Green to the game of Australian Rules Football until earlier this year, Murdoch University student Natasha Valentine is now teaching young girls from Mandurah the art of kicking a football.
The third year double degree Education and Sports Science student was offered the opportunity to teach the Halls Head girls’ team in the Auskick program earlier this year as part of her Sports Practicum unit.
“I was quite nervous to begin coaching the girls as I had only learnt earlier this year how to play AFL. I'm English and moved over five years ago and hadn't watched an AFL game,” she said.
Natasha said now that the nerves are gone, she loves coaching the girls who range from ages three to 13.
“I see improvement in the girls weekly, which reinforces that I have found my vocation. Some girls who winced when the ball came near them are now running and marking the balls,” she said.
“This year Halls Head have organised an all-girls Auskick team which allows the girls to play against their own strengths and is a great step forward for girls’ football. Usually young girls who are interested in AFL have to join up to an Auskick where the team majority is male.”
Natasha said the placement has been invaluable.
“This placement has been highly valuable to my learning and understanding of AFL in the community and the principles of coaching young children. The majority of my placements throughout my course have been at high schools so coaching primary school girls has taught me different mechanisms that I wouldn't have picked up anywhere else.”
Education lecturer Greg Thompson said a key feature of the Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Sport Science degree at Murdoch is the commitment to improve links between schools and sporting associations.
“All third year Health and Physical Education students such as Natasha undertake a coaching placement in the community with a junior sporting team. This placement is the culmination of the practical HPE units they have undertaken and mirrors much of their co-curricular role in schools,” he said.
“Parents, athletes and officials have been impressed with the dedication, passion and commitment shown by all Murdoch students.”