Sam Virgo has been a trailblazer for women’s football in Queensland.
Part of the AFLW since its inaugural season, she played with the Brisbane Lions from 2017 – 2019, notching 15 games.
In 2020 she joined mentor David Lake at the Gold Coast SUNS, co-captaining the team and was often employed up forward to assist her inexperienced teammates.
After 14 games in the red and yellow, the All-Australian rebound defender, who also has the 2016 QAFLW Best and Fairest Medal from her time with the Yeronga South Brisbane Devils to her name, hung up the footy boots at the end of the 2021 season.
With her playing days over, the retired skipper has now turned her attention to coaching and has already made a splash.
Virgo made history earlier this year as the first woman to be the Senior Coach of a boys NAB AFL Under-17 Championships team, when she took on duties of the Queensland side.
“Coaching lights me up and fills up my cup, I enjoy helping people achieve their dreams and that motivates me to be the best coach I can be,” said Virgo.
“This has been my first-year coaching males and I’ve found it interesting to see how they apply the information that I’m sharing with them. Their ability to accept feedback, understand and then apply it straightaway has been eye opening as has the respect they have.”
As the AFL continues to celebrate Women’s Coaching Month throughout July, Virgo is apart of the chorus promoting coaching as a pathway for women and girls in the football community.
“It’s important to me to have more female coaches involved in our game. If you look at any successful industry where there is diversity, there’s growth and a real appetite for change,” she said.
“Everyone benefits from having that diversity whether it’s in the locker rooms or on the field and it’s something we have to continue to work towards.
“There is so much room now for women who want to be a part of a footy community, play with their friends and contribute to their wellness mentally and physically; coaching can also be an element of that.”
Virgo is passionate about mentoring and coach education and says many coaches have helped shape her career.
“My high school volleyball coach David Eldridge was probably the first coach that helped me understand how to get the best out of people that you’re looking after,” she said.
“Another one is Craig Starcevich who I worked alongside when I was the Assistant Coach of the U18 Queensland girl’s team. I really admire the way that he deals with his people and, again, helps get the best out of themselves.
“Most recently, David Lake has been a really great mentor for me just to bounce ideas off and help work through some practical elements and challenges that you face as a coach.
“It’s important to be yourself when coaching, it’s a critical piece of enjoying anything you do; you’re not going to be a very good coach if you’re not going to enjoy it and be able to feel like you can be authentically yourself.”
As well as her work with the Queensland U17 team, Virgo is making waves locally in Brisbane. Last weekend making her senior coaching debut for Coorparoo when the Kings thumped Aspley in the Hart Sport QFA Division 1.
Add to all of that, Virgo is a part of the AFL’s She Can Coach Program and also the BHP Women’s Coaching Academy.
Congratulations Sam on everything you’ve done, and continue to do, for the growth of football in Queensland.
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. There are currently 36 women participating in the program, with four current Umpire Coaches, and 32 participants who are involved in coaching at either a community, state-league, or talent level. She Can Coach has expanded to a national program in 2021, after previously operating in Victoria only.
BHP Women’s Coaching Academy
The BHP Women’s Coaching Academy was launched in 2018 and provided six women with the opportunity to complete the Level 3 Coaching Course, in addition to further development opportunities. In 2021, the following women were selected as part of the BHP Women’s Coaching Academy:
For further information about Women’s Coaching Month, and the AFL’s women’s coaching pathways including the She Can Coach program, BHP Women’s Coaching Academy and the AFL Victoria Women’s Coaching Academy, visit coach.afl/women-girls-coaching