards to people having self-awareness, having someone there as a mentor to sort of help them along for people to understand their gaps or where they need help. It sounds like that's really alive and well in your space. I mean, hearing that a 13-year-old's helping out a six year old in something, one that sounds fantastic, just basically building those aspirational mentors and knowing that your aspirations are just there. It's actually the 13-year-old. It's not necessarily someone that you're seeing on TV. I think that's really interesting.

Louise Sauvage [00:09:39] Yeah, I think it's great. I mean, they say the guys, the national guys on TV, I seen them in the Paralympics and things like that. And that is the ultimate, obviously. You know, a lot of my guys come to these able-bodied meets and they see people that they've seen on TV do it and they get excited as well, which is kind of cool. They probably relate to them, but not in the same way. But, you know, we're such a small community. I think it's important that we all share our knowledge and pass it forward and are involved. And I think it's really important for them to feel like they belong as well. It's probably one of the most important things. I mean, most kids in Australia go to their Saturday morning sport or, you know, weekend sport at some stage. And, you know, they can join their local soccer club. They can go and participate. For a lot of kids with disabilities, it's not that simple. It's not that easy. They need specialised equipment or they don't fit in. They can't join in with their brothers and sisters. So for them to come along to their Saturday morning sport is you know, it's important for them to be feel part of that group and know that this is where they belong. They feel comfortable and they can all have a laugh and have new friends and, you know, be comfortable and still have a good time and enjoy their sport and be active and fit and healthy. So it's the same purpose. Yeah, it's a little bit harder sometimes.

Cam Tradell [00:10:52] I think belonging is a great word in that we all want to feel like we belong no matter what the environment is. You said before that coaching is very, very similar. Do people ever come to you for advice or someone who doesn’t have a disability?

Louise Sauvage [00:11:08] To coach someone without a disability? Oh, I don't know how to run. Oh, yeah, but no, I think on a broader spectrum, like I said, coaching is coaching. So where I work, you know, obviously I'm surrounded by another a lot of coaches from different sports and we all learn from each other. And regardless of our sports, regardless of whether it's an able-bodied sport or a sport for athletes with disabilities, it doesn't matter. Coaching is coaching. So I learn lots of things from those coaches and that's how I learn. It doesn't matter whether you're an able-bodied or not, I think that's really relevant. And I've probably learnt a lot from those people and the environment where I where I work more than anything. So, yeah, I think we learn together, you know, from each other. It's great.

Cam Tradell [00:11:55] Do you see that there's that opportunity for people and would there be that opportunity for people to actually come in and coach people with disabilities to improve themselves?

Louise Sauvage [00:12:05] Yeah, absolutely. I think it make you a better coach, like more rounded having to think outside the square, like I said, adaptability. You just learning perhaps you're involved in athletics, but like, it's throwing something, a curveball, which could be, you know, an athlete with a prosthetic leg or an arm. And then you go to coaching a sprinter, but with a difference. And so it does make it I think it's way more interesting and it opens your mind up. And there's not a lot of history that can go back onto a lot of our sports. So you can't go to a book necessarily and look up things. So it makes you think and, you know, some great resources around this country to be able to rely on to help you progress in that way as well. I encourage anyone to come along and experience and get involved and, you know, see what we do and different things. It makes you a better coach. Definitely.

Cam Tradell [00:12:59] I think that's part of the some of the issues that might be here is the barriers to people actually not understanding that and just being fearful of making a mistake. Or what if they slip up? What if they say the wrong thing?

Louise Sauvage [00:13:10] I think people think that a lot. Me personally, I can't speak for all people with disabilities, but I'm definitely of the thing of the you know, I just ask me, you know, no no question is a stupid question. And if it is don't worry I'll probably tell you. But I'm in a nice way. But I think you just ask questions and become involved. You know, you see all the characters that we have, you know, and and how they interact and you know who will welcome you with open arms and yeah. Just come in, ask questions and get involved. Yeah, it's it's a it's a great way to get started and then experience something different.

Cam Tradell [00:13:48] Absolutely. And I think that there's a great opportunity with regards to as you say, it's it can be part of a development phase for people to make them think differently, to help them in whatever path they end up going in their coaching or even in the officiating space where having empathy, understanding setting the environment and then, you know, creating an optimal experience for the people in front of them has to be the ultimate goal for any coach, regardless of who they are coaching or officiating with. Louise, this has been fantastic. A lot to think about, a lot to unpack. And I really appreciate your time with us today.

