Posted in Front Page News

By Ben Pollard

Two SMJFL coaches have been recognised as being among Victoria’s finest.

Hayley Lyons (St Peters) and Brad Berry (St Bedes/Mentone) were honoured for their coaching efforts at the Victorian Australian Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Awards on Friday night at the MCG.

Hayley was nominated for Victorian Female Coach of the Year and Brad was nominated for Victorian Junior Coach of the Year. While Hayley and Brad didn’t win their respective awards, they were privileged to be one of just four finalists in each division.

Hayley Lyons, 16, was nominated for Victorian Female Coach of the Year in just her first season as a head coach, leading the St Peters Under 14 girls to a premiership.

Hayley enjoyed seeing the girls improve as the season progressed and says the year was a learning experience for her as much as it was for her players.

“I learnt that you need to address each player individually,” she says. “Each player has their own needs and they learn differently to each other.”

Hayley also thinks the girls benefited from being able to relate to a younger female coach and says her coaching style was all about making them feel at ease.

“I like to have a bit of fun with the girls at the beginning and make things comfortable for them, because football’s new to them,” she says. “I’m serious, but I can take a joke.”

… How serious?

“I try to be scary but I’m really not.”

As for the nomination, Hayley was pleasantly surprised.

“It was my first time coaching, so I didn’t in a million years expect that,” she says.

“It means a lot, because I didn’t do it to get recognised or anything. I honestly just did it for the girls so they could have a team and be able to play.”

Brad Berry has been involved in senior or junior coaching at St Bedes/Mentone since 1995. His junior coaching experience at the club has been tied to the progress of his son Bailey through the Auskick program and into the SMJFL.

Brad coached Bailey’s team to an Under 11 premiership in 2011 and to an Under 12 grand final this season.

But his main message to his son and players is not one of success.

“We had a little bit of luck – we got a tin cup in 2011 and we were runners-up this year – but I’m more about the holistic development you see,” he says.

“That’s been one of the biggest enjoyment factors you take out of junior footy as compared to senior footy.”

Brad’s coaching philosophy is all about developing his players by taking a team-first approach.

“I’ve made it a bit of a theme over the last two years,” he says.

“It’s been all-encompassing, regardless of shape, size, skill level and ability.”

Brad says he was honoured by his nomination and that it was “an enormous thrill”, but is already focused on representing the coaches of the inner southern region.

“It’s still sinking in that you’re looked upon as a role model,” he says. “There’s a motivation to keep doing the same for next year and keep raising the bar, not just for myself but for the club and the SMJFL.”