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Opinion

Female coaches and governing bodies need to meet halfway

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Roar Guru
2nd October, 2020
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South Melbourne technical director and respected coach Sinisa Cohadzic has called on female coaches and the game’s governing bodies to meet halfway in order to properly develop the future generation of women’s coaches.

“I agree we need to help them and pay them more but at the same time we need them to commit and sacrifice so they can get to a level that is going to make them knowledgeable enough to coach at a high level, and this takes years of experience,” says Cohadzic, who coached Alamein in the Victorian NPLW for four years from 2015 to 2019.

Only 20 per cent of the 38,715 registered coaches in Australia are women. The need to get women’s coaching numbers up is a key element of FFA’s plans for women’s football.

The low pay of female coaches especially in the W-League has been a major talking point in recent times, especially in light of the Women’s World Cup coming to Australia in 2023.

However, a pragmatic Cohadzic, who is also a pro-license coach with over two decades of experience, believes we can only get the numbers up if women are prepared to make the commitment it takes to become a coach.

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“I am a pro-license coach with 20 years experience and live and study the game for 16 hours a day, but it does not open the door the way they think it can be done,” explains Cohadzic.

“We have to be careful that if we want quality we have to go through the right process and there are a dozen or so of good female coaches that invest in themselves and are committed but let’s not go and think we can have it in equal numbers.

“As I said many women are mothers and in a society with a lot of families if you are a mother it takes a big sacrifice, it’s a reality. Their family comes first.

“I have always been a supporter of women players and coaches, and I’ve seen with my own eyes how much players commit but I still haven’t seen many numbers of females that are ready to sacrifice and put in time and commit to the game to get the experience and learn the game in many different ways, which is what it takes to be a coach.

“I support them and I want them eventually to be able to have opportunities in the women’s game and in the men’s game, but only if they are willing to sacrifice, develop, be patient and study the game, not just think it will be given to them.

“Some women think because they are female that they are entitled to get straight to the top without sacrifice.”

Football generic

(Tony Feder/Getty Images)

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The appointment of Tony Gustavsson was met with great excitement by many in the football community, however, there was disappointment in some circles that a woman wasn’t chosen.

Cohadzic was quick to dismiss the critics, pointing out that Gustavsson has gone through a tough induction, learned his craft and now deserves the opportunity.

“What gives anyone the right to say we want a female? We want the best person for the job,” he said.

“Now Gustavsson can mentor our top female coaches to become the successor after him.

“That’s when we can say, ‘Okay, they have gone through the same process as him’. Because he was for five or six years an assistant to the USA head coach, Jill Ellis. He has gone through the hard yards to get here and it wasn’t given to him.”

Italian Carolina Morace and English woman Emma Hayes were among the female candidates for the job, but no Australian woman was genuinely considered, although Rae Dower was appointed as women’s technical adviser by FFA.

The W-League’s only female coach last season, Heather Garriock, was replaced by Vicki Linton at Canberra for the upcoming season and has now moved on to a completely new role as CEO of Australian Taekwondo.

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There are a number of female assistant coaches in the W-League who are promising and Cohadzic was pleased to see this.

However, he pointed out that it will take a number of years for them to develop the sufficient experience, explaining how even in the men’s game some coaches are pushed through before they are ready.

“There are dozen or so promising woman coaches but we can’t just put them in as senior coaches because they are female. It goes the same for men. Some of them get appointed because they played the game.

“I’ve seen some past men’s national team players coach that do not even know how to structure a session.

“Every coach needs to go through a process of getting that experience and ability to coach and manage a team. You can’t just have nepotism and a closed approach in the selection process. Do the hard yards and invest, develop, learn and be mentored to get to there.”

Cohadzic did encourage the game’s governing bodies to ensure that sufficient opportunities were presented to women, insisting that both sides need to come to the party in order for women to develop into quality coaches.

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“Having said all this, at the same time I do feel for some female coaches that do not get an opportunity to coach for a longer time,” he said.

“They resign, move on or get sacked for many different reasons instead of keeping them in the system in any capacity.

“Like the example of Heather Garriock. She must have sacrificed a lot to be in the game, being a mother, but now she has gone to another sport because she has no opportunity in a system and sport that hasn’t got many opportunities at a high level.

“That is an example of the other side that needs to be fixed.”