The winner of  the Sportsmart AFL sponsorship program, Micheal Shmerling, provides regular blog articles on his favourite topic – football …

Being only 24 and having just under 4 years of junior coaching experience, I’ve experienced the ups and the downs. In my first year as an assistant we had the under 10’s, a team that won the lightening premiership the year before which placed them in the highest grade the following year. So here we are, with a successful team playing in the highest grade of junior football. That year we lost every game during the season and only 1 win during the lightening premiership. It was a difficult year to say the least, young kids playing in a grade of football that they were clearly not ready for, but each week they tried and tried and tried. It was disappointing to see the look on their faces after a loss, we tried as coaches and they tried as footballers.

The following year we won the flag, those unhappy and sad faces were turned around, the work and the dedication these young soldiers put together each and every week had paid off. They were once again champions. With a season of defeat, the boys rallied, and together they achieved the highest glory.

My most challenging year as a coach came in 2010, a new team and a promotion to head coach. My aim as a head coach is not to win games, but to make sure that these kids have fun, enjoy their football and improve their football skills and knowledge. We had 19 signed up players, which as any football fan would know is not enough. One or 2 players out and the whole team will suffer. A year with 1 and a half wins was the end result as we struggled for numbers each week and the constant use of under 10’s and 9’s players each week. But what the shining light of the season was the devotion and improvements these boys made. The effort they put in each and every week without any negativity.

This article isn’t about my bio as a coach; it’s about never backing down, never taking a backward step in the eye of defeat and always having an inner belief that life is only what you make it. These kids, although only 10 and 11 years of age showed me as a coach and their parents that maturity is only a word unless proven different. I’ve coached 50 young footballers in 4 years and every single one of them are different. But what all of them have in common is the commitment to achieve group success, the ability to bring sportsmanship in a new light, and the dedication to each other to give it their all each and every week. In the eye of defeat, they fight together, in the wake of the sun after a game day they stand tall together, and in the world as young footballers, they are amongst the best.


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