VU sport research experts & industry footy coaches pose for the camera
Professor Andrew McAinch, Dr Michaela Pascoe, Dr Emily Cust, Nathan Burke, Rohenna Young

Victoria University’s first Coaching Masterclass was a huge success. Suburban coaches from the Western Region Football League gathered to hear sporting experts from VU and industry share their insider knowledge about how to successfully coach female teams.

Rohenna Young (Sports Facilities Manager) kicked off the evening at VU Whitten Oval with a remark that got the attention of the room. Reflecting on her history as a player, Young said:

“Kick like a girl used to be an insult; now it’s a research topic.”

Top tips from AFLW coach

Former rover for St Kilda, now coach for the Western Bulldogs (AFLW), Nathan Burke has been part of the AFL for more than three decades. In his presentation, Burke focused on the differences between coaching elite male footballers, compared with coaching female players, and the best way to ensure team members bond.

“Sharing stories is really important. When players share their vulnerabilities, they find commonality, and that makes players feel connected.”

During question time, an audience member and coach wanted to know the best way to improve a player's “footy IQ”. “Don’t overwhelm them with information. I get a player to choose a footy game on TV and just pick one player to focus on – watch how they move around the field. There’s so much happening in every game, but if they follow one player, it narrows the focus,” said Burke.

VU experts share research knowledge

Dr Emily Cust shared insights on her research specifically about the differences between male and female players and the drop-punt kick. Women show less knee bend on the supporting leg during higher impact kicks. 

VU’s Dr Michaela Pascoe from the Institute for Health and Sport was on hand to talk about mental health and sport. "Research shows that athletes tend to experience higher levels of depression and anxiety than the general population, but it’s even higher among female athletes. Issues such as high stress, competing demands, and concerns around body-image are all contributing factors."  Michaela pointed out that female athletes are also dealing with systemic stresses, including lack of support around parenting and bullying.

Professor Andrew McAinch, a qualified Sports Dietitian from the College of Health and Biomedicine, talked about the impact of nutrition on performance and the importance of a balanced diet. “Some athletes think spending a hundred bucks a week on supplements will balance out the hundred bucks spent on fish and chips and pies. That’s not how it works. Before elite athletes consider taking supplements, they need to cover the basics such as eating a balanced diet, and eating regularly. Any performance benefits from supplements are going to be tiny, compared to eating a balanced diet with plenty of carbohydrates and the right amount of protein and drinking plenty of water.”

Junior-league coaches benefit from shared experiences

Sitting among the large audience were two female coaches from the WRFL, Michele Lewis and Amie Bracken, who coach the Newport Power’s Under 12 team.

“Tonight was such a great opportunity to learn more about women’s footy and how best to support teams. I think what Michaela had to say was interesting, especially about ensuring your team has a good experience and just enjoys playing the game and having fun.”


Discover more about VU’s commitment to Women in Sport and course information on VU’s Bachelor of Nutritional Science/Master of Dietetics

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Frances Atkinson
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