Friday, November 12, 2010

Adam Whitemore still has challenges at Northern Rangers

Photo: Adam Whitemore, the successful Northern Rangers senior coach [PlessPix]

Adam Whitemore took over as senior coach of Northern Rangers for the 2010 season after the club had won the Northern Premier League title the season before under Roslan Saad.

That is always a difficult thing to do. Just ask former Tasmanian State Director of Coaching, Steve Darby, who is now assistant coach of the Thailand national team, after coaching successfully in Australia, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.

Steve, who had many wise sayings and a wicked sense of humour to boot, always used to say that taking over a title-winning team is dangerous because anything other than winning the title again is seen as failure.

Well, Whitemore took over the champions and won the title again, so he must have ability.

I interviewed Adam this week and his answers were thought provoking and they should be of interest to all followers of the game in Tasmania.

Walter Pless: How old are you and what do you do for a living?

Adam Whitemore: I’m 41. I’m a nurse currently working in oncology/haematology (cancer) at the Launceston General Hospital.

WP: Tell me about your playing and coaching career to date.

AW: I’m a George Town boy, and made my senior debut for George Town United at 16. I joined Rangers in 2000, the year after they formed, and as George Town folded. Although I won quite a lot of awards and played state league, I don’t think I quite became the player my obsession with the game suggested I should, or won the titles I probably should have. In hindsight, better coaching certainly would have pushed me to the next level. This became a real motivation for me as a coach. I generally played at the back, although preferred centre midfield.

My first experience of coaching was as player-coach of George Town at 23. We finished 4th, but I was too inexperienced, and didn’t enjoy it. I really didn’t have much idea at the time (some would say nothing has changed!) and had few resources to draw upon. Last season was my first “proper” year of coaching.

WP: 2011 will be your second year in charge of Northern Rangers. Are you looking forward to it?

AW: I’m really looking forward to next season. I spent months researching coaching theories and methodologies – teaching myself to coach, prior to last season. The first few months were trial and error as I found what worked and what didn’t and I made too many mistakes for my liking. A year’s experience should see me a much better coach, and Rangers a much better team.

WP: What are your aims for the 2011 season?

AW: The players will set the goals at our first session, but I know, like me, they will want a hat-trick of titles, and another shot at the state title.

As a club, we are really focussed on youth, and player development more so than relative short-term success. The aim is to bring as many young players through to the reserves and seniors as possible, and to improve them as players. For me, this will be as big a measure of success as winning another title. Winning under 18s and reserves means nothing if players don’t go on to play seniors. We already have a young side, and last season 8 of our side had been at Rangers since under 18s.

WP: Do you have any new players coming in to the squad?

AW: At this stage of the year, there are so many rumours of player movements, but until the first training session we won’t know exactly who we have. If we end up with the same group of players, I will be more than happy. We are likely to lose Paul Bremner, who has been brilliant for us over the last two years, but whose medical career will probably affect his availability.

As a club, we have a policy of not approaching players from other clubs in the league, both to protect the integrity of the competition, and to protect our own juniors. Traditionally, we have attracted players relocating to Launceston, not only because of our recent success, but because it is an incredibly well-run, welcoming club and I’d expect that this will continue.

WP: How is the health of the Northern Premier League?

AW: I think it is fair to say that the standard has fallen over the years. There are still some fantastic individuals, but the overall strength isn’t there. The likes of Todd Hingston, Des Schipper, Brayden Mann, Antonio Macri, Chris McKenna are among the best players I have seen or played against over the last 25 years, but there aren’t quite as many players of that same quality as there were. There are optimistic signs, though. Riverside have an excellent coach who has developed the outstanding Hughes boys and Mark Christie. Ulverstone have a squad of talented local players, and Launceston, while struggling results-wise, have a youth policy which will hopefully bring results soon. Devonport have always had great youth development and invest a lot of resources into this. It is the only way to improve things.

A lack of a second tier, and therefore promotion/relegation, affects the intensity and standard for teams at the bottom end, although the finals series is an excellent way of giving most teams something to play for.

