Fresh from lifting the A-League Women’s championship and premiership trophies, Australia u-23 midfielder Sarah Hunter spoke this Female Football Week about contributing to the game and how important it is to have female voices and representation at all levels.
“I think it’s something that’s becoming more seen in football is females in coaching roles,” she said.
“I’ve had some great female coaches already in my short career – obviously Leah [Blayney] and Mel [Andreatta] in the national team set up have been great. It’s great to have that pathway into coaching for girls.”
Hunter herself is contributing to female representation in the sport, not just as a player but also as a coach. She says that coaching has been an eye-opening experience for her.
“I started coaching when I came out of high school,” she explained.
“I was coaching young girls, maybe under seven, and then I went into coaching a boys team under seven or eight. That was an eye opening experience because they’re a bit crazy!
“Having boys as well it was really hard to sort of get their respect a bit more because you’re a girl but it was really rewarding.
“It’s great to take a different step with my football and see it in a different way and have a bit more respect for the tactical side and what coaches do as well.”
She explained that coaching is a great way to help her skills and understanding of the game as a player as well.
“It’s just understanding what maybe the coach is thinking so yeah, just different things,” she said.
“You see it from a different perspective, different angle and the delivery of different coaches. Maybe I’m saying okay, this is why I said that, this is why she said that. It also helps my football as well so it’s great to have that.
“It’s really interesting getting to learn how to work with people and kids as well.”
Coaches have a unique opportunity to be role models to the players that they teach. For Hunter, coaching is a way to instil positive values in children, particularly when it comes to boys seeing women in leadership positions.
“My main thing is obviously teaching young kids to just enjoy it and have the passion in the game,” she explained.
“You know, when I’m teaching young boys I try and instil that female uprising in the game. That’s really important for me, having little boys that I’m coaching and their Mums are coming up to me saying they’ve started watching Sydney FC women, starting watching the Matildas because you’re coaching them.
“That’s honestly the most rewarding part is having the next generation of not only girls but boys having that respect for the female game, and that is something that I tried to instil both for the girls and the boys.”
Hunter emphasised that it’s not just women in coaching roles that can make a difference, it’s throughout the entire framework of the game.
“Football is not just for the players, it’s for the administrators. It’s for the coaches. It’s for the media. It’s great to see females in all different roles across football, it’s really exciting,” she said.
It was a little over a fortnight ago that Hunter lifted the A-League Women championship trophy with her Sydney FC teammates in front of a record crowd for a stand-alone women’s domestic fixture in Australia.
“I’m just living the dream!” she smiled.
To do so in front of such a large, diverse crowd meant the world to Hunter.
“Seeing so many young girls at the start of the game, walking around the pitch yelling out our girls’ names, which is cool because I’m sure maybe 5 – 10 years ago they wouldn’t know anyone. So yeah, it was a pinch me moment,” she said.
“I had a young boy actually come that I coached last year. He came to the game and had a jersey of mine. That was a really crazy moment because that impacted not just the young girls but the young boys as well.
“I love seeing so many young kids have the love all of us have for this game, and it’s just growing and growing.”
That story shows the impact that having women visible as coaches and administrators can have on the next generation. For Hunter, it was really special.
“That was the first jersey with my name on it that I’d seen. Not just a family member, but someone else,” she said.
“That was a real special moment, because that’s sort of why you play football, is for young kids to look up at you and have your name on their jerseys. To be a mentor and a coach for him was really special.
“Basically what I’m trying to do is just grow the passion and love for the game.”