Almanac School Footy: On being a co-coach and learning the virtues of humility, simplicity and modesty



Falling into the role of co-coach of one of the Year 8 footy teams at Marcellin College last year provided me with the perfect opportunity to embrace three key virtues central to the College’s Marist charism– humility, simplicity and modesty.


When I realised I was going to have to google how many players I could field at any one time, impostor syndrome walked right in the door. I also didn’t know how many players I could name on the bench, as well as the names of all of the positions. I must admit, I felt a sense of shame, that somehow, despite being a fan of the Tigers, I wasn’t completely across these things, but gradually accepted that this was part of the coaching journey I had to take. I was in the zone of incompetence. ‘Sanyo – that’s life.’ Indeed, embracing the humility of this felt positively Tigerish given their increased emphasis on humility and I felt a sense of wholeness, rather than depletion, wash over me.


The recognition that the whole me was a person who was happy to be a learner and newcomer was also quite freeing. My good friend, Joel, has a saying, ‘Holding on by letting go’. This was me – ‘letting go’. You’ve got to start somewhere.


Mastering the magnets on the day and ensuring the rotations were fair also kept me pretty grounded as a person, especially when I noticed, in our first game, that Dustin Fletcher seemed to be a part of the opposition’s coaching panel. I felt bad for the guys but gave myself a pep talk I learned from the author, Anna Funder – ‘I tried my best, it wasn’t enough, it could have been worse’ and got on with it. A medical emergency involving an ambulance, as well as several minor injuries, also threw my beginner status into sharp relief because it just became a matter of keeping things simple and staying in the moment. There was no time for indulgences like self-doubt and pride. My co-coach was with the injured player (and the ambulance) and we were in a far-flung sporting field, on a freezing cold day, with no bench and no supporters, so it was a case of getting my injured players to help with the scoring, find the strapping tape in the bag, fill the water bottles and keep an eye on what was working well and what needed to change.


And we won…despite everything that could go wrong, seeming to go wrong. In fact, so much had happened I wasn’t completely sure what the final score was and who our best players were because I’d had to wear too many hats throughout the game and just didn’t have the experience to deal with so many things happening at once. I didn’t take this lightly, and made a mental note to try as hard as I could to ensure this didn’t happen again, but in the final reckoning, was just glad that everyone was okay and we’d won, even though I felt so removed from the competent, confident teacher I was in the classroom.  My colleague, Ben, who also likes thinking about such things, says that, ‘Simplicity is living with great appreciation for life itself, with everything in between a bonus not to be taken for granted.’ Moments like this teach you the importance of such things. Thank goodness no one was seriously hurt.


But, despite it all, it was a great experience; it reminded me that keeping things simple works. I worked hard to build my relationships with the team. I learned the guys’ names, put time into learning the basics of the game and let the guys know that I needed their help because I wasn’t Dustin Fletcher and it was an away game and we were on our own and after all, we were a team. That had to mean something.


Afterwards I reflected on the freedom that comes with truly accepting your inexperience and need of the support of others. Indeed, the Marists believe that the virtues of humility, simplicity and modesty ‘give a quality of authenticity and kindness to our relationships with all people we meet’. I think this is really insightful, instructive and beautiful. How many of us volunteers feel like this taking on roles to ensure our young people get the chance to play, only to be beset by feelings of worthlessness? The vast majority (not all) school footy coaches coach on the weekend and after-school and grow into our roles, supported and encouraged by those around us, so it teaches us to be very real in our relationships. We need to remember to be forgiving, generous and open and keep our sense of self firmly grounded in a very simple and humble, here and now. We need to put the needs of others first before we worry about ourselves.


I’ve also witnessed countless example of modesty as a co-coach and am truly indebted to some terrific experienced coaches at Marcellin – Ryan, Arnis and Phil. They shared their resources and their practical wisdom with me in my first season and never made me silly or lowly. I appreciated everything they had to say because, like me, they too were trying to juggle lots of different roles, ensure they weren’t knocked out by miscued footies whilst ensuring they’d marked the attendance roll, had everyone’s EpiPens, hadn’t disappointed anyone and knew what the final score was but were still fantastic, inspiring coaches.


The Marists use a violet to represent the three virtues of humility, simplicity and modesty. There’s a big violet on the wall overlooking our ovals, right near the changerooms. They stand out, but I sometimes wonder how often we stop to think about what the violet means and what it’s calling us to be? Probably not a lot for some, that’s just the way of things in a big community, but I’m grateful, however, because I think being a footy coach has taught me to be more attentive to these virtues and how to live them very deeply, so thank you 8A (Blue), footy itself, and the Marists.





The Tigers Almanac 2019.
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  1. Way to go coach!

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