As Nick Owen was saying, the bye hurts us. We had a 3-week break in the middle of the season.

WP: How do you see the state of football in Tasmania as a whole?

AW: I think we’re underachieving badly.

At George Town, I played seniors with Brad Green and Xavier Doherty. Brad has gone on to play 250 games in the AFL, and Xav played one-day cricket for Australia last week. I hear so many people saying that we can never improve the state of the game here, that there isn’t the talent. What Brad and Xav show is that, if there are pathways, we have the talent, and this applies to football. Talking to both of them since they began their professional careers, it was knowing there was a pathway to a higher level that motivated them to practice.

Contrast this with an exceptional talent like Todd Hingston, who could definitely play at a much higher level, but unlike cricket and AFL, there is no pathway for football in Tasmania. Where is the motivation to keep a 22-year-old who has won it all (four titles, one State, two George Dale Medals) to keep improving? Brayden Mann is another. Twenty-six goals last season. Where to next, and how to get there? I remember watching Chris McKenna playing for Tasmania versus Melbourne Knights youth many years ago. He was as good as anyone they had. Some of their players went on to play NSL/ A-League.

Tasmanian hockey, which in comparison to soccer has a much lower profile and participation, has a structure and a pathway. As a result, they produce international-quality players. Once players see there is a next level to aspire to, the standard lifts at all levels. Hockey also has quality facilities, which we lack.

We appear to have a really good NTC programme, but nowhere to go once you “graduate” from it.

I can’t see us with an A-League team at the moment, but we need to create links via the A-League youth league, W-League or VPL. We at least need to have a system which allows easy access to trials.

South Hobart have shown the benefits of a professional approach, and they have a number of players who can step up a level. Unfortunately, it is symptomatic of attitudes at this level that they often seemed to be heavily criticized as a club for trying to break the culture of mediocrity, and the players for being ambitious.

Over to you FFT.

WP: Who will be the contenders for the northern title in 2011?

AW: I expect ourselves, and Devonport will be two of the frontrunners again. I really rate Riverside Olympic and expect them to be a big threat. Ulverstone are getting closer to a serious challenge. The other coastal sides are always an unknown, but one of Somerset or Burnie could be up there, depending on recruitment.

WP: Are you happy with the facilities at your club?

AW: Yes and no. We were really spoilt at George Town, with a separate training pitch, clubrooms, grandstand and fantastic playing surface. Playing on a cricket pitch (NTCA) is far from ideal; rock hard early in the season, mud in the middle of the year. We can never use a full-size pitch to train on, and have to set the goals up and take them down every night. Training is cancelled whenever it rains heavily and alternative venues are a struggle. Training at the hockey arena on an all-weather surface really emphasised what the game needs to go forward. We share the NTCA with country AFL, who get priority (of course), which means we have to train Monday and Wednesday, so when the season starts one of the sessions is only ever really a recovery one.

On the other hand, we have a fabulous groundsman who ensured games weren’t cancelled, change-rooms are a great size, there are covered grandstands for the Ranger Army, and the lights are excellent.

We also have a superb committee who always ensure we have the best of everything in terms of strips, balls, training equipment.

WP: Having won the 2010 northern title, does that make coaching in 2011 harder?

AW: Not at all. We are ambitious and know there is plenty to improve upon from last season. As a coach, I can, and want to do a lot better than last season. The players are mentally very strong, and there is a winning culture here. We feel there is unfinished business. Hungry players are easy to coach.

WP: What is your coaching philosophy?

AW: Keep possession, move the ball quickly.

Be brave and trust your players. Give them the confidence to try to keep the ball, even in defence, and under pressure. Nothing wrong with a Cruyff turn in your own box. Occasionally, it may cost you a goal, but it’s worth it in the long run. You produce better technical players.

I’m a big believer in playing from the back, quick, short passing with a lot of off the ball movement. Brisbane Roar have shown how the game can be played.

Train with the ball, warm up with the ball. No running laps – ever. Try and make everything game specific.

WP: What do you look for in a player?

AW: Technically good players who are mobile, tactically disciplined but flexible. Open minded and willing to learn. Respect for opponents and the game.

