Tony Gustavsson: "I’m coaching people first, players second"

Starting a new job is never easy, much less in the middle of a pandemic when your colleagues are spread out across the globe.

But this is the situation new Westfield Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson finds himself in.

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It is a challenge he is embracing with both hands and his approach is an insight into the man who is set to lead the national team through one of busiest, most exciting periods in its history so far.

“For me, as a coach, my values are that I'm coaching people first and foremost. And then secondly, I coach players.” Gustavsson told the Westfield Matildas podcast.

The last two weeks have seen the Swede talk to staff, players, and Football Australia representatives, slowly getting to know the people with whom he’ll be working for the next four years. That has involved asking lots of questions and answering just as many.

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“There's different ways of doing that, obviously. And right now, I'm in a process where in order to build that structure, I need to get to learn the environment and the culture and the history of the team. I have to learn about the people around the team.”

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Assistant Coach Melissa Andreatta is part of the dedicated Westfield Matildas Support Staff

“And in order to create structure, I need to get to know the staff and their qualities, because me personally, this is not a one man show. This is not me, this is not about Tony and Tony's team. This is about the Matildas.”

So far, Gustavsson has been impressed with what is already in place.

“Some of the things are already world class, world class, and those structures we should keep.”

“One of the questions that I have addressed is what do we keep doing? What do we potentially stop doing, and what do we add and start doing to create the structures and create a system where the players can thrive under and feel that they get better?”

“And I've actually spoken already now with the Matildas that we have a lot of the tools in the tool bag already. That is not me created, it's the place.”

“What we are going to focus on moving forward is how and when to use the tools [we already have] correctly in order to win the game.”

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It’s a three-word phrase the Westfield Matildas family will already be familiar with during Gustavsson’s short time in charge. But there is more to this simple catchphrase. One day better simplifies an overarching message.

“You can always create a structure where if the team feels that we are passionate about getting better, and getting better is also connected to winning, then I also think there's a double reason to our passion for getting better.  It feels good to get better and it feels good to improve.” Gustavsson said. 

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“If a player want to get better at crosses, or sprints or heading or tackles or they can just feel the feel of success when they step off the field and felt you know, I learned something today, I got better.

I don't think it's a conflict between that mindset and wanting to win. You know, so it's not development over winning. It's development to win.”

One element of development and winning going hand in hand is working with what we already have and bettering that. For Gustavsson, that means being flexible and adaptable with tactics to suit the players at his disposal.

“I'm not one of those coaches that come with "Tony's playbook" and say, if a player fits my playbook they play if they don't, they don't play.

[WATCH: Exclusive Supporters Zoom with Tony Gustavsson]

"I've been around the game for so long that I know it at the national team level, I need to look at what qualities do I have? And how can I make best use out of those qualities to make sure I get the right players in the right positions with the right mindset.

“Once that's in place, then we can start looking into all the details in the margins of the game and just add those and that's going to be a never ending journey, right? You can always get better.”