How Simon Goosey Is Tackling The “New Coach” Blues at the Frankston Dolphins in the VFL!
SUMMARY: Every coach at one time or another has gone through it, almost like a right of passage. I’m talking about the difficult task of coaching a new team for the first time. So what do you do in this situation? Where do you start and how do you go about achieving your objectives? We asked Simon Goosey, new coach of the Frankston Dolphins how he’s going about it in the VFL. Here’s what he had to say. Includes valuable planning tips for coaches at all levels and experience.
Picture this! It’s your first day as head coach of a new club. Your new team finished second bottom on the ladder last season. Your club is not as financially wealthy as some of the more successful clubs in your league. And on your first day of the job, you hear a rumour that a number of your players are on the verge of leaving your club.What do you do next?
That’s the situation facing goal kicking great Simon Goosey. Who after serving as an assistant to the great Gary Ayres at the Port Melbourne Football Club (VFL), working with Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs in the AFL and achieving considerable success at Mornington Football Club as a senior coach, has taken on the role as head coach of the Frankston Dolphins (VFL) for the first time this year.
As you know, coaching a new team for the first time can be a difficult task for any coach, regardless of who you are and what team you coach.
Thankfully, as a valued friend of Coach AFL and great supporter of grass roots football, Simon has been willing to give us a rare insight into what he’s doing at the Frankston Dolphins, so coaches everywhere can learn from his experience.
All coaches, regardless of what level, will take home some very valuable lessons from Simon in planning for their up-coming seasons.
Here’s how Simon has tackled the job in front of him.
# 1 – An Environmental Scan
When Simon first started at Frankston, he had a big job ahead of him, as all coaches in the VFL invariably do.
Where did he start?
Well Simon started his new role by conducting an environmental scan to assess how the club stood when he first took over. This crucial first step served as an important foundation for the rest of his planning for the season.
Simon told us, “One of the things I did during the interview process was to ensure the club had a business plan, which the club did, and without going into too many details with what the club put forward, I was very impressed and confident with the future of the club.”
From there, Simon conducted a review of Frankston’s football department, covering the main areas of:
- coaching staff,
- playing group,
- training programs, and
- facilities and equipment.
Simon found a number of positives at the club, however as with all reviews, he also found a number of issues that he thought needed addressing. He noted these issues down and devised a plan and a timeline to attend to each one.
# 2 –The Coaching Staff
The first thing Simon addressed was the coaching staff. In this case, Simon put the people in place he thought would compliment his coaching and help get the best out of the playing group.
When put on the spot for more information, Simon told us these were the things he considered important when putting together your coaching list:
- Vision – According to Simon, it’s important that your assistants know what direction you want to take the club in and that they are willing to follow. This is important because you need to be sure they will implement the programs you put in place properly.
- Different Knowledge Sets – Simon recommends against picking a group of assistants who are all the same. Each one must come from different backgrounds with different strengths and knowledge sets. Each one needs to be able to compliment the coaching group as a whole, as well challenge you and each other to greater heights, along with the playing list.
- Chemistry – As Simon pointed out, around 80% of new coaches bring their own people into their coaching group and Simon was no different in this regard. Simon feels this is important because everyone knows how the each other works so the group can hit the ground running faster, particularly when you are first staring out.
In Simon’s case, he appointed 3 new assistants at the club, a new reserves coach and a new fitness staff member after his review.
# 3 – The Playing List
The next part of Simon’s plan was to deal with the playing group. After speaking to Simon, we noticed that Simon dealt with this in five main areas.
Last Seasons Players
As we already mentioned, when Simon first started, he had heard rumours that their club could be losing certain players from last season, so he made contacting the players a priority.
Simon actually made contact with all of the club’s players and sent a strong message about what he was setting out to achieve at the club, and how important they were as players to the Dolphins.
According to Simon, “I tried to get that done fairly quickly so we could know exactly where we were at with the list. I emphasised that the one thing I wanted were players that want to be part of a great club. And I was very impressed with the players that committed, and who were committed to our team’s success.”
“Sure, we lost quite a few senior players, but the one thing I know is you can’t get too caught up in things you have no control over. I realised I would be better off putting energy into what we had.”
Once Simon finished speaking with last year’s players, his next step was to work with the new players that had just arrived at the club. As Simon explains, “A lot of these players carry no reputations, but are a group of young committed men that want to be part of something special. The thing that we have to offer here is a great area on the Peninsula and surrounds to draw from and the thing that we offer is a chance to be apart of a great club and a great competition. With an influx of TAC Cup kids and locals, I’m very confident in the direction we are heading, and one thing I don’t want be doing is putting limitations on what we can achieve this year.”
The next step in Simon’s plan was to strategically recruit certain types of players to compliment his existing squad.
As you probably realise, recruiting is an area that every club continually works at, no matter what the level. But what separates Simon’s recruiting strategy from many others is the way they have gone about it.
In Simon’s own words, “The problem with many clubs is that they will go out and recruit just about anybody, without looking at things such as what the club needs, the character of the player or what the player will bring to the club. With our recruiting plan however, we identified certain types of players and player qualities we specifically wanted to complement our existing squad, and then focussed our recruiting around these criteria.”
