In the AFL more so than ever performance is judged in the context of a club’s age profile. Old teams are judged harshly and young teams are given more leeway.
Over the last few years, there has been a considerable change in the coaching landscape in the AFL. A large influx of young and untried coaches have entered the battlefield of senior coaching, and rewritten the history books in the process.
The likes of Kevin Sheedy, Mick Malthouse, Denis Pagan, Leigh Matthew, Neale Daniher, Rodney Eade, Mark Williams and Terry Wallace have departed or are about to depart the coaching box. What do they all have in common besides their vast coaching experience? They are all over 50.
Now, 50 is by no means a redundant age, but today there are several favourite sons of various clubs who have barely finished playing and have taken up senior coaching. At no point in history has there been so many young coaches – and amazingly the average age of a coach in 2011 is just 41.5!
Nathan Buckley’s entry into senior coaching next season will mean the average will fall almost below 40, which is unheard of in any era. It is unclear as to what exactly is the reason for such a sudden shift, but it may have been coming for some time.
Paul Ross credits his early and overall success during his coaching spell at Sydney, to being able to relate and better understand his players due to his relative freshness, given the fact he was just out of his playing days. He saw his youth as being crucial in being able to comprehend the emotions and demands of his players.
It is pretty clear that man management skills and the merging importance of player-coach relations in modern footy, much like in the regular workforce, is becoming more and more vital in determining the success of a football club.
Roos also instigated the revolutionary coaching from the boundary line tactic, which has been mimicked by plenty since – which further establishes the importance of the player-coach relationship.
Being able to interact and communicate with players immediately face-to-face is a bi-product of the increasing intimacy on the training track that players and coaches alike share, in trying to develop a greater comprehension and understanding for one another, such is the demands of modern football.
However, as for the age drop, is it a loss of faith in the tried wisdom of the old hand, or the investment in fresh, lateral thinkers in an attempt to get ahead of the game through innovation and inspiration over stubbornness and pragmatism?
Whatever it is it, it has been intriguing watching the gradual falling in the average age of today’s coaches.
What do you think? Is it a matter of overlooking the old dog for good, or simply a moment in time where the young and inexperienced happen to be the best in the business?