opinion

Caitlin Bassett: West Coast Eagles must pick a coach that makes young players feel supported

Caitlin Bassett
The West Australian
The Eagles must find someone to uplift their young brigade.
The Eagles must find someone to uplift their young brigade. Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

Once a coach has lost the support of the playing group, it is hard for them to survive.

West Coast officially parted ways with premiership coach Adam Simpson today in a move many feel was a year too late.

The senior coach of an AFL club is a prestigious title and one which is well-paid, but extremely stressful.

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When the team fails to perform the buck stops with the coach. They are the ones who have to front up and explain where it all went wrong and how to fix it.

The West Australian revealed late last week Simpson had lost the backing of multiple Eagles players.

A head coach has so much yet so little control. They direct the game plan and assign roles to the team, but ultimately once the game has started all they can do is watch from the sideline, unable to physically go out and lead the way.

Being so invested in the outcome but not having control over so many individual performances and emotions would have to be the hardest job in sport.

Adam Simpson talks with Harley Reid on the bench.
Adam Simpson talks with Harley Reid on the bench. Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

It takes a special kind of person to succeed in the role and a crucial part of that is the ability to build relationships across a range of stakeholder groups to foster trust and respect.

Actual coaching makes up such a small percentage of the job and the role requires knowledge of multiple cogs within the organisation which all ultimately affect the team.

The majority of the job is centred around people management, with 40-plus individual players and their unique personalities, motivations and experiences.

A good coach must find a way to bring them all together and get them moving in the same direction.

The best coaches have a knack of finding ways to connect with all stakeholders — players, high-performance staff, senior executives and directors — at the club.

It takes time to build trust, but it can be lost very quickly.

The best coaches I ever played under made a point of understanding and developing me as a person as well as an athlete.

They fostered an environment where players could be challenged to grow while being supported.

Let’s think about West Coast’s first-year sensation Harley Reid. This kid will field offers from every club in the country across the next few years and the Eagles must put a high price on creating an environment where he feels comfortable and supported.

That starts with the coach.

Coaches who win premierships find ways to inspire and challenge players in different ways every week. Craig McRae and Damien Hardwick won flags by creating unique themes and using different measures to lift players each week.

Fans attend Eagles training on Tuesday.
Fans attend Eagles training on Tuesday. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

Let’s not forget sport is a business and to thrive it needs support from sponsors and fans, which is generated by producing an entertaining product that can be beamed across the country.

The Eagles know that all too well, they are one of the biggest and richest clubs in the land.

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