Old coaches are beautiful coaches

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Old coaches are beautiful coaches Empty Old coaches are beautiful coaches

Post by Lee on Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:51 am

From The Guardian - Australia

AFL should realise old coaches are beautiful coaches

A good player doesn’t necessarily make a good coach, and big clubs would do well to look at the talent and experience in the VFL

Paul Roos At 51, Paul Roos is seven years above the average age of an AFL coach and his experience has helped the Demons to become more competitive this season. (Photo)

The coaching ranks of the AFL, whose tactical weaponry has been so derivative of foreign football leagues in the past two decades, remain noticeable immune from influence in one key area: by and large, the demographic profile of AFL coaches skews younger than that of the other codes.

In the NFL, the average age of the head coach is 52.7 while in the AFL that number currently sits at 44.8, a significant figure. All bar eight of the NFL’s 32 coaches are over the age of 50 with the oldest being 67-year-old New York Giants boss Tom Coughlin, and Pete Carroll who coached Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl last season is 62. Grey temples are just as common a sight in the English Premier League with the average age of its managers currently sitting at 50.7.

One step below Australian football’s big-time in the VFL a host of older senior coaches are thriving well beyond the average age of those in the AFL. Foxtel Cup-winning Williamstown coach Andy Collins is 49, Port Melbourne’s highly-regarded 2011 Premiership coach Gary Ayres is 53 and North Ballarat’s triple-flag winning Gerard FitzGerald is 57. Collins thinks there’s something to be said for lengthy coaching apprenticeships and a slower, steadier accumulation of the skills required to fill AFL positions.

“I think there’s still room for experienced coaches in development [roles] and I always laugh that sometimes we put the least experienced with the least experienced rather than mentoring them. So coaching against Ayresy and Gerard is really good,” Collins told the Age in April.

All three of those coaches remain highly credentialed but well off Broadway in a career sense. What they’re up against is not only the perception of the state leagues as being an inferior pathway to the AFL compared to the TAC Cup and Academy systems, but the fickle fashions of football departments at the highest level.

At the same time, there has also been a tendency for AFL clubs to hasten the transition period of high profile veterans from senior player to coach, often with little practical experience in the coach’s box. There’s also been a renaissance in old-fashioned player-coach roles, where veterans are installed into quasi-coaching positions while they’re still playing. James McDonald at GWS and Mitch Hahn at the Bulldogs are some recent examples. Now 32-year-old retiring Eagles ruckman Dean Cox, not even finished with the current season, has flagged his interest in extending his part-time ruck coach duties at West Coast into a full-time role there or elsewhere next season.

There’s something to be said for that recent hands-on experience, of course. No one knows the physical and emotional demands placed on current players like someone who is still out their witnessing the action up close, but greater stock might be placed in experience on the other side of the fence. As it is, clubs often seem more than willing to put the mechanics in charge of the factory.

Outside of the current ranks of high-profile assistants in Melbourne, it’s probably Ayres’ name that still looms largest, not that he’d say so himself. He’s modest of his achievements at Port Melbourne, saying he’d rather discuss the players. “To use an old Yabby Jeans-ism if you like, the players make the coach,” he told Guardian Australia.

Consistency is a word that Ayres uses a lot and it’s a philosophy reflected in his ability to keep the standalone club at the top of a league boasting sides stacked with AFL-listed players. At present they sit atop the VFL ladder with 12 wins from 14 games. In their Premiership year of 2011, Ayres’s side didn’t drop a single game.

He says he’s also now a more relaxed coach than in his formative years at Geelong and Adelaide. “You certainly do become more relaxed during the week and certainly about what’s just gone on [in games]. Most days you’ve still got the pressure that you put on yourself because you want to get the results for the players. You manage the pressure better because, purely and simply, you’ve been doing it a lot longer.”

The former five-time Premiership star at Hawthorn says that the coaching industry is as trend-driven as any other; what’s successful at the best clubs is faithfully replicated elsewhere. He points to the emergence of current and former AFL head coaches Brad Scott, Mark Neeld and Scott Watters from the pool of assistants working under Mick Malthouse at Collingwood and the rival club raids on Alastair Clarkson’s deputies at Hawthorn.

