“Teaching anything, whether it’s dancing, whether it’s football, is the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself,” David Ashkar said.
If you’re going to take someone’s word for it, it may as well be David Ashkar; a man who lives and breathes football, and a man who is dedicated to helping the next generation of AFL superstars.
For Ashkar, this year’s AFL Queensland Youth Talent Coach of the Year, footy has been a part if his life almost from day dot.
“Ever since I was three years old I had a footy. I drove my mother crazy, but I just had that inner passion for it. No one can take football off me, that’s that attitude I have,” he said.
“Regardless of whether you get sacked or you move on, you stay involved. It’s about football, its not about anything else.”
It wasn’t until a distinguished playing career at Southport came to a close that the coaching pathway popped up.
“I stopped because my hammies were giving me trouble. I was about 32 so I wasn’t ready give up. Danny Brennan was involved with the Southport team at the time, and I asked him if he needed a hand. I started running for him, and then he got the senior job at Southport, gave me the reserves job, and away we went,” Ashkar said.
The biggest change from playing to coaching?
“Frustration with the players was the biggest hurdle,” he joked.
“I tell you though, you learn over the years that it’s a game, it’s about having fun, and you just learn how to deliver your structures, so that side definitely evolves.”
From Southport, to Burleigh, to Labrador, to the Queensland Under 18 team through to his current role as the Gold Coast Under 16 coach, there aren’t too many walls he hasn’t worked inside.
The most difficult role he has had might surprise you though.
“My hardest coaching gig was Under 8’s. One kid kicked me in the balls one night at training, and I thought, I better get out of this one alive,” Ashkar said.
Despite the differences in each role, one thing stayed the same: his growth as a coach.
“You’re always, absolutely always learning. Even through different coaches you’ve been with,” he said.
“You are always learning, always taking different pieces off them. Like the players, you just want to improve all the time, and if you’ve got that attitude, you’re going to be involved a long time.”
Ashkar’s Gold Coast Under 16 team clean swept the competition at this years Under 16 Queensland State Championships, but despite the success, winning wasn’t the be all end all.
“We didn’t have too many expectations going in. We taught them a lot of values, in terms of respect, humility, and behaving in an elite environment. My first thought was that we want them to play this, and then go into the 18’s as better people, as cliché as that sounds,” Ashkar said.
Pulling a group together from different clubs and locations for a three-day tournament has its difficulties, but Ashkar said to build one unit, you’ve got to simplify it.
“As long as they are clear on their roles it makes it a lot easier. We worked really hard on blokes having certain roles in terms of where they play and the way they rotated,” he said.
There have been premierships, championships, personal accolades and even a Southport Hall of Fame induction along the line, but the most rewarding aspect of it all?
“I love seeing the kids, I’ve had a lot to do with the kids who have come through the Stingrays and all that, guys like Kurt Tippet and Nick Riewoldt, you love seeing them reach their dreams, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
It’s been a long and successful journey for Ashkar, but it’s definitely not over yet.
By Andrew Wiles