WP: How do you see the future of Northern Rangers?

AW: It looks really positive. Rangers have only been around for 12 years. In that time, we have won the last two league titles and made finals of the SWC and the finals series. We have large junior numbers, an excellent website (some dodgy spelling aside!) with a very active forum and a membership of hundreds, allowing former players from all over the world to keep in contact. I’d like to think we have a growing reputation for professionalism (but a policy of not paying players), fair play, and a decent style of play. We also have a number of potentially outstanding youth players who have just hit, or are about to hit, the senior side, which is really exciting. These relative successes are down to an incredibly dedicated, hardworking committee, who are forward thinking and innovative, and a loyal playing group.

We are also aware that, just as the club came from nowhere, it can just as easily fall apart if you don’t get the foundations right.

With that in mind, we are currently in the middle of strategic planning for the next 5 years, and for the first time we will have a Director of Youth Football. He will oversee youth development, and the youth coaches, to ensure we continue to have a senior side composed predominantly of players who have come through the Ranger system, who value possession and play a passing game. Once this is up and running, we will then look to start a junior academy.

We look at Devonport as an excellent role model. For as long as I can remember, they have been the benchmark club in our league, on and off the field. They don’t win every year, but they keep producing players that keep them near the top, rather than relying on recruiting from other clubs.

WP: What is your own future in the game?

AW: From the time I could walk, the game is all I have ever been interested in - playing, watching, and now studying. Sad I know! I’m sure most coaches will agree that even at this level coaching takes over your life, researching, planning sessions, analyzing game footage. We have a 9-month-old baby, so free time has become an issue, and it remains to be seen how long I can put the time in I need to get, then maintain the standards I want. We hope to set a structure in place at Rangers where we identify and develop coaches within the club, both to decrease the head coach’s workload, and to have an easier succession process.


Anonymous said...

profound and prophetic, sounds to me like Rangers have their future in good hands.

p.s good luck Nicko with Ulverstone I will follow your results with interest.


Anonymous said...

After reading this, if I ever felt like relocating up to the North to play I certainly know where I would be playing!

Anonymous said...

Devonport built there success with more than half of Ulverstones team, and have been living off it ever since.
Adam sounds like a far better coach than he was a player

Anonymous said...

Good interview!

Gabriel Tams said...

Anon 4.51 - Adam Is a bloody good coach, but he was also a great player! I was playing 17's and Reserves when I was 15? and Adam was playing Seniors - He absolutely commanded the team, won everything in the air, and for an up and coming team, made sure not many goals were put past us! He was captain of our team of the Century...So give him some credit mate!

Anonymous said...

i knew this bloke never rated burnie.. from previous interviews he has conducted.. i have played with 3 of the for 4 coastal clubs.. apart from the awesome sides i played with at devonport in the mid to late nineties, burnie currently has some of the most talented players i have played with and with a bit of direction and discipline, this side will definately challenge for the npl title next season.. thanks for the motivation again adam..

Anonymous said...

I was giving him credit for being a good coach.He was never a very good player. FACT

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the praise... a very decent human and a really good interview.... Antonio Macri

Anonymous said...

Terrific article, Walter. Your energy for the game is unbelievable!

How refreshing to hear a club that does not actively recruit players but is content with blooding their own.

Many Southern clubs could benefit from this approach. What do the clubs win for finishing top of the league? - 2K max. It wouldn't pay for the end of year dinner! Winning isn't everything - especially when the players pay $300 per year to play the sport.

It is possibly the reason why clubs like Rangers, Devonport and Clarence seem to be winners off the field. I'm sure there are other clubs as well. I know that Nelson are on the right track.

Tasmanian soccer is in a difficult situation. The leagues are of a poor standard, no significant sponsorship, no supporters at the games and years of poor management by FFT.

Let's get behind clubs like Rangers - no ethnic rubbish. Just a bunch of lads playing and working to fulfill their potential.

Best of luck in 2011

Anonymous said...

