Photo: Michelle Castle with her niece, Chloe King, who is a goalkeeper with Springfield Gardens Primary School and an NSJSA Under-12 representative player [Photo courtesy of Michelle Castle]
Tasmania’s Michelle Castle won the Women’s Coach-of-the-Year Award at the Football Federation Australia awards ceremony last Thursday. This is a momentous achievement for Tasmanian football, and a first for the State.
I interviewed Michelle on her return to Hobart.
Walter Pless: Michelle, please tell readers about your playing career.
Michelle Castle: I came to the World Game relatively late and didn’t start playing competitive football until my late 20s. I have just finished my 11th season. I have always played with Nelson Eastern Suburbs FC as goalkeeper and am looking forward to the club’s return to Premier League in 2011. I started playing futsal last year and am developing a keen enthusiasm for the indoor version of the game.
WP: What coaching qualifications and experience do you have?
MC: I have been involved in coaching youth sport since I was in my teens. I have coached softball, volleyball and underwater hockey, but only started coaching football in 2006.
I first coached football in 2006, coaching a MacKillop U13 boys’ team. Since then, I have mostly coached Eastern Region under 12 girls’ teams and girls’ teams at Nelson, though last season I also coached the girls’ U13 Southern team. I currently run weekly training for Nelson goalkeepers, which is a lot of fun.
This year, I was also involved with The Big Issues Community Street Soccer Program, which was fantastic. I had the opportunity to work with the disadvantaged in our community, to use football to affect lives. One of the girls I worked with this year was named female player of the tournament at the National Street Soccer Championships, which was a great thrill. I also ran training sessions for some fellas in the Risdon Prison, which was a lot of fun.
I currently hold a youth licence and senior goalkeeping licence. I hope that FFT will be able to hold a C licence course in Tasmania next year so I can attend that course.
WP: What does this FFA award mean to you?
MC: I am excited and a little embarrassed about receiving the award. I think of the award as recognition of my commitment to becoming a better coach rather than being the best non-professional female coach in Australia. There is so much to learn about football. Over the past12 months I have travelled to Queensland to gain my Senior Goalkeeping Licence, attended an Instruction and Assessment course and attended the FFA Coaches’ conference in Brisbane. I was also lucky enough to be able see Australia play Holland, Indonesia and Paraguay. I love discussing football with all and sundry and attending the Australian Football Awards was a great opportunity to talk to other nominees about football in their home towns.
WP: What is your philosophy of coaching?
MC: I have a development approach to coaching. Creating a positive learning environment and providing a wide variety of experiences to young players is central to my coaching. Sometimes, winning is an important part of development, but it is secondary, really. Coaches often have the opportunity to affect a young player’s life by building self-esteem and teaching life lessons and being a part of this is what I find most rewarding about coaching.
WP: What ambitions do you have in coaching?
MC: I would love to earn a living from coaching, but think that this would be difficult in Tasmania. In 2011, I will continue to be the head coach of the girls’ program at Nelson Eastern Suburbs FC.
WP: Where is women’s football at in Tasmania?
MC: The women’s game in southern Tasmania is almost unrecognisable from the game that I first started playing in 2000. The standard is significantly higher and there are now 4 leagues in the south rather than just the two that existed when I first started playing. Over the last couple of years, FFT have also elevated the women’s competition to a status similar to the men’s game and included State-wide competitions in the playing calendar, which has been great.
WP: What other improvements are needed?
MC: Youth development is always where we need to build. I coached the Southern U13 girls’ team this year. This team was chock full of talented players, but I would have liked to see more girls at the selection trials. I think that there is also a lack of good quality female goalkeepers. It is a problem that girls in junior mixed teams are rarely asked to have a go at playing in goals. A Tasmanian W-League team would be great for the game in this state.
WP: Will you stay with Nelson?
MC: I love being at Nelson. We have a very young women’s team that is full of potential and it has been great to see the girls improve so much over a short period of time. Once we find our feet in Premier League next year, we may even surprise a few teams. The atmosphere around the club generally is one of enthusiasm and hopefulness. At Nelson, whilst we are very serious about our football, we try not to take ourselves too seriously and that suits me down to the ground.