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From Professional Athlete to Premier League Coach: Q&A with Nicole Begg

Nicole Begg first made her debut in Canberra United at just age 16 in 2008. Since then Begg has made quite the name for herself as the lethal left wingback for the women’s team. In 2016 she retired from football and took two years off from the sport to travel and adjust into her full-time job in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. This year, Begg will be back with the team taking on a different role. She has taken the reigns of Assistant Coach at Canberra Olympic, the club she played for when she wasn’t in the professional league and hopes that with her expertise she will make a positive contribution to the club.

Nicole Begg, Photo taken by Jodie Kirkness.

Q. What is your football history?

A. I only started playing football when I was 12 so it’s a pretty short history. I started with Canberra United when I was 16 in their first season of the W-League in 2008 and I was driving from my home in Dubbo for the first 2 seasons.

When I moved to Canberra I started with the ACT Academy Squad and then when that folded, kicked off with Canberra Olympic playing in the first season of their women’ league, the first time Canberra Olympic had a women’s team, and also playing in the under 18’s, 20’s men’s premier league side across a three or four year period.

So, I’ve kinda been involved in Canberra Olympic for a good four or five years now and since retiring football this is my first experience back again since 2016.

Q. What’s it like going from playing at a professional level to coaching at a premier league one?

A. I guess it’s a bit hard to compare the two scenes immediately only because I had two years off in between and completely away from football.

It’s hard making sure you strike a proper balance in premier league football compared to with what your expectations are for time commitments.

It’s about how hard people want to go at training and at games because at the end of the day no one is getting paid, you’re still only playing for the love of the game as much as wanting to push yourself.

It’s not like there’s an expectation that you’re a professional athlete and you know you should be doing this full time and all that type of stuff.

But, obviously, people are still playing because they want to get something out of it. Finding the balance is challenging at times.

So, I kind of really enjoys being able to take a step back and get more involved at a community level as a coach and feel like I’m being part of something that’s being built from the ground up.

Nicole Begg, Andrew Woodman and Canberra Olympic First Grade Bench- Photo take by Jodie Kirkness

Q. What made you decide to stop playing and come across to coaching instead?

A. I’ve been involved in football for a long time, and it was my whole life, but at some point I just kind of realised that I wasn’t enjoying being involved in football anymore and I needed to take a break.

I’d also finished my university degree and was in a position where I could get full-time work, so it was a challenge trying to fit both in. At the end of the day, after having a couple of years of travelling, I felt like it was time to give back a bit more and get involved again and that feeling that I wanted to be involved in a team again so that’s why I’m back and coaching.

Q. Would you ever come back to play?

A. I enjoyed playing in the premier league team last time I was there, so I haven’t got an issue playing in the premier league, it’s just I feel like I can contribute more as an assistant coach, to begin with, and I wanted to try that out. But yeah I would probably consider playing again at some point when I felt more comfortable and feel like I was ready to play again. I’m definitely still super competitive so there’s no issue there.

Q. What do you hope to bring to Canberra Olympic/what do you hope to achieve with the girls this season?

A. It was really convenient when Andrew, the head coach of the women’s Canberra Olympic team, came on board as well.

The main thing I want to give is an experience of building a club culture that’s going to last hopefully for generations of players, from juniors up and for a long time. I think that’s an important element of football that we forget sometimes, that you’re playing a team sport for a reason and that connection with people is important in peoples lives.

I wanted to be involved in creating a platform that meant something to people and got people excited about the sport and being active in general as well.

So, I think Andrew and the club are both in that same position, where they really want to drive that kind of team culture and that’s what I’m hoping to get some experience in doing.

Having experience at the higher level I can definitely bring some technical knowledge and thoughts on how to play the game as well.

Defending is definitely my wheelhouse. The basics and principals of defending are pretty simple but less thought of at the moment. I’m hoping to add that to the coaching repertoire, and build off what Andrews knowledge is, and give individualised feedback where necessary but help the system as a whole work well together.

I can bring my experience from playing professionally, and tricks of the trade that you pick up as a player, which I think will be beneficial to pass on as the season progresses!

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