Culture and Leadership
Simon stressed that having the right culture and leadership at Frankston was extremely important to their team’s long-term chances of success.
To start with, Simon told us it was important for all players to have the right character – now more than ever. This means players who have good personal values, who are good citizens, and who are there for the right reasons to take the club forward.
Simon is now in the process of establishing a leadership group and determining the club’s values in an effort to create a winning culture. Here is what they will be doing.
- The coaching group will be sitting down with the playing group and together, they will be discussing what will be required to play in their team and the standard they need to set to succeed in the competition.
- From this discussion, the playing group, in consultation with the coaches, will determine the club’s values and cultural beliefs… and what they want to stand for as a club!
- The players (in consultation with the coaches) will then vote in the club’s leadership group. This group won’t necessarily be the team’s best players, but rather the players who epitomize their team’s values and beliefs best.
- The playing group will then take ownership of these standards and will be driven by the leadership group to achieve them.
One of the things that separates Frankston from others in the VFL is that they are not affiliated with any AFL clubs – a fact Simon has taken a positive approach with.
As Simon explains, “One thing I’m proud of is that we chose to be a stand-alone club, providing 22 opportunities for our squad to play senior football each weekend, compared to an affiliated club who some weeks may only have 6 spots up for grabs, with the rest being taken up with AFL listed players.”
Frankston are already affiliated with the Dandenong Stingrays and the first part of Simon’s strategy was to build on and continue the strong relationship they have with them.
The second part of Simon’s strategy was to identify local leagues that Frankston can form strong relationships with, and who they might be able to draw players from in the future. His vision was for young players across their local Mornington Peninsular area to dream and strive to one day play for Frankston, not just their local club or the AFL.
As a side note, what really impressed us here about Simon was that the motivation for these partnerships wasn’t just about getting more players for Frankston. As Simon stressed to us, “The reason for this [these partnerships] is to give youngsters from down this way [the Mornington Peninsular and Dandenong Stingrays] an opportunity to play in a great competition and another genuine pathway to be drafted into the AFL.”
# 4 – The Training Program
One of Simon’s strengths is that prior to taking on the Frankston role, he had already worked with great coaches like Rodney Eade (conducting opposition analysis for the Western Bulldogs), Damien Hardwick (as a specialist goal kicking coach with Hawthorn) and Gary Ayres (as his assistant at Port Melbourne) – to name just a few.
This has exposed him to some of the cutting edge training programs at these clubs and Simon already had a good idea about what programs he wanted to bring to Frankston and why.
Having said this, Simon still had to adapt these programs to his playing group’s own unique strengths, weaknesses and needs.
In this case, Simon told us that Frankston are a relatively young group so he has accordingly placed an added emphasis on game-sense drills. He has taken this approach to a) improve his young players’ education on what to do in real game situations, and b) to also educate his players on his own philosophies and how he wants the team to play as a whole.
As Simon explains, “With young players, it’s important not to place any restrictions on where they can go as footballers, because with the right training programs in place, it’s amazing how quick they can develop. So we’ve been doing a lot of education with our training and also I think it’s important that with a young group we bring them up to speed very quickly with the physical side of the game. So far I’ve been very impressed with the way we are coming along and the improvement in the group since we started back in the 1st week in November.”
As we have mentioned, Simon is proud of the fact that Frankston has chosen to be a standalone club so they can give youngsters from their area the opportunity to play in the VFL and another pathway to be drafted into the AFL.
With that in mind, Simon would love to see Football Victoria working harder with the stand alone clubs and to maybe have one or two more stand alone clubs in different areas to offer Victoria’s young talent further development and AFL opportunities.
In Simon’s words, “How it is at the moment, we seem to lose quite a few [young players in the VFL] to local and interstate clubs. It’s important for players to see that there is a pathway for them right here at home if they are prepared to put in the hard work.”
As for Frankston, Simon remains positive about its future prospects and encourages all of our coaches to do the same.
“As far as us as a club goes, if you keep on talking about problems and financial restraints you portray a negative image of your club, so for me it’s all about looking and moving forward”.
“One thing we won’t be doing at Frankston is looking in the revision mirror. It takes a bit of time to change the image and the perception of a club, but if you’ve got the right values and beliefs in place, you will have a club everyone will look up to and be proud of and want to model themselves on. That is something I’m hell bent on doing with the mighty Dolphins.”
With football, many clubs make the mistake of having a short sighted vision for success. Clubs can fall into the this trap in many different ways, such as providing state of the art facilities without the coaching plan to back it up… recruiting “any old gun” to their club, instead of the one that meets their needs… trying to buy premiership… and so the list goes on.
On the other hand, strong and successful clubs are almost always the result of effective long term planning. In particular, great development programs focussing on developing long-term players will reward a club for a sustained period, rather than a short sighted view of immediate success.
With the right planning behind you and a bit of elbow grease along the way, your club will hopefully increase their chances of success – the kind we all hope for Simon and his proud club at the mighty Frankston Dolphins.