Louise Sauvage [00:14:24] No worries thank you for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:14:29] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Coaching and officiating Rob Dalton

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. In this episode, we'll be speaking to Rob Dalton, acting CEO of Sport Australia. He is with us to introduce the series and more importantly, the need for a modernised system that supports a connected sports sector. Good afternoon, Rob. How are you going?

Rob Dalton [00:00:46] Thanks, Cam. It's great to be here and thanks for having me. I'm really, really excited about the work that you and your team have done to build this modernised and connected coaching program across the sports sector. And, you know, I'm really passionate about coaching. I spent my life coaching and I think this is just something that we can all leave as a legacy and, you know, really make sport prosper in our country, which is what we really want to do.

Cam Tradell [00:01:16] Now, you've had multiple jobs and experiences through sport. You've got a lot of lenses and a lot of experience. Looking back, why do you see the need for some change?

Rob Dalton [00:01:26] Thanks, Cam. I'll take that. That you're calling me old because I've been around for a while. Look, I think, you know, sport has such a great thing in this country. And I think, you know, if I look at my experiences in sport where we really have just relied on the talent of the individual coach and there's been no there's been no consistency in the content. I know that a lot of sports have tried to do that, but there really is a great need for modernisation and actually get some consistency, which also enables a bespoke program for different sports and different cultures in different states because they are all different. And I think, you know, the real if we can get an outcome where sports are really developing their their coaches, then we're going to get a better experience. We get a better experience. We can impact the churn rate. You know, at the moment we've got 30 percent and 30 percent of our people are playing a game are leaving the game every year. And so that is largely because of the experience and by getting everybody trained in a methodology that can be applied, you know, from a bespoke perspective within each sport, we're going to get a better outcome. We're going to keep more people playing, which is what we're about.

Cam Tradell [00:02:43] How do you think we can best at Sport Australia, provide that consistency that you're talking about to get better outcomes for the broader Australian population?

Rob Dalton [00:02:52] Yeah, I think by working individually with sports, we'll find out the nuances between different sports. I think we've got to have a really effective medium to be able to do that. I think you're well on the way of being able to to make that happen. So having an effective medium where people are going to use it, I think, you know, using the manual approach where you run a roadshow or a workshop and those sorts of things, you can only get so many people to those events. So what we are trying to do is we're trying to make people, you know, those coaches who pass on their their talent and their ideas and their, their techniques to to young participants and hopefully its a chain letter, you know, hopefully they then go and pass it on as well. And we've got a cycle of coaches who want

to become coaches and then, you know, the participants that they coach and goes on and on and on. And I think that that's the lifeblood of sport. That's what we want our community clubs to be doing. And we really rich in it. And there are a lot of barriers at the moment, a lot of challenges for our for our coaches and our participants. They're being dragged away. They don't necessarily see the the value of coaching and coaching and volunteering have such an impact on their lives that they don't know. You know, it's so I think we've got a real opportunity to get some consistency, to give people the idea of what a great coaching session is. And so when our participants, who've got so many different options to go to, you know, whether it be through sport, arts, culture, whatever it is, you know, the emergence of E-sports, you know, we're giving them a great experience, which is teaching them lessons in life, and they want to keep coming back.

Cam Tradell [00:04:33] And again, you talk about that scale, which is so important, and the new learning centre at Sport Australia becoming available and underpinning everything that we're sort of trying to achieve. The getting that consistency of messaging, it's a really important factor is that we've got multiple ways that we can really scale this up.

Rob Dalton [00:04:53] Look, that's really exciting coming from a state sporting background and having coached it at all levels, you know, including including rep level. I think the the really exciting thing is that we can access more people. We've got the technology. I know you know, you and I are currently working on trying to introduce even more technology through virtual reality coaching and being able to use the superstars of our games, you know, of our sports and bringing them to communities and regions. So, you know, we've got to use technology. We've got to get that reach because there are so many other things for people to be able to participate in and we've got to make sport that one that actually has so many positives. So, yeah, the technology and I'm really excited about the learning system, learning management system. I think it is going to enable us to do not only from a coaching in sport, but also from an administration of sport, you know, the officiating of sport. You know, we can get consistency in the way that everything is delivered. And I know I'm and the board and management are really excited about that.

