Women of AFL – Kath Newman

As part of Women’s Round Celebrations we profile some of the inspiring Queensland women working in AFL.

Kath Newman

Job titles/roles:
Acting Deputy Principal William Ross State High and Head Coach Rhinos Sports Academy – Sports Excellence AFL Program
Strength and Conditioning Coach – Gold Coast Suns Talent Academy (Townsville)
Strength and Conditioning Coach/Trainer – U16 Townsville Eagles, U16 Qld Country Kookaburras, North Queensland U15 Schoolboys

What does your role involve?
School AFL Role involves – program coordination, teaching, coaching, talent ID and recruitment, organising tours, promotion of the game
Strength and Conditioning Role involves – working with Gold Coast SUNS staff and local AFL staff to oversee gym programs, running and general conditioning sessions, regular fitness testing, rehabilitation of injured players and assisting the skills coach when required.

How long have you been involved in AFL?
As a spectator – A long time
As a teacher – Just as long. I did my level 1 coaching certificate when the Lions were still Bears
As a mother – Since 2004 when my son started in U8’s
As a coach – 2009 when I introduced AFL into the Rhinos Sports Academy Sports Excellence Program
As a Strength and Conditioning Coach – 2010 when the SUN’s Talent Academy began

How did you first become involved in AFL?
When I met my husband, I realised that if I wanted to see him on the weekends I had better learn to love footy. My more recent involvement has been a result of being in the right place at the right time with the skills, knowledge and access to facilities to help support the young players in the Townsville area. The Gold Coast SUNS ran a talent ID camp in 2010 based at my school. We had recently established a “Sport and Exercise Science Centre” at the school with a fully equipped gym and fitness testing facility. The SUNS were looking for someone and somewhere to base the Townsville arm of the academy and there I was. My background in athletics and in particular strength and conditioning gave me a firm base on which to begin this new direction. I haven’t looked back since.

What has been your greatest achievement/s?
Getting the Rhinos program up and running. Next term my school will be taking out a set of Rugby League goal posts and replacing them with a set of Australian Rules posts (thanks to the generous grant from AFLQ). There is a growing level of respect people in North Queensland have for our game. Also, watching 3 of the boys I have worked with over the past couple of years play in the NEAFL. Fingers crossed for an AFL debut very soon. (Ed. Note: Kath would have been very pleased to see Josh Hall debut for the GC SUNS against Richmond in Cairns.)

What has been the most rewarding thing about working in football?
The relationships I have established with fellow coaches, players, parents as well as being able to be an integral part of a sport that is beginning to flourish in this area. It’s exciting.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced in your role?

My greatest challenge is finding time to fit in all of the things I want to do in a day. My job as a deputy principal is very demanding on my time and energy and I sometimes find myself burning the candle at both ends.

What keeps you coming back to football every day?
 I love proving to boys that if work hard you will get results. My reward comes from seeing players do things that they don’t think they can do. Challenging them to push themselves further, harder and coming out the other side better than they started. I get just as big a thrill watching one of my beginner players master a technical skill they have been working on for some time as I do when one of my players receive the recognition of representative team selection for their hard work. The thing that keeps me coming back each week is the smiles on the faces of the boys even when I have flogged them in the gym.

What do you hope to achieve in football?
I would like to see the Rhinos Sports Academy Program grow and become as well known for producing AFL talent as some of the other Centres of Excellence in South Queensland. I have no personal aspirations but really want to see my Townsville boys be the best they can be.

What advice would you give to other women hoping to work (or working) in AFL?
There is nothing stopping women being involved in AFL in any capacity for which they have a passion. I have had nothing but support from all of the people I have met along the way. I have attended coaching courses, conferences, carnivals, camps and never once have I felt that people didn’t want me there because I was a woman. In fact it has been quite the opposite. The men I have met have made me feel welcome, valued and have been generous with sharing their knowledge and experience. I did find one advantage to being a woman at an AFL coaches function….there’s usually no line up for the toilet

Why do you think it is important to have women in football?

I believe that it is not just about having women in football…It is about having people from all cultures and backgrounds involved in the game. Football is an avenue for people to learn that, while we may not all look the same or be able to run as fast or kick as accurately as someone else, there is a role for everyone and sometimes it’s not the obvious or traditional role

What do you see in the future for women in football?
The world is our oyster. Just go and get involved.

What is the most important attribute in a leader?
The best leaders know their people and themselves. They are able to give every team member a role that they believe in and that positively contributes to the successful functioning of the whole group. 

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