"Devonport built there success with more than half of Ulverstones team, and have been living off it ever since."
Oh come on!!! A few Ulverstone players went to Devonport MANY years ago to play state league. I wouldn't say it was more than half of the team & can't see how they've been 'living off it ever since'! from reading about the local game regularly I'm not sure that Devonport's success has in any way come from 'living off Ulverstone's team'!

Great interview Walter & well done Adam!

Anonymous said...

anyone who says that clarence are a good club for developing is not football minded

Anonymous said...

Anon on the 12th at 10:02pm

I think you will find Adam actually placed Burnie as a possible contender, (depending on recruitment) this aside, you would be best suited to finding your motivation from within your playing group, rather than what others did or didn’t say about you. This might refocus you lot away from swearing at referees and kicking muddy water at them after they send you off for swearing and abusing them, worrying about what you will get fed after your away games and having your injured players use some constructive language in the grand stand, and get you focused on playing good attractive and friendly football like the Northern Rangers!!!!

I hope I further motivate your club to have positive influence on the league next year rather than being known as the West coast hackers!

walter, great work, by why the sudden interst in the north?

Anonymous said...

Well said Adam, if only there were more people with the passion and understanding you have for the game maybe we could all move forward and the standard would improve not only for the current players but more importantly for the youth of the game. Keep up the good work with what you are doing at Rangers and lets hope Walter that you can keep interviews such as these coming as it shows that there are also teams in the north that are helping to promote and improve the overall well-being of the game as much as clubs in the south. Keep up the good work Adam and I look forward to seeing some more of the technical and tactical game your boys have shown over the last few years. A joy to watch!

Anonymous said...

In reference to Anonymous November 13, 2010 11:43 PM

Tasmania is a small state and its time to move on from the arbitrary divide of North and South, especially if we are serious of lifting football to its full potential.

I just hope FFT think carefully with the rosters for season 2011.

Great work Walter, keep it up, I hope your website continues to review our state football and other areas of interest.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again, this is exactly what these blogs are not meant to be for. At first the blog was used as a good communication tool and relationships were built accross clubs now we have people using them to cause trouble.
What's the point?

Greg Ludford said...

A very impressive coach that gave his side a well structured game plan for the NvS final in the best match I saw all year. South’s composure probably got them the result in the end.
It may have been a different game if played north of the Oatlands boomgate in the natural habitat of the Ranger Army.
He must inspire his players if he can get Hingston that fit !
Still prefer to see the NvS finals played by the two league winners, home and away. The winner would then be a legitimate state champion.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10.02

I'm concerned about the comment asking why Walter should be interested in the north.

This is a football blog which:

1. Covers international issues/matches.

2. Covers Australian issues/matches.

3. Covers Tasmanian issues/matches.

Too suggest a dichotomy of football in the north and south of the state is parochially heliocentric, divisive and anachronistic. We all belong to the same Tasmanian football milieu.

As a southerner I've noticed The Examiner gets more football coverage than The Mercury in the south. I'm envious.

By the way, good article Walter.

Casual Observer

Anonymous said...

The southern rag has a long history of anal AFL & hockey interest & anti soccer content.
Typical old boy Hobart stuff. Absolutely not a bar on what the Examiner does for their local community.
You see it in editorial content and from threats to the governing body if anti southern rag comments appear on club web sites etc. They’re looking, don’t you worry about that !
Abuse of privilege for my money – makes you wonder what they do to the serious stuff.
Their attitude will ensure them the fate of the dinosaurs.
Worth a look:
Name withheld for fear of persecution.

Anonymous said...

BUFC you are exactly right, however once again it was started by one of your people not a Rangers person.

Adams comments did not once suggest Burnie would struggle in 2011, just that he believed Devonport and Rangers would be the front runners again, along with Riverside. Then someone from Burnie gets offended because he hasnt said "Burnie will win the league this year"

Again Burnie bring this all on themselves, Gee Adam Whitemore has written us off, we arent playing if David dicani's refereeing.

Roll with the punches and in the end it alls works itself out. If you mouth refs they will turn against you. It is human nature.

Anonymous said...

So if Sam Cocks isnt coaching, does this mean big bad Ray will be back scoulling the technical area?