Kids 1

Matt Zurbo begins a 15-part series on kids and footy.


Kids 1. Player Auction.

For most of us our season is over. We become another one of the crowd. We no longer give a rat’s about weather reports – let it blow, let it rain! We let our guts grow for a while, we have so much more time it scares us for a week or two. We watch finals and hone our jealousy glands. Become mortals. Lose our routines.

Now, committees gather. Unseen by the players, supporters, or townships, gears start to churn. Rough seas are formed. Arguments had, plans laid. Make no mistake, next year’s September happens, or doesn’t, right now.

A lot of 24-ish year old players will be offered all sorts of inducements to come to other clubs, or to stay. Reasons top bump up their pay. Assistant coaching, reserves coaching. Junior coaching.

Now’s the time junior coaches get picked, so now is the time I’m writing this.

I coached juniors for a lot of years, and only stopped when our club went into another league that didn’t have them. In three short years it feels to me like we’ve become a bit of ghost town. Still a home, but a touch hollow. There are no kids about, no parents. Our volunteer numbers have mysteriously halved. Never underestimate the value of having parents around.

With the functions now half full, even half of those there don’t stay. But, more that that, much more, I no longer know the next generation in the street. I pass them in the ute without dopey waves and pretend screamers. I don’t know their folks, get to know their farms. The history of the area has stopped coming in, and being lived. It’s a shame.

Summer is a key time for coaching kids. First thing you have to do is try and be someone they rally around. It’s a job that doesn’t just happen two nights a week and before your game on Saturday. It takes time. Commitment. Hopefully, a few of these tips help.

Today’s Tip – Kids 1. Player Auctions.

Before Christmas and school holidays, start the ball rolling with a bbq and Junior Player Auction – buy a kid to work for you for a day. It gets them together. It gets the community together, with them at the centre of it for maybe the first time in their lives. Put posters up of a ball and chain about your neighbourhood or town. Let all the farmers, or, if you are in the city, all the local small businesses know.

Ask the local auctioneer to come and do the job. He or she will love it. Auctioneers are showmen, they’ll make it funny.

Over the next year you’ll be teaching your charges work and reward. You do the work, you get the rewards. You tell them, “This money will go towards equipment, the club and your end of year trip.” It’s important they learn early to give a bit back to the club that houses them, not just take it all.

Over the next year there will be another event or function or two, always have them involved. Do a mock Footy Show during the season. Get the popular seniors to be on the panel, (or they might not come!) the biggest mouth at the club to be Sammy. Bring in a local ex-AFL player to be interviewed. Get a few legends of the club to pick a team of the past 25 years, to get the past players in. (Then do a mock one of the Ressies/characters!) Do a quiz with funny questions, lots of them local to your club. But make the kids pitch in. Weeks beforehand, get one or two of them to film a Street Talk with you (we did our last one around the Launnie 10 Run, asking total strangers, who had no idea, who the ugliest player at our club was). Make each kid provide a casserole for before the show. Get them to do one skit in the middle. Charge the crowd $10 a meal. Cheap for all.


If the town/suburb has a teenage band with one of your players in it, get them to play after the show. (get them to do a rock version of your club’s song – goes down a treat!)

Then, at the end of the year, with your auction money and Footy Show money, and new footies, while other kids are doing nothing, or going to the next suburb, your lot are hiring a bus, taking a few parents, and going to the Speedcars, or a One-Day Cricket Match in the city, or camping on the beach if you’re from the city, or for a joy flight, then surfing lessons, or movies and an AFL Final. They will form bonds that last a lifetime, even if they don’t make finals. And, if they come from a small town like mine, they will see beyond their fishbowl. They will be shown the benefits of work and reward.

Back to the Junior Player Auction.

Write up a funny one-liner or two for introducing each kid. Make it fun.

Be prepared to spend some of your own money. The kids will be stoked to be bid on by the coach. The jets will always go for top dollar anyway. Always bid on the ones no-one else will. Buy one or two, make them feel welcome. Give them some shitty little chore somewhere down the line. Get the smallest, most awkward one to come in for bidding on the shoulders of the biggest one. Introduce him as 7ft 8. Good for a laugh. Put yourself up for auction, too. (secretly give the auctioneer some good piss-take material). Good enough for them, good enough for you. Really bash the senior players who are tradies to come. A kid working for one of his heroes for a day? That link will last them both their careers.

The kid will want to play well for him, train hard for him. The senior player will take interest in the kid’s career.

Pre-arrange at least one mystery phone bidder.

Not only will you be raising money for them, but, with holidays coming, I guarantee at least three or four will end up with summer jobs. Huge.

There is so much more. But first things first, paint a bigger picture. Make it obvious you care.

Kids are not just the future of a club, but of society. And also, you’d be surprised, of your here and now. Never take them or their parents for granted. They are the single most important part of any club. The place is pretty empty when they’re not around.











































  1. The next time someone tells me footy clubs exist to win premierships, I might actually manage to be physically sick. Good start, Matt – taking notes.

  2. Great again Matt. Like Dave – I may look to use this set for future reference when my kids start getting involved in team sports.

  3. Cheers blokes! I’d be stoked if even on of these helped. 14 to go.

  4. Yvette Wroby says

    Magnificent as usual. Will also be keeping notes.

    thanks Matt


  5. Malby Dangles says

    Rereading this…am coaching football (soccer) this season. Very last minute. I know htere are heaps of good nuggets in here, Matt. :)

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