GIANTS midfielder Nicola Barr had the opportunity to travel and coach some teams in Europe during a three-month holiday in the middle of 2019. The 2016 AFL Women's number one draft pick enjoyed the opportunity to work with a number of different teams across Europe and has encouraged more AFLW and AFL players to get involved during their own travels.
I finished studying my medical science degree a year and a half ago now, and at the end of my studies I had always planned to do a bit of travel.
I’d already booked my flights to Europe and had my itinerary ready to go when I met with Oliver Howard, the chairman of AFL Europe, for a coffee in Sydney prior to jetting off in May last year.
Ollie asked me whether I’d be keen to do some coaching and some ambassador-type work with AFL Europe while I was over there.
At the start I was pretty keen just to enjoy my holiday, but then I realised how cool the experience would be and I decided to take him up on his offer.
Wherever I went in my three months overseas, I stayed in contact with AFL Europe General Manager, Ryan Davey, and he was able to organise the sessions with the various teams for me.
Having had some coaching experience prior to my trip, I felt like it was a good opportunity to develop my coaching and try to help grow the game – especially the women’s game – overseas.
I also saw it as a great way of moving around and meeting a lot of people, which I love doing.
I lived overseas until I was 14, so I’m used to moving around a lot.
I was over in Europe for about three months and I probably saw a team once a week or once a fortnight. We would tee up a session with Ryan, depending on where I was travelling to, and then I would have the opportunity to take training and get to know the people there.
The first session that I took was in Paris and it just so happened that the whole training session I took was in French.
I had a French cousin, who lives in Paris, come along with me so that was helpful when trying to overcome that language barrier.
It was amazing to see how passionate those people are about the game. I had no idea that so many native people were playing the game as well as the expats that have taken up the game in their travels, so that was a really pleasant surprise.
Even when I visited places like Croatia, Sweden and Denmark, they were purely communicating in their local language so I was lucky that someone was there to translate for me most of the time!
I ended up attending the European Cup in Sweden in early July, which is where a lot of the teams gathered to pit themselves against other countries, so I was able to meet a lot of people there and forge some really good relationships.
I’m really keen to go back, hopefully later this year, and visit some regions I didn’t get to last time. The German girls are great footballers so I’d love to visit there!
Coaching is something I really enjoy, however I’m not 100 per cent set on it as a career. I’ve been doing lots of different things outside of football, including teaching pilates and doing some work with AFLPA sponsor Lululemon.
But I realise there’s a real opportunity for more females to come through that coaching pathway and I’m trying to learn as much as I can from people like (GIANTS teammate and captain) Alicia Eva, who is doing some coaching with the men’s GIANTS’ program, so she’s a great mentor to have.
I helped coach the girls’ under 18 NSW/ACT team with her a couple of years ago now and found that to be invaluable in my development.
It’s definitely something I’m looking to grow more in and if I can get some experience coaching in Europe and coaching here as well that would be great as I work out exactly what I want to do when I finish playing.