VAFA COACHING A STRONG PATHWAY

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Andrew Leonard

This week former VAFA player at Old Xavs and coach of Old Brighton and Old Scotch, Dale Tapping was appointed as senior coach of Collingwood’s VFL team. 
Tapping believes that the VAFA is certainly able to provide a coaching pathway for those coaches with ambition to progress through the ranks but believed the importance of obtaining the extra coaching qualifications was significant. 
“The Level 3 High Performance coaching accreditation was what opened the doors for me, in that program I met not only Mark Neeld who invited me down to the Western Jets, but other coaches from around Australia which allowed me to absorb coaching information from many sources” said Tapping. 
Dale Tapping credits the VAFA and Old Brighton and Old Scotch in particular for giving him his first opportunity to coach. 
“Old Brighton gave me an opportunity and we won a premiership in my first year however over 14 years my coaching philosophies and techniques have changed dramatically,”said Tapping. 
Reflecting on his coaching stints Tapping was warm and open on both the highs and lows.
“After five years at Old Brighton a new challenge beckoned and Old Scotch offered me a position in 2002,” said Tapping.
“In my first year with a young list, we probably crept up on the competition a little and it was hugely satisfying to make it to a preliminary final.”
“In 2003 it was probably an opportunity missed again losing a prelim and the following year injuries curtailed our season despite a late season revival.”
The year 2005 we were ready but we missed the double chance thanks to a 1 point loss to Old Melburnians in round 18 and subsequently were knocked out of the finals by Old Xavs for a third time in four years, ” said Tapping. 
Being so near, yet still so far for Old Scotch led Tapping to take a break from the game but an invitation to do some development work at Williamstown and then the Western Jets reignited the passion. 
Tapping highlighted the difference between coaching junior TAC Cup sides and VAFA sides as catering to where football sits in the priority scale of the players. 
“Footy is a balance and for TAC Cup kids, footy is number one in their lives so in a way its easier, at an amateur club there are work commitments, relationships etc that bring footy back a bit on the priority list.” 
“This is where building relationships with players and understanding the individual is important, if a player is happy off the field, then they are generally happy on the field and hence become better at what they do,” said Tapping. 
Tapping spent three years in development and line coaching roles which allowed him to see a different side of the game. 
Each job from there has a been about the opportunity presenting itself and then a decision to pursue that job. 
As far as aspirations go Tapping said, “My attitude has always been to enjoy what I am doing, if you do that then you will be good at what you do and the next opportunity will present itself.”
When comparing the satisfaction of playing in Premierships (Prahran in the VFA in 1987 and Old Xavs in 1995-6) and coaching them (Old Brighton 1997 and Sandringham Dragons in the TAC Cup in 2011) they were different beasts. 
“When you play, the window you look through is narrow, its about your own experiences, the physical reward and ensuring your body is right; when you coach the window is larger as you see your whole list, the club and everything it means for everyone associated, they are both rewarding in different ways, although if I could still play I would.”
Tapping still gets to as many amateur games as he can and he saw most of the recent finals series including the Premier Grand Final. 
“I will always take a strong interest in the VAFA as my time at Old Xavs capped off my career perfectly and I am always respectful and grateful to Old Brighton and Old Scotch for the opportunities they provided.” 
“The competition has changed since I left, the standard is great and there are guys out there that could play VFL footy and beyond if given the opportunity,” said Tapping. 
For now though Tapping is excited about what lies ahead at Collingwood in the VFL and he will continue to enjoy the moment. 
From all of us at the VAFA we wish Dale Tapping all the best next year and beyond.