Along with youth and the high profiles of some ex-players (Cameron Ling continues to be courted by multiple clubs despite limited experience in a mentorship role at North Melbourne), it’s association with Premiership success that tends to drive demand for the services of senior assistants rather than senior coaching experience. In the instance of Watters and Neeld, the end result was far from desirable for coach and club; neither lasted beyond their first two seasons in the job and both became high-profile reminders of the ruthless nature of the business.

“In American football, obviously it’s a much bigger code so there tends to be quite lengthy apprenticeships through the college system so they’re probably coaching at their best when they get older,” Ayres says. Indeed going back to the example of the Seahawks, after an initial stint as head coach at the New England Patriots, it was only after he returned to coaching in college football that Carroll picked up the tools to be a success in the NFL.

“If you go through the 18 [AFL] clubs now, Brendan McCartney and certainly Mick Malthouse and Paul Roos aside, but other than that they’re relatively young.” Unfortunately for Ayres and his ilk, the perception of the state leagues is still poles apart from the way NFL decision-makers view the college system.

Having been a senior coach for 20 years now himself, Ayres also believes that the industry could do more to provide a bridge between formal coaching courses. Beyond a Level Three High Performance Coaching course, it’s a sink or swim environment even for AFL assistants.

Though he remains highly rated at VFL level, Ayres plays down the likelihood of a return to an AFL role for himself. “There’s still a small element in me that harbours ambitions to do it,” he says. “Every year it just gets that smaller and smaller.”

The Ayres coaching philosophy has evolved gradually since he himself took Geelong to the 1995 Grand Final as a first-year coach in his mid-30s. “I’d be much more mature, much more experienced in the coaching role,” he says.

Elsewhere at VFL level, he nominates Geelong’s Matthew Knights and FitzGerald as the coaches most capable of taking the step up. “You’d certainly say that Gerald FitzGerald has a wonderful, wonderful record as a coach at North Ballarat,” he says. “Gerard’s been doing it for a long, long time.”

What’s less clear is whether an AFL club would actually take a chance on any of these coaches so late in their careers. In discussing Cameron Ling’s chances of making the quick leap from player and pundit to full-time coach, Roos coach Brad Scott concluded, “You’ve got to work out two things really quickly: one is whether you have a genuine love for it, because you can’t do this job unless you genuinely love it, and the second one is whether you’re any good at it.”

Both Ayres and FitzGerald are clearly good enough and they’re proven winners in an industry that places stock in little else. Allan Jeans famously told St Kilda’s 1966 Grand Final team that they had 25 minutes left to make a name for themselves. For a great of the game like Ayres, it must be bittersweet to admit that the clock’s already stopped.
Russell Jackson Posted by
Russell Jackson
Thursday 31 July 2014 10.51 EST theguardian.com


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Old coaches are beautiful coaches Empty Re: Old coaches are beautiful coaches

Post by Chambo Off To Work We Go on Thu Jul 31, 2014 7:34 pm

This whole area is fascinating and at times shows that the AFL (clubs mainly) can be fairly immature and reactionary to what is occurring in the club from a performance point of view.

You would have to say that Sydney has managed these transitions just about the best of the clubs. From Eade to Roos to Longmire. And these things don't just happen by chance.

I agree that a mentoring and transitional process is necessary to maintain a club's standing without dropping off or rebuilding as is the term. This may be an ideal and not everyone is as fortunate as Sydney has been for an extended period, but clubs that breed success will find a way to manage the low spots better than those who perenially under-achieve.

Can you say it is no coincidence that clubs for example like St Kilda, Western Bulldogs and Richmond have been away from success for so long. Yeah St Kilda got close a few times, but just couldn't find that extra 1% -2% to get there.

I think I would agree with the article in that the afl system seems to push blokes into the mix before they are perhaps ready. In a lot of ways you could agree that blokes like Ayres and Collins having coached for quite a while with success along the way are better prepared than someone who has been an afl understudy for maybe 3 or 4 years.

Extended coaches like Malthouse, Sheedy, Parkin, Hafey etc. are almost non-existent anymore. You probably have a use-by date of 10 years if you can achieve just moderate success. A Terry Wallace, is an example of that.

Others like Matthews and Blight probably could have commanded a gig for longer, but I don't think they had the passion to continue and preferred the less stressful media route.

One thing I think will be interesting to see how it evolves is how long Buckley's reign at Collingwood will last if he can't get them to a GF in the next year or so. Especially given the high club expectations after shifting Mick on.

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