Mini Matildas getting chance to shine

Head Coach of the ‘Mini’ Matildas Belinda Wilson shares some insight on what she expects from her young side leading in to the next few weeks.

Head Coach of the ‘Mini- Matildas Belinda Wilson shares some insight on what she expects from her young side leading in to the next few weeks. Today they gather in Canberra to begin preparation for a three match series against Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.

This series will lead them in to the U/16 Asian Championships-s next month in September where they will play China and Bahrain aiming to secure top spot so that they qualify for next years U/17-s World Cup in Costa Rica.

One of Australia's few female coaches, Wilson shares with Sally Shipard how she continues to develop her own coaching philosophy.

Being the Head Coach of the ‘Mini- Matildas, you are heading in to camp in Canberra to continue your preparations for the U/17 FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament next month in China. How are you approaching these three games against New Zealand?

What we want from these few games is to see where the squad is at. I-m also interested to see how the new players adjust that I-ve recently called in to the team. Overall it will be good to see how they apply what we have learnt during previous camps and games in the lead up to this three match international series.

The girls have not had the consistency in the coaching ranks whilst they have been together, now that you are in the fixed position of head coach are you finding they are more clear on what is expected from them?

In terms of the different coaches we have had within the squad, I have been with them since January when I was appointed as assistant coach. So I was there with Vicki (Vicki Linton) & I was there with Staj (Alen Stajcic). So I haven-t changed the style so much or the way they play. I-ve put my ‘two cents- in, but I haven-t changed too much. Being mindful that we are only together for a short amount of time. Depending upon what happens in the qualifications I will put more of my own stamp on to the squad as we go ahead and have more time together. As the head coach I have only had two camps, there is only so much you can do in such a short space of time.

It would be a matter of focusing on just how much is within your control I presume? These three games coming up, they will give you an accurate benchmark?

It will give me a clear understanding as to where we-re at, positionally, tactically, also the cohesiveness within the squad. In order to get the best out of them next month in September, these games next week will point out the finer details of what we need to focus on, this work will then continue in preparation for our next challenge in qualifying for the U/17‘s World Cup.

Any international is a wonderful thing and they are few and far between with us being so far away from the rest of the world. How important is it for us to be playing New Zealand but also exposing ourselves to other parts of the world?

I think any international is a good international. Whether it is against New Zealand, or an Asian or European counterpart. The more internationals a players gets to experience the better they will develop and grow. I also think it is important to play various countries from different parts of the world. What we've noticed more and more in the women-s game is each region is becoming slightly different. We are no longer playing the same type of football. For example s South American style exists, a European style, an Asian style. We are seeing more of this in the women-s game as in the men-s game. It is important for our own development that we play different regions so that we play against different styles.

When you say the word development. These girls you are in charge of are so young. They are all under the age of 16. How vital is it that the girls are exposed to this type of level at such a young age?

As you know, being a player, it is massive! These are key experiences that just don-t exist at the domestic level. If you want to be an international player, if you want to represent your country at the highest level, if you want to play football at the highest level. The earlier you gain exposure to this type of level, you are going to grow & develop quicker than perhaps someone who doesn-t get that opportunity.

So how are you preparing these young girls, having just spoken to one of your players, Afrikah, she is so nervous, but also very excited for what's in store.

It is important that there is not too much pressure on these players. My approach is that I have standards, & they are quite high. I don-t care if you are 15 or 25 years old, these are my standards & this is what you have to reach. But at the same time there is an element of fun. We enjoy our football. These are kids, it is about having that full environment that yes we are here to learn & develop. But at the end of the day we are here to have fun and enjoy kicking a ball. If we get a result fantastic, lets keep moving on to the next level!

Being a coach how have you gone about developing your own philosophy?

The way I coach is that I am quite serious on the pitch, as soon as I cross that line it is game-face time. When I come off I am more relaxed, more casual, I have a laugh with the team. That aspect comes across in my coaching sometimes, depending on the moment [laughs]. My standards are high, but at the same time I know how to have fun with it. Within the session itself I will have something for the players that is challenging & problem solving for them.

When you have that problem solving aspect, they must improve, which results in further enjoyment - is that right?

Exactly right. They will get enjoyment from it, which then results in myself gaining enjoyment. That-s what I keep in mind when developing the session, from start to finish.

Part of your development as a coach, is playing internationals. It is a little ironic that your first game in charge of the Brisbane Roar was against Canberra United-s Jitka Klimkova who is now in charge of the U/17 New Zealand Womens team. You consider her a friend, but obviously we will be seeing that game face feature...

It is a familiar competition between us both but on an unfamiliar stage. Jitka I first met at the 2011 World Cup in Germany. I had the privilege of talking to her a lot over the four or five weeks we were there. She was the rival at Canberra United, my first game with the Roar. Again it is the same, our team-s have to beat each other. Nothing like some healthy competition. Obviously the last game that we played here in Brisbane, the result went our way. Coaches don-t forget results like that, she will be trying to get one up on me. I will be doing the same, so it is all good.

Ahhhhh. The beauty of sport, I love it. As you said, a good dose of healthy competition.

Yes, it is all very positive!