This NAIDOC Week, AFL Northern Territory are celebrating the contributions Indigenous Australians have made to the football community and over the course of July, celebrating Women’s Coaching Month.
Proud Indigenous women, experienced Northern Territory footy players and best friends, Rhiannon Busch and Lateesha Jeffrey have a shared interest in mentoring and growing local footballers which ignited their coaching journey.
Growing up, Busch travelled from Katherine to Darwin to play footy from the age of 13. In addition to playing for Palmerston Magpies and Southern Districts Football Clubs in the TIO NTFL (alongside Jeffrey), she captained the first NT Buffaloes Women’s side earlier this year, has represented NT Thunder, NT Kites, ACT/NSW, Norwood Football Club in SANFLW and played in Australian Army and Australian Defence Force teams.
Busch is currently focussing on her Cazalys NT Thunder Girls Academy Assistant Coach role this TIO NTFL offseason but has expressed some long-term goals too.
“I would love to work in the AFL or AFLW in some capacity down the track, either in the talent space or mentoring within Indigenous programs… although I do not want to give up playing footy too early.”
Jeffrey, also a current Assistant Coach within the Cazalys NT Thunder Girls Academy, has played over 160 TIO NTFL games inclusive of two Premierships (both flags won playing with Busch), 25 representative games and has captained a number of these teams both locally and for the NT Thunder Women’s team in 2019.
In addition to Assistant Coaching the Cazalys NT Thunder Girls Academy, she has a history of coaching a number of Youth Girl’s teams at Southern Districts and says her father, former AFL St Kilda player and NT Team of the Century member Russell Jeffrey, was her greatest influence in beginning her coaching career.
“I watched him coach for a number of years when I was growing up, listening to his passion and the way he would draw out some of the best qualities in people, both on and off the field. It was always so inspiring” Jeffrey said.
Both women have completed their Foundation Level 1 coaching course and looking to complete their Talent Development Level 2 and Women’s Coaching Pathway program, She Can Coach.
This program was established to increase the number of women in coaching, improve the capacity of these coaches, increase the visibility of coaching role models for women, and develop a network of women in coaching across all levels of the game.
Jeffrey said She Can Coach exposes you to the various skills you need to be successful.
“I’ve been enjoying it because it’s not just about footy, it’s about the skills you need to be a good leader and how you can harness the skills you already have and implement them in a more beneficial way for others” she explained.
Busch and Jeffrey are two of 36 women participating in the program.
Even though participation in female football has grown significantly since the birth of AFLW, there is still work to be done in the coaching community.
To encourage women interested in starting their own coaching journey, AFLW and State League coaches plus other industry experts are taking part in a webinar series this month.
In addition to these webinars, information on coaching courses and programs as well as a range of new community resources for clubs and coaches to support women in coaching and coaches of women and girls are available on the Coach AFL website.
Busch said the coaching skills she has learnt are invaluable. She also says the thing she enjoys most about her coaching experience so far is being around people in an environment with one common goal.
“The networking, meeting new people and transferring what playing knowledge I have and being able to channel that into mentoring people wanting develop their football is what I really like about the program,”
“More than anything, I love being able to impart knowledge to younger players who want to learn and grow as footballers.”
Jeffrey explained how coaching is more than teaching people how to kick and handball.
“It is about instilling skills in to people that not only make them a successfully sportsperson, but those that are transferrable in life as well: confidence, discipline, resilience, teamwork, social skills, communication,”
“If you’re interested in coaching, just give it a go. Like I’ve said before, it’s not just about the game, it’s about giving our people the transferrable skills they need to be more successful in life.”
To learn more about how you can get involved, be part of the change and join more women and girls in coaching, head to coach.afl/women-girls-coaching