Is it Time to go to 9v9 in Australian Football Juniors and Youth? Yes!!! But, It'll be Hard, Part 1

Note: The following large series of 'Blog' posts are inspired by the criticism I earned from a president of a large, wealthy nation's AFL movement, who is a member of 'Grassroots Coaching and Consulting Group', started by me.  It features inspiring teachers from all around the world.  He is presently barred from the group for a week.  Not because of a differing opinion, but because he refused to even read the research that I provided...  Below is the link to the group which features practitioners and researchers from all sports!!!   Feel free to join! 


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My previous post on the cultural heritage of, and including, my reflections on 'lines' and 'lane-work' in Australian football coaching was shared, liked and commented on, by many great teachers within the AFL community on LinkedIn.  However, in a sharing and learning group I host called 'Grassroots Coaching and Consulting', whilst it also attracted strong support, it also received the only dissent from the Head of AFL, in one of the corporsation's most prized outposts:

Dissenter: Lots of criticism in here, not much by way of tangible solutions.

Gunny: Well, I've provided plenty before this... (In any case) I'm not going to provide any real solutions because 'cultural' change systemic is needed which requires a flipped funding model and a revolution. It won't happen but...

Now before I begin this series, we must consider context fellow learners:

1) I am not picking on Australian football. All of the major sports in Australia are operating through much cultural 'mythology' that goes against current research.

2) I am a teacher and thus an advocate for social justice.  As such, I ask lots of question around assumptions and behaviours as a critical learner.

3) The above (point '2'), is amplified by ten fold within me when compared to the passion of most teachers because of my unique life journey.  However, I, and many of my peers recognise that these experiences were the making of my abilities to connect with young people.  As such, I am very clear and open about my biases in beliefs that sport and PE can save lives, if, done well.  Thus, as an educator, I fight for it to be done better... 

Provocation peers: Do you even know why you coach the way you do???  Kirk (1998), or, Moy and Renshaw (2009), suggest drills come from the military.  PE adopted this in places like Australia, the USA and UK which influenced sport. 

However, over many years I have had students at one university from Norway.  They have never been taught this way.  In fact, I have to teach teach them closed drills and explain it all so they understand the small sided games or other approaches we try to teach them as 'alternatives'.  Now, I'm just working out technology this year, but in future, I might just show them the below contrasting 'drills'.

Provocation peers: Why have the other country's methods, or indeed Australia's Game Sense (Den Duyn, 1997) not taken off in countries like Australia.  Well, Julian North and friends (2016) plus many other researchers (Chris Cushion or Wade Gilbert are favourites of mine) suggest that any intervention or change in coaching, firstly, not only requires greater support and resources, but secondly, also needs sports or nations to understand contexts. 

For example, Lawrie Woodman, who ran AFL coaching up until this year, sent me a document on 'grids' (not lines), that was used to educate PE teachers in Australian football at the University of Western Australia in 1977.  Email me or Lawrie (can be found on Twitter or LinkedIn) for a copy, because it's an amazing tool for today's coaches in the sport!!! 

Now, as a teacher, but a biased rugby league man, I wonder why it wasn't taken up (before TGfU, or, Game Sense), and ponder, if it's because: Australian football is a Victorian game... because it was too hard to control chaos... or, coaches were and still are time poor... etc??? 

At least I ask the questions.  Unfortunately, Gunn and Pill (2017) discovered either way, that AFL coaches (even experienced ones) do not reflect deeply enough before planning.  Email me again if you'd like to see an example of my planning with the thoughts and questions that must happen beforehand.

Speaking of rugby league, please see the Brisbane Broncos ladies join my kids and cousins for a bit of Touch Footy.  Stuff like this, is certainly why I love women's sports so much!!!

In closing today (I did try to keep it short), the reason I showed this footage is because it shows us how us 'older' folk learnt in the old days.  Great Australian football coach, Denis Pagan (2008) once pondered if the above type of environment was why Indigenous players are so good = making decisions, exploring etc... 

As for 9v9... This communication below, demonstrates how I feel.  I believe it's a massive step in the right direction (sent and kindly agreed with bya 'top brass' member of AFL corp).  It was a 'parting gift' before I head back to the 'rugger codes', but, I stress that it must happen and will too! 

"… My experience as a PE teacher who actually gets kids properly moving knows that 9v9 at juniors will quieten down the angst and brutality of players and adults. The kids will be too stuffed... The adults will just be trying to keep up with the action... (As well)… Your coaching woes and umpiring woes will be lessened because both will be far easier.  The kids will almost 'ref' themselves."

A Gunny anecdote is now needed to illustrate this.  It  features me and a Level II, U/14 coach and former great player (of some repute) who asked me how to improve his training...

Gunny: Well you need small sided games mate.  In fact the whole game of AFL from U/12 boys etc up, needs smaller fields and fewer players.

Coach: I get it Gunny... Everybody gets a prize hey? (as he walks off and doesn't turn back...)

Gunny: But... I'm talking about more touches of the ball!!!

To be continued...

BUT: (look up Pill or Reynolds where this has been done in Australian footy)...

Don't forget PD at the PUB, September 13 Sandgate, Queensland where this will be explored with the great Kelvin Giles.  Email me!

Sponsored by Silver Donator: 'CrossFit 4017' with proceeds going to 'Heart of Australia'

Yours in learning,


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Thanks Bel and amazing team!!!

Thanks Bel and amazing team!!!