Cam Tradell [00:06:01] What do you see as being the major benefits to the NSOs with regards to what we're doing here at Sport Australia?

Rob Dalton [00:06:08] Yeah, I think the really critical part is that we're engaging with NSOs who then need to engage with our state sporting organisations and enhance our clubs. So this brings a sport closer together. This is critical. This is if we don't get this right, we are going to be overtaken by other things that are that are better experiential for our for our participants. And we're not going to exist. So this does require us all to work together and working with our NSOs to understand, how we can do a better and the nuances of each of the sports. It's going to help us, really deliver quality content. So I'm really looking forward to that. You know, that, you know, we talked a lot about our model within sport being a federated model and the separation. But, you know, we if the the one thing that sport has is that everybody's on the same page and that they want sport to prosper. So this brings us together. We might have some disagreements about what the content is, but then that becomes the bespoke aspect to it. Right. So we can tailor things to get different sports, you know, for participants and for officials

Cam Tradell [00:07:17] Getting down to that coalface delivery and having the hunter is good enough to give up their time to create these really positive experiences. How do you see them benefiting from a more connected sector and more aligned with with us the NSOs, etc?

Rob Dalton [00:07:32] I think there's always an element of doubt when you're coaching. You know, I'm sure you found it as well. You know, you wonder what else someone else is doing. You're always looking over your shoulder and I used to to coach the kids, and I used to think, well, what else can I come up with? You know, the preparation of a game plan or preparation of a of a skills session or whatever it might be. And that puts a lot of onus on on the individual. At least now we've got I can review the the system and and I can look at what other people are doing. And I know that I'm getting best practice. I know that I'm hearing about the best way to run a session. And so that gives me a lot more confidence. And I'm on the right path. And you know, that that validation that that I'm teaching these kids, you know, their future in sport. And let's face it, you know, there's going to be at least one in every team that's going to go on to perhaps play rep. That's a big obligation, you know, to be teaching the wrong thing. So, you know, just having that consistency and bringing the best of the best to the local sport. And I can just focus on, you know, community at a certain age group, and I can just become a real specialist out of that. And that's really exciting.

Cam Tradell [00:08:39] The podcast series coming out. We're really excited about who's on what excites you about what's coming. And I know that you've had a sneaky peek at the at who's on.

Rob Dalton [00:08:47] I have had a sneak peek and I'm sworn to secrecy that I can't actually tell who's on the list. But but wow, you've done a terrific job to get to get these people. And what and what I'm so impressed with is that, you know, the diversity of the sports we've got, you know, they're all amazing individuals and they're all going to bring unique aspects to their success, you know, in both their learning and in their execution. And I think that's a really important thing, being able to get everyone learns differently. You know, I'm a very visual person, so, you know, the theory for me, I'm going to fall asleep and I think everyone's going to bring the different ways that they learn better than than others. So, you know, for me, when I was playing sport, I would go and watch and I would learn from the watching. And, in fact, you know, very quickly I could execute and different people learn in different ways. So, you know, I see them and I see the topics that they've got. And it's terrific because we're going to get a real breadth of aspects of learning and execution. And I'm, you know, well done to you for doing that.

Cam Tradell [00:09:57] Well, thanks very much for joining us this afternoon, Rob. It's been fantastic to have you in here. And as I say, not just from the perspective of your current role, but your roles that you've played in sport and your experiences in sport.

Rob Dalton [00:10:09] Thanks, Cam. And can I congratulate you and your team once again. But can I also say how excited I am about the outcomes of this, and can I also say to everybody, this is a call to arms to to get back to your clubs, you know, to be participants, get back officials, volunteers. We need you. Some great stuff is coming. That's going to help. You even be better. You're going to have a lot of fun and it's really going to help you in your lives. You know, there's some such great benefits out of being volunteers and being in sport. You know, I really encourage everybody to to find out what those benefits are because, you know, certainly in my life, I wouldn't be sitting here now if it wasn't for sport. Thank you.

Cam Tradell [00:10:53] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

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