Nicola Vincent is working hard to ensure that girls and women engage in physical activity, from team sports and solo running to kicking a ball, or swimming.

“Sometimes you hear women or girls say, ‘I’m not good at sports’, or ‘I’m not athletic’. I want girls and women to experience the mental, physical and social benefits of physical activity in general, regardless of skill level.”

A teacher of Victoria University Polytechnic’s Diploma of Sport Development for ten years, Nicola is also the secretariat for Change Our Game, the State Government initiative to help address the fact that, from coaches to administrators, women remain under-represented in leadership roles.

Now Nicola is working with the Susan Alberti Woman in Sport Chair Professor Clare Hanlon on VU’s Women in Sport program.

“It’s fantastic to be part of the Women in Sport group at VU. I’ve been involved in high-level meetings with sporting CEOs and get to hear, first-hand, about the strategic approach to breaking down boundaries for women and girls in sport.”

Recently, Nicola agreed to take on the role of coach for the University of Melbourne’s Division One Women’s Soccer team at the University Nationals tournament on the Gold Coast. “We’ve had our first practice match and everyone performed really well. We’ve got such a talented group, there’s no reason why we can’t make a play for a medal. The team has proud history of reaching the medal stage.”

Personal approach to coaching puts players at ease

Nicola’s personal approach to coaching includes making sure the players feel comfortable and that their individual contributions are acknowledged. “It’s important to set the right attitude and expectations in terms of performance, and to cultivate an inclusive environment. I want our team to feel really connected.”

As someone who has been involved in sport for decades, Nicola has had her fair share of coaches, good and bad. “I do feel as if I have a duty to help players get what they want out of sport, to make sure everyone’s okay and help develop leadership skills, which will help set them up when their sporting career ends.”

Sporting career offers transferable skills

When asked how Nicola’s sporting career has impacted her professional life, Nicola is quick to mention a long list of transferable skills, including working collaboratively, contributing to a team, problem solving on your feet, communicating well with others, commitment to hard work and loyalty.

“If I could make one change right now, it would be to remind some coaches who are guiding female athletes that everyone is there for different reasons and everyone has different needs that have to be met.”

Nicola’s hope is to create real change and have the opportunity to shape views and attitudes about women in sport. “I want women to feel comfortable and empowered by getting involved in physical activity. We have to work together to make the necessary changes because there is so much more to sport than winning.”