For former Fremantle AFLW players-turned-coaches Amy Lavell and Lisa Webb, their journeys to the national women’s competition were disparate.
Webb began playing football later in life after a distinguished athletics career as a nationally ranked heptathlete. Lavell, on the other hand, had a decorated 10-year career with Subiaco in the WAWFL, culminating in five premierships, before joining the Dockers for the inaugural AFLW season.
Despite their playing careers panning out differently, both women are sharing the same path to coaching as they begin their assistant coaching careers with Fremantle this season.
With Fremantle undergoing a football department reshuffle at the conclusion of last year, the opportunity arose for Webb and Lavell to pursue a career in coaching.
Both women assisted with Fremantle’s AFLW Talent Academy during the year, earning a coaching contract ahead after the 10-week program.
After six games for the Dockers, 34-year-old Webb was delisted at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
With her short-lived professional football career over, she opted to take a year away from playing football but was determined to remain involved with player development and coaching.
After speaking with newly-appointed Fremantle senior coach Trent Cooper, Webb made the decision to join Fremantle’s AFLW Talent Academy as an assistant with hopes of pursuing her coaching dream.
A decade-long career in teaching fuels Webb’s passion for on and off-field development and was a driver in her move to the coaches box.
“I’m just really passionate about working with these girls and understanding how eager they are to develop,” she told AFLPlayers.com.au ahead of her first season as an assistant coach.
Similar to Webb, when Lavell retired at the end of the 2018 season she kept ties with the club, with her plan always to move into coaching.
“Because of the amount of love I have for footy, coaching really interests me,” she told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“I’ve been an assistant coach at Subiaco for a couple of years now and it just continued my love for it so I wanted to see how far I can go with it.”
Also a school teacher, Lavell credits her developmental skills in the classroom in assisting her smooth transition into the coaching ranks.
“I’ve been able to put more time into learning how to coach and the systems and the structures, rather than how to build relationships because that comes naturally to me as a teacher,” she said.
Having been vice-captain during her time at Fremantle, Lavell is well respected by the playing group but admitted she was daunted by the idea of transitioning from a teammate to a coach.
“I’ve got as much respect for the girls as I hope they do for me and I’ve already felt that as soon as I got into the club,” she said.
“The girls have been fantastic in listening to me and offering insights, so I’ve been lucky to have had that.”
Webb’s husband, Marc, is the current senior development coach with Fremantle’s AFL team and a guiding influence in her decision to take up football after a long stint with athletics.
“Although I am relatively new to playing I have always been around football,” Webb said.
“I barely missed a game (when Marc was playing at Subiaco) and took a really keen interest in what he was doing. I would always speak with him before and after games with how he felt he went and that really fast-tracked my understanding.”
The former u20 division silver medalist said she always had a footy in her hand, even at athletics training, and felt that her athletic skill set could benefit a football team, extending beyond the skills required for heptathlon.
When it comes to mentors, both women looked to Fremantle’s coaching panel for guidance.
“(Craig Thomas) is an exceptional character. He’s been brilliant in his application and helping us to develop in a short space of time,” Webb said.
Lavell credits the revamped coaching structure for encouraging her to pursue a career on the other side of the fence.
“We have so much help around us. People saying ‘if you want to go for it, just go for it,’” she said.
“It’s going to be a challenge and not everything is going to be easy but I’m willing to have a crack.”
Both women are in the infancy of learning the structures and systems associated with coaching, such as coding vision, but agree that the challenge of learning something new every day is what makes the job worth it.
Given the unique nature of the AFLW competition, Lavell and Webb are still balancing their jobs as teachers but both agree it’s a juggling act that they wouldn’t change.
“I think the biggest challenge is juggling two jobs: my coaching career and my teaching career,” Lavell explained.
“It’ll get busier during the season but we’re really lucky to have the support of the other coaches and if there is a time where we are struggling they’re always there to help us.”
As for Fremantle’s pre-season so far, both Lavell and Webb agreed the professionalism has grown exponentially since last year and the energy around the club is electric.
“The new girls have come in with a new vibrancy and enthusiasm to learn,” Lavell said.
“There’s a really good vibe about the group and it’s just continuing to improve. It’s really exciting”