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South Melbourne Districts Football Club (SMDFC) player and coach Ryan McKenzie has been recognised as the Monash University Leader of the Month for June.

Ryan, 16, has played for SMDFC since Under 9s, and took up the role of coach for the Under 8 White team this year. He is the first dual player-coach at the club.

Ryan said he saw coaching as an exciting opportunity.

“I got into the coaching role through one of the guys at the club, Ben McGee. The Under 8s didn’t have a spot at the time,” he said.

“They thought that I’d be a good person for the job, and also I saw the job as a great chance to give back to the club, because I’ve had some very good coaches over the years.”

Ryan said he was very excited to be named the Monash University Leader of the Month for June.

“You see a lot of great people getting the nomination.”

SMDFC player and U8s coach Ryan McKenzie

Ryan said there’s many ways that coaches can show leadership.

“I feel there’s more leadership to knowing your players, because each player is different, and the quicker you know your players and their individual strengths and weaknesses, you become a better coach,” said Ryan.

“You become a role model to the kids themselves. Especially with the Under 8s, how they’re super young and this is their first year of football.”

Ryan said coaching has not only been a fun experience, but an experience he can learn from.

“Its great fun… It even helps with your own gameplay and your own skills,” he said. “I’d definitely encourage [others] to get involved.”

“I think football is a great example of what you put in, you’re gonna get out,” said Ryan. “I’ve seen over the past couple of years that people are starting to realise what a great journey football can take them on and, if they put in the effort and get to know their teammates and their skills, you can really get far with it.”

Ryan spoke of the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to take on a new challenge.

“You’ve just got to take things like this in your stride as well, when it comes to challenges.”

Ryan spoke highly of the community spirit at SMDFC.

“Its a very loyal club. A lot of people have been there and their own dads have played at South Melbourne. It has a rich history, and there’s something about playing at South Melbourne that’s pretty special, and if anyone’s played for South Melbourne they know it.”

SMDFC Committee Member Malcolm Sheil nominated Ryan for the award and spoke highly of his organisational skills and ability to inspire his team.

“The Under 8 players clearly look up to Ryan and notice everything and listen to every word,” said Mr Sheil. “Ryan is enthusiastic, friendly, warm and thoughtful, and helps the young players do their best.”

“Ryan spends time before each training session mapping and thinking of ways to engage the players. He seeks the advice of others and relates examples from his own football experience that will benefit his team. After each training session, Ryan spends time with the parents answering any questions the parents may have and provides feedback where he can foresee the individual players.”

When asked what he thinks makes a great Monash University Leader, Ryan spoke of the “ability to stand up and to be confident in yourself.”

The South Metro Junior Football League and Monash University congratulate Ryan on showing great leadership within the community.

If you would like to nominate someone at your club for the Monash University Leadership Award, you can do so here. Nominees must be under 18 years of age and be currently involved with an SMJFL club or the league.