'I don't believe that coaching has a gender': Flag winner challenges long-held beliefs

BEC GODDARD thought she'd reached the top of the mountain when she coached Adelaide to the inaugural NAB AFLW premiership in 2017.

After years of hard work, Goddard had blazed a trail from leading teams at community level to coaching in the country's elite female competition that other women could follow in the future.

"I felt like getting to that point I'd proved that women can coach football at the top," Goddard told womens.afl.

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"I thought, 'This is it – I've made it to the top. I'm not going to have to fight anywhere near as hard as I did before'.

"But the reality is we're still very much on that journey of having to force these conversations to make people realise that (the status quo) isn't actually comfortable.

"We can't just keep doing things the same way.

"We've got an opportunity before us to not only encourage more women to coach, but also change the system."

While the introduction of the AFLW sparked a boom in participation rates amongst women and girls, the increase in female coaches lags a long way behind, with women making up just six per cent of all accredited coaches in the country.

Goddard remains the only female AFLW premiership coach after four completed seasons, with the 2020 season abandoned without a premier due to the COVID crisis.

Chelsea Randall, Bec Goddard (centre) and Erin Phillips with the premiership cup after defeating Brisbane in the inaugural NAB AFLW Grand Final at Metricon Stadium on March 25, 2017. Picture: Michael Willson

And with all 14 clubs set to enter the sixth AFLW season later this year with male coaches at the helm, Goddard is keen to use Women's Coaching Month to push for change.

To not only get more women involved in coaching at all levels of the game, but to also challenge some long-held beliefs.

"I don't believe that coaching has a gender – if you're a leader of people then you can lead in any field," she said.

"We've got these deep-seated beliefs of what a coach should be and we have to challenge what that looks like.

"Otherwise what we're doing is just promoting the idea that coaching is to be viewed through a male lens.

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"We have a very specific view of what a good coach is. We need to change that and the only way we do it is to get more women involved.

"It's really important that we get more women into coaching at all levels so that girls and boys can see that it's not just one gender that can coach and lead in life.

"Great coaches, for me, are the ones that have great relationships, manage people well and get other great people around them to achieve results. 

"We really need to start challenging what a great coach looks like.

"It's 2021 and it's time to change."

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Having been appointed Hawthorn's VFLW coach in December of 2019, Goddard has remained a strong role model.

In June, she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for her service to Australian rules football and women in sport and is determined to continue to play her role in changing the coaching landscape from the grassroots level up.

Goddard has been a key part of the Hawks' bid to gain admission to the AFLW, with the League to decide in August on expansion to 18 clubs for the seventh season, which is slated to start late in 2022.

"How amazing would it be if I got another opportunity to coach in the AFLW?" she mused.

"It's a great opportunity and it's one that I want. I'm really happy at Hawthorn.

"I treat it as an absolute honour to be in a position where I can encourage different discussions and hopefully make it a little bit easier for someone else coming through the door behind me.

"Sometimes we have to kick the door in and sometimes we can knock and politely ask.

"But at all times, we can be grateful and still demand the ball."

Bec Goddard at the 2021 W Awards. Picture: AFL Photos

Over the course of July, the football community is invited to join AFLW and State League coaches alongside other industry experts, in a three-part webinar series that showcases women’s coaching pathways across all levels of the game.

The AFL’s Women’s Coaching Pathways include:

She Can Coach Program
The ‘She Can Coach’ program was launched in 2018 and was established to increase the number of women in coaching, improve the capacity of these coaches, increase the visibility of coaching role models for women, and develop a network of women in coaching across all levels of the game. There are currently 36 women participating in the program, with four current Umpire Coaches, and 32 participants who are involved in coaching at either a community, state-league, or talent level. She Can Coach has expanded to a national program in 2021, after previously operating in Victoria only.

BHP Women’s Coaching Academy
The BHP Women’s Coaching Academy was launched in 2018 and provided six women with the opportunity to complete the Level 3 Coaching Course, in addition to further development opportunities. In 2021, the following women were selected as part of the BHP Women’s Coaching Academy:
Melissa Hickey
Natasha Hardy
Emma Sampson
Shannon Millar
Emma Grant
Lisa Roper
Dale Robinson
Sam Virgo

For further information about Women’s Coaching Month, and the AFL’s women’s coaching pathways including the She Can Coach program, BHP Women’s Coaching Academy and the AFL Victoria Women’s Coaching Academy, visit coach.afl/women-girls-coaching