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Gleeson giving back to local footy

Essendon defender and AFLPA delegate Marty Gleeson has launched a new coaching webinar series called Football to You. He spoke to about developing the concept, why he wants to give back to the community and what he hopes to achieve in his endeavours. 

Kavisha Di Pietro: What is Football to You and how did the concept come about?

Marty Gleeson: It started just before the first lockdown period (for Victoria) around the end of March. I’m often in regular contact with my local coach from Koroit (a football/ netball club playing in the Hampden Football Netball League in Victoria’s south-west). We were chatting one day and he had a bit of an idea about trying to get coaches or people who are in and around the AFL system to connect with local football coaches. Forever when I am going home, and any time I go to a local footy club, they always ask if I have any advice or tips for their club. As a player, it’s a bit difficult because you don’t really think about that too much, but the coaches are the ones who always have great ideas around that. For us it was about trying to create a platform where we can interview coaches who have been involved at the elite level in some capacity and connect them with community coaches to help them grow and improve their own coaching.

Currently everything you’re doing is through webinars. How does the concept actually work in terms of connecting your platform with community coaches? 

We’re promoting it across social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and we’ve been emailing regional football leagues and clubs as well trying to get the concept out to as many people as we can. We think it’s a great idea and all of the feedback we’ve had from some the coaches who have tuned in so far and attended the webinars is that they’re absolutely loving it too. We’re trying to reach as many people as we can and from there we’re able to connect and have them register.

In 2018 you suffered a really significant lower leg injury that meant an extended period on the sidelines. Did that time make you realise or understand more how quickly footy can disappear? 

Absolutely! When I had my year off in 2018 and then half of 2019, I did a bit of work experience at the club with the finance team to gauge my interest in that. I didn’t mind it and so now I’m actually at university completing an Accounting degree through RMIT. With that, I became open to ideas of different stuff because you are aware then that footy isn’t going to last forever. Trying different things, passions and interests was really important and then when I got talking to my local coach, Chris McClaren, about this I was definitely keen to get involved. Previously, around three or four years ago, I was a bit gun shy to do that, but now going through that experience and understanding how quickly things can end helped. I’ve also realised the contacts I have that I can lean on and so many people are willing to help and give their time.

You spoke about coming up with the idea around the time of the season shutdown period. Normally you would have been playing footy every week, but did that time give you an opportunity to focus on building the concept? 

Chris and I started the initial discussions and we were trying to determine how it would work best and how to set it up. Then we got another fella, Matthew Buck, who is coaching with Werribee in the VFL, but was at Koroit previously, and got him onboard. We put together a bit of a plan to try and target local footy coaches and we got on the social media platforms and starting getting in contact with a few coaches in the AFL system who we thought would be good to give back. Our first coach was Dan Jordan (Essendon) who coached at local level in Ballarat (at East Point Football Club) and has worked his way up to being an assistant coach now at Essendon and the other one was Dan O’Keefe, who again has coached at a local level in Geelong, worked through the talent pathway with the Geelong Falcons and worked his way up to now being a development coach at Carlton. We targeted a few coaches that we thought would be a good fit and they were super keen to help out and are very passionate about what they do, which made it a bit easier.

What is it that appealed to you about being able to give back to community coaches through Football to You? 

Any time there is anything I can do to help give back to a community level I’m always more than willing and genuinely want to. For me, footy in the country and rural areas of Victoria especially, is like a religion. The guys (and girls) out there absolutely love it and are always wanting to learn and grow to improve themselves and help their teams. You can see that they want to become better coaches and also better people. Any opportunity I can help or give back through the experiences I’ve had in my career then I want to be able to give back – whether it’s being better coaches or players. At times, in country Victoria or at a community coaching level, you can have limited resources and that’s unfortunately just the way it is so we’re trying to make it easier to give them another resource to help improve themselves.

You’ve already had a couple of great coaches in Dan Jordan and Dan O’Keefe on and Tim Clarke (Gold Coast Development coach) is on Wednesday’s webinar. Who else is on your radar? 

We’re really excited to have Tim Clarke. He’s been around the AFL for a little while now as a player (Hawthorn, 2000-2008) and an assistant coach at various clubs. He understands the game from both perspectives, so he’ll be great and I’m sure the community coaches will get a lot from listening to him speak. From there, we’ve got a few people in the works that we’re wanting to ask but we’re also gathering feedback from our webinars that we’ve run so far and are listening to what the community coaches want to hear about, whether it’s development or building game plans, and that helps us target our next set of guest coaches.

When you start a concept or business venture it’s a really great time to learn new skills, but also things about yourself. What are some of the key things you’ve taken away from this process? 

It’s a good question! The thing that stands out is the ability to work with other people. We’re very lucky in a football environment that working with others is thrust upon you but in the business side of things it’s a bit different. We’re focusing on working together and with others to generate ideas and then discussions to try to land on the best outcome for everyone involved. For me, that’s been great. I’m very lucky working with Chris and Matthew, they’re both great fellas and we’re all pretty easy-going so we’re able to bounce ideas off each other but it’s about working with other people and trying to get the best results. I actually really enjoy working with other people so it’s been a great experience.

What’s the benefit for you of having a focus outside of football, particularly while you’re in the hubs where it is football-centric? 

It’s been great. It gives you an outlet to concentrate on something else and gives you something to put your time and energy into. A lot of times you can just sit around and think about footy, especially now with the condensed games and fixture all of your time and energy goes into that, but if you put a bit of time into your other stuff I think it really helps your footy. It means when I am training or I am in a meeting, I can give my full attention to that and you want to because you’ve been able to have an outlet and you’ve been able to work on other things. It’s really stimulating and makes you a bit more energised as well as being enjoyable.

It’s hard to think too far ahead while we’re still very much in the midst of COVID-19, but what are your plans for the future of Footy to You? 

At the moment we’re using the current times to develop ourselves and the Footy to You offering through the webinars but down the track we can definitely see that there will hopefully be opportunities to do face-to-face sessions and connect coaches at the AFL and community level together. There’s a few ideas but we’re still in the early stages at the moment and trying to get it out there as much as we can.

You can learn more about Footy to You and sign up to their coaching webinars here