In our final edition of Coach the Coach for 2021, we caught up with Commonwealth Bank Matildas Assistant Coach Mel Andreatta to chat about the importance of mentoring at all levels of the game.
Andreatta began coaching in the A-League Women’s competition in 2012 as an Assistant to Jeff Hopkins at Brisbane Roar, an opportunity she describes as “her launchpad” into coaching at the elite level.
Under Andreatta’s guidance, the Roar secured the 2018 A-League Women Premiership. Her former Assistant, Garrath McPherson, has since taken over as Head Coach of the Brisbane Roar Women.
Andreatta is currently working alongside Matildas Head Coach Tony Gustavsson to prepare the national team for the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
How would you describe your career progression and how mentors have played a role in your development as a coach?
Mentors have played a significant role in my growth as a person, coach and leader.
My career progression has involved a lot of hard work, inner drive, tough choices, passion, and good people.
My first opportunity in high-performance football was with the Brisbane Roar when Jeff Hopkins was the head coach.
After we got to know each other at the Youth National Titles that year, he gave me the opportunity to come into the environment for the upcoming W-League season in 2012.
Have any particular mentors guided you throughout the different stages of your coaching career?
This is a tough question because I feel fortunate to have had so many good mentors who have guided me throughout my career, and it feels a little unfair to only point out a few.
What I will say is that all these mentors have shared some important qualities which have helped to unleash my potential as a coach and fuelled my passion to contribute even more to the game.
The top qualities all my mentors have shared are:
(a) an enthusiasm to share their expertise;
(b) being good listeners; and
(c) an ability to provide constructive feedback.
Throughout my career, I have been mentored by so many good female and male coaches, leaders and administrators in the game.
Do you think it’s important to have mentors even as you progress to higher levels of coaching?
I believe we can always improve and get better at coaching and leading, so finding ways and making time to develop at any level of our careers is incredibly important.
Mentors have been very helpful to me; whether in football, education or in my personal life. Their experience and knowledge have helped me to deepen my understanding of the game and how I want my teams to play.
Even now, I feel as I have a non-judgemental and honest sounding board for me when things might be getting tough, or I just want to talk through another tactical approach or coaching method.
With some of my longstanding mentors, it’s more of a two-way street – we both give and take from the connection and gain as much from it as the other person does.
What have you learned from working alongside coaches such as Tony Gustavsson at the national team level?
Working alongside a coach with the experience and expertise of Tony for the past 11 months has been exceptional.
The insights into what it takes technically, tactically, physically and mentally to win an Olympic Gold Medal or lift a World Cup trophy are some of the key learnings that I have taken away so far.
Working with him and our team to achieve a historic result at the Tokyo Olympics are lessons I will never forget – the intricate details to plan, prepare, conduct and evaluate our performances (both as a staff and players) have been taken to another level.
I am loving the journey we are on with this team!
Have you had any opportunities throughout your career to mentor younger coaches?
I have had many opportunities to mentor coaches throughout my career – coaches who are younger, older, new to the game or with many years of experience in the game and from all different levels.
I love working together with people to unleash their potential or support their goals. For me, there is so much to give and gain in a good mentor/mentee relationship.
How do you think coach mentoring can provide benefits for both mentor and mentee?
The benefits for both mentor and the mentee are huge, in my opinion. I have gained exposure to new and different perspectives and have grown my personal and professional network in football but also in the broader sporting system.
As a younger coach, mentors helped me to gain more self-awareness and strengthen my communication skills.
I have always been very driven, but I think when you have a really open and honest mentor/mentee relationship, you become better at self-reflecting and really wanting to challenge the way you do things.
This is not to always change what you do, but to be sure that what you do is being done the right way, at the right time, for the right reason to help get the best of your people and teams.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?
For me, it’s never been about the words that my mentors have spoken, rather it has been their actions that have had the most lasting impact or influence on me.
Those little things that all these influential people have done with me, for me or beside me to encourage me to pursue my dreams.
It’s getting a text, call or voicemail out of the blue to see how I am going, or listening intently when I can’t find the words to express how I am feeling about something or a challenge I am facing. It’s helping me to see that often the answers I look for I already know and reminding me of the courage I have to make difficult decisions.
They also have the ability to pull me back or give me a push in the right direction when I need it, or to give me their time and patience when I’m asking another question or when my curiosity is ignited.
Not judging me or just sharing a laugh – it’s all those small actions (and so many others) that mentors have done and do for me that I am grateful for.
I will be the coach and leader I aspire to be, in large part, because of these people and their experiences and knowledge shared with me.
I just hope one day I can be half the mentor to others that my mentors have been to me.