We are delighted to welcome Maria Berry as Senior Coach for our Women’s Soccer State League 4 team. Maria brings with her a depth of experience in both playing and coaching, and has been a trailblazer in women’s football for over 40 years.
Maria has coached junior and senior teams at a range of clubs including Yarra Jets FC, Brunswick Zebras and Kensington. After playing for University of Melbourne for 10 years she went on to successfully coach the team from State League 3 to be promoted through to the Victorian Premier League, and is now honoured as a life member of the University of Melbourne Soccer Club.
Maria performed roles as National Team Head of Delegation and Team Manager to many international sports events – touring with the Matildas in the 1990’s and in her role as Liasion Manager for the gold medal winning Norway women’s football team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
As Chair of Women Onside, Maria continues to advocate to significantly improve engagement, access, opportunity and empowerment for all women involved in football. A cause that we are are all passionate about at the Darebin Falcons!
In our inaugural Coaches Spotlight blog, we asked Maria a bit about what coaching women and girls football means to her.
Why did you want to become a coach?
My playing days were clearly ending and my team needed a coach. Seemed obvious really.
How would you describe your coaching style?
I try to be enthusiastic and optimistic and spread that to the team – I would probably be more vocal with encouragement at training than on game day where I try to sit down and focus on the game, how people are going and what changes might be needed.
I like to have a simple style of play that gets the basics right as the platform for the team. That means basic “rules” that fit the level of the players – don’t take too many risks in defence and try to move forward quickly. That’s not kick and rush – it’s pass and move and take players on at the right time.
What do you enjoy most about coaching?
Two main enjoyable things: I like working with people and helping them improve as players. And I enjoy the puzzle of the game – trying to work out the best ways of developing and deploying the team and adjusting things on the spot during games.
…listen to your players whatever their age. You may not agree with them or do what they want but you need to understand them – their motivations, aspirations and their worries.
Then you can help them.
What approach do you take when your team is struggling?
Overall, I try to be analytical about their performance and mine. Are they executing the game plan? Can they? Do they want to? Is the game plan the right one? What do I need to change?
I know that being mad at the team is the least constructive thing I can do. But sometimes players also need to know to lift their game so a coach needs to be honest with them. But that’s usually best done one on one not in front of the whole team.
We are on the journey together and we need everyone on the same page and putting in to succeed.
What are your top tips for a new coach starting out?
I think the first thing is to watch lots of games of other teams and talk about them with your friends and coaching colleagues. It is much easier these days to see top women’s games, these should be the inspiration. You can watch W-League, WSL and NWSL games fairly early now.
The top teams get the basics right most of the time and a coach should be absorbing the importance of these and thinking about how to bring them to their own team. And try to get some time to watch a few local top level age group games to help set your benchmarks.
Plus definitely do the community coaching courses developed by Football Australia. They give you a great framework for coaching principles and you can build from there.