Australia's Greatest Coaches: Sarah Brereton

Hailing from Perth, Sarah 'B' Brereton is a true student of the game and loves to experiment with new strategies, training methods and team initiatives. She injects her innovative strategic mind into the local women's scene and has been a huge influence on some of the best athletes to come out of WA.

We met Sarah half way, somewhere around Alice Springs, for a quick chat about her coaching career and philosophies. It was well worth the trip!

Sarah, thanks for taking the time to talk! Could you give us a short run down of your coaching accolades so far?

I've been lucky enough to coach in WA for four years and more recently taking on roles for the Aussie U24 women's team!

  • Kaos AUC Div 1 2016-2019, 5th-8th

  • Kaos AOUGCC 2017 and WUCC 2018, 4th and 37th

  • Perth Power 2018, 5th

  • Stingrays 2018, 3rd

  • Stingrays 2019, wait and see!

I am personally so excited to see what you've done with the 2019 Stingrays. Can't wait for that tournament to start! To take it back a few years, why did you get into coaching in the first place?

I started coaching because I felt a responsibility to bring back what I was learning through the Firetails 2016 campaign to my home club Kaos. I've kept on coaching because I love seeing the confidence gained when players work hard to improve and fulfill their potential.

I totally agree, it's such a waste of knowledge if you don't bring back the lessons that you've learned from those international campaigns. Over the years have you refined a particular coaching philosophy for yourself?

My athletes will always know that I have the highest expectations of them and the most belief in them.

These articles are also a great place to discuss the current gender imbalance in Australian Ultimate coaching. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Like most things in life - a balanced approach is best. Having an even spread of male and female coaches is important for getting the most out of our local teams, whether that be at a club or rep level.

So true, though I imagine most beginner coaches will start their career locally. Any tips for these readers?

Yes, absolutely. Here are a few pointers for anyone looking to get into coaching:

  • Start with your local community, in a setting when you are known and trusted enough to be confident in trying things out and taking occasional risks. Choose to coach teams that you share common values with.

  • Learn from other coaches. Ask to watch a training session to observe their style and strategies, ask to observe their preparation and reflections to learn from thoughts behind the actions.

  • Keep learning, especially when you think you've got the hang of it - a good coach is one with an overflowing bookshelf!

  • Say yes to opportunities, even the ones that scare you.

Yeah for sure, fortune favours the bold. Is there a favourite memory from your time coaching?

One of the Kaos players wrote in a thank you card this season "Thank you for helping me push myself - you believed in me more than I did". A comment like that reflects my coaching philosophy and is a better measure of my coaching success than any medal could ever be.

Have you ever been treated differently as a coach because of your gender?

I don't think I have, and I feel pretty confident that ultimate community is in a good place to address any that did come up.

Our community is amazing in that sense. I notice you've coached mostly women's and mixed, would you ever consider coaching a men's team?

My only experience coaching a men's team was a one-off session with the Sublime Div 2 team in 2018. I expected it to be different and wasn't sure how the athletes would respond to my coaching style so I thoroughly over-prepared. But in the end I ran the session exactly as I would have for Kaos - same drills, same strategy, same teaching tools, and the response from the athletes was equally as positive. I would be open to coaching a men's team in future - common values and a role that represents a learning opportunity for me would be the deciding factor.

Ok thanks so much Sarah, that was super insightful. Any parting words for the punters?

The Stingrays coaches are trying to share as much of our campaign as possible - the 2018 training pods are already there and the 2019 material will go up after the 2019 tournament! Be sure to check out!