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.
Under 12’s Coach Kirstyn Abbott, has just started her coaching journey in Bundaberg and is loving every second of it.
Kirstyn began coaching in 2022 and is in her fifth season for the senior women’s team at the ATW Eagles AFL Club. All four of her children also play.
For Kirstyn her drive for coaching goes far beyond wanting to win. She sees the games as an opportunity for kids to learn new skills, gain confidence, while having fun and making friends.
“My passion sits with the kid whose escape is footy training and Saturday games, where they can forget what’s going on at home or school, and spend an hour with their mates, learning and playing a game where they feel equal and included,” she said.
“It is important to remember, that although football is a team game, every child brings their own unique strengths to it. I work hard to ensure that every single child gets equal opportunity, and I take pride in developing and highlighting all skill ability.
“At the end of the day, I want to see more kids playing footy and continue to see growth in junior football. This is why it’s integral to facilitate an environment that kids want to keep coming back to.”
After having such a positive experience coaching over the past two years, Kirstyn encourages any woman considering the opportunity, to take it up.
“Like many other women my age, I grew up with a love for AFL, but was disheartened not to have the opportunity to play a lot of it when I was young. So I find it really exciting to see that young girls are being given equal opportunity to play football now,” she said.
“I highly recommend other women get involved with coaching. Not only is it fun, but it’s incredibly rewarding. Especially if like me, you have a genuine love for the game, and love to see young people thrive in a fantastic sporting environment.”
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.
Another key program to promote women’s coaching is the Women’s Coach Acceleration Program, with nine full-time coaching positions within AFLW programs co-funded by the AFL and clubs.
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. Nominations can be made here.
AFL General Manager Women’s Football, Nicole Livingstone, said that growing and supporting women in coaching is an imperative to ensure the future success of women and girls football.
“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.”