The AFL has launched the third annual ‘Women’s Coaching Month’, supported by BHP, to take place throughout July.
Women’s Coaching Month presents an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of current women and girls in coaching roles across the country and promote the pathway programs and initiatives to get more women coaching from grassroots through to the elite level.
The surge in popularity in women and girls football since the inception of the AFLW competition in 2017 has seen numbers of women coaching rise sharply too. In 2023 there are more than 2,000 women and girls registered as community football coaches nationally.
There is strong representation across state league and talent pathway programs, with a highlight being the rise in women coaches in the Coates Talent League, up from zero in 2022 to nine this year across the boys and girls programs. Even with this growth, recruiting more women into coaching roles at all levels is a priority for the game.
Brisbane Lions Academy Head Coach of Female Programs and Assistant Coach of the 2023 Queensland Under 18 Girls Emma Zielke, said her passion for the game was so strong that after retiring from professional football she had to stay involved as a coach in the game.
Emma, originally from Bundaberg, is a pioneer of women’s football, as she was named the Brisbane Lions Captain in the inaugural year of the AFLW competition in 2017. Four years later, in 2021, she retired as a Premiership Captain when the Lions defeated Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval to win their maiden premiership.
Her career in the Queensland league is just as illustrious. She won four senior women’s premierships playing for Coorparoo in 2013,2014,2015 and 2019. In 2021 her name was etched into AFL Queensland history, with the naming of the QAFLW Best and Fairest Award as the Emma Zielke Medal in her honour.
Emma began her coaching journey at Coorparoo as the Under 15 Youth Girls coach in 2013 and was an assistant for the Queensland Under 18 Girls in 2014 and 2015. It was not until she retired in 2021 when she could pursue this career full time.
“I am really passionate about coaching because it helps me give back to the game that has given me so much,” she said.
“It has helped me become the person I am today and I want to be able to share my knowledge of the game and help other players become the best footballers and the best people they can be.”
Emma believes with so many female fans of the game, it is important to see women in coaching roles at clubs.
“I think it’s important to have women coaching, it is the old saying, you cannot be what you cannot see,” she said.
“It’s important to have women coaching in both male and female environments to show that anything is possible.
“I would encourage all women who love the game as much as I do to show up at your local club to help out. I can guarantee you will quickly find out why it’s the best game in the world.”
The BHP and AFL partnership focuses on developing girls and women who want to play, coach, umpire and administer our game, and encourages men and the broader community to be advocates and allies in this space. The partnership is a holistic one that focuses on promoting leadership, inclusion, equality and wellbeing, recognising that progression for women is what’s best for the community.
BHP has strong ties to coaching through the BHP Women’s Coaching Academy, which has seen 28 coaches graduate since 2018 and a further eight are currently involved as part of the 2023 program. BHP is also the proud presenting partner of the National She Can Coach program alongside the Women’s Coaching Month campaign.
“We have seen significant momentum generated in the women and girls coaching space in recent years with numbers growing and greater emphasis placed on attraction and retention, not just for women coaching women and girls but women coaching men and boys as well.
“There is a lot of work to be done to continue to build women and girls coaching in Australian football but the significant progress made and sharp focus we have in this space has given us a really strong foundation.
“The support provided by BHP has been instrumental in developing programs designed to support women and girls in coaching and we are seeing the benefits of the programs, including the BHP Women’s Coaching Academy, Women’s Coach Acceleration Program and National She Can Coach program.
“I look forward to seeing the women who are involved in coaching at all levels of the game share the spotlight over the course of July as we tell great stories of those who make such an important contribution through coaching, grow awareness of programs and hope to attract more women to coaching.”
Nominate a coach for the 2023 BHP Community Coach of the Year
The BHP Community Coach of the Year Award recognises the outstanding performance and contribution community coaches make to progressing women’s football and shaping their local community. Nominate here.