THE CROSSROADS & BEYOND
The saying goes that, in a perfect world, athletes would coach before they play.
Itâ€™s true. If you were able to work as a coach first and a player second, youâ€™d see things in a very different light. Youâ€™d watch more vision, understand people, appreciate strategy and better know your opposition. Coaching would make you a smarter athlete.
Thatâ€™s all great in theory, obviously, but it doesnâ€™t factor in a little thing called biology.
I mean, when was the last time you heard of a coach retiring to become a player? Maybe I should make a comeback to basketball?!
This is where I count myself incredibly fortunate. I can take my coaching experiences and, where appropriate, apply them to my career as a footy player. Matthew Clarke has given me opportunities to take some drills at the Crows and I work with the young midfielders most training sessions. I love that. Watching your teammates get better is every bit as satisfying as kicking a bag yourself.
I was lucky enough to work with Marijana Rajcic last season. She had come over to the Crows as a defender after playing six seasons for Adelaide United in the W-League. She hadnâ€™t kicked a goal in AFLW and I asked her one day if she had a set-shot routine. As it turned out, she didnâ€™t.
We spent a bit of time at training working on one and, in our very next game, she was awarded a 50-metre penalty which brought her in range to have a shot on goal. She instinctively looked around to pass off but I was yelling at her, â€?Just kick the goal! Go back! Go through your routine!â€™
She did exactly that.
Bang. Goal. And it was an important goal, too, because the game was tight.
That was an awesome moment. It makes you realise, â€?If you can give someone a little bit of direction, theyâ€™ll help us win games.â€™ That was something I picked up from having a father as a coach. Passing on a bit of knowledge can go a long way.
It works the other way, too. I learn things from the other girls all the time. I donâ€™t pretend to know everything there is about footy. Weâ€™re all helping each other whichever way we can.
I canâ€™t wait to coach at the end of each AFLW season. Iâ€™m that exhausted. While the body is repairing itself after a tough footy campaign, the mind takes over as coach.
When it comes to footy, I have much to be thankful for.
I knew Rio was going to be my last Olympics and I honestly didnâ€™t know what I was going to do afterwards. Tracy and I were trying to have kids, so I knew playing basketball overseas probably wasnâ€™t the right option. Living apart and trying to raise kids? Not a great idea if you can help it.
I was at a massive crossroads. I was in that transitional mindset of, â€?Where to next?â€™ and I was finding it really hard. And then, all of a sudden, I got a phone call from the Crows.
It changed everything and it came at the perfect time in my life.
Thereâ€™s a real sense that weâ€™re building something in the AFLW. As it stands, the players are part-time and girls are often rolling up to training after clocking off work. We donâ€™t get to spend much time together as a squad before the season starts, either.
But thatâ€™s OK. Weâ€™ve come a long way since we started, and weâ€™ve still got some distance to go.
Personally, Iâ€™d love to see the AFLW evolve to a place similar to the WNBA. Fully professional. Players and coaches together all the time. A constant focus on improvement.
Not so long ago, that was just a dream.
Itâ€™s getting closer to reality all the time.