What does it take to guide an elite football team to win their record-breaking third championship title?
Former professional women’s soccer player and La Trobe alumnus, Louisa Bisby, takes us behind the scenes in her role as W-League team manager at Melbourne City Football Club (MCFC).
My position as a team manager is very different to that of a coach, because I don’t assess on-field performance and select the team. Instead, my role and responsibility is to offer individual off-field support to team members and ensure all football operations run smoothly. This starts from the moment a player signs with MCFC, throughout the season and to the end of their time with the club. It involves organising player registrations, transfer papers, flights, accommodation, transport, education assistance, post-football ambitions and any administration.
Logistically, it’s my responsibility to ensure that the players, coaches and support staff have all that they require to service the team to their best ability.
The most enjoyable part of my job is the variety of tasks. It’s everything from helping on-pitch, to organising equipment and kit; to off-field football operations and MCFC activations, such as coordinating player appearances. I communicate with a diverse group of external organisations, from governing bodies (like Football Federation Australia, International Football Federations such as the National Women’s Soccer League in the US, ASADA, and other W-League clubs), to community clubs, hotels, transport companies and travel agencies. The role’s diversity gives me a better understanding of the football landscape, players’ needs as individuals and their goals for life after football.
Often, I’ll be the first person a new player will see at the airport when they arrive from overseas or interstate. This means my initial interaction with them can potentially determine their first impression of the club. Should they stay, it’s then my role to make sure that they know MCFC provides support off-field and that they can approach me with any matter of concern.
As team manager you need the ability to create a professional bond with everyone, on and off the field. There’s many different personalities, cultures and age groups within a team. No one person is the same – each player comes with a different story, upbringing and set of experiences. Within the A-League team the youngest player is aged 17 and the oldest is in their 30s – so their levels of knowledge and life experience can vary.
A big part of creating a bond is the trust and the confidence that someone has to come and talk to you, whether it’s positive or negative. You need to be able to guide players in the right direction, ensure your choice of words is appropriate and, if needed, send a player to someone who is qualified to give the right advice.
Honesty is the most important thing. If a player isn’t doing something correctly, I’ll always let them know.
As a previous player in the Australian W-League and Matildas representing Australia, I used to play with and against some of the MCFC W-League team, which also helps build trust. Due to having seen me play and what I have achieved, players feel confident that I understand the game and what it takes to reach the highest level.
Committing to a common goal is what leads a sporting team to success. Players and staff must be dedicated to supporting one another on and off-field to win a title. Collectively, people need to ensure that everything is in place throughout the journey for players to succeed. It’s not just about the football operations, but the professionalism to help players come into an environment that’s easy, where they can walk in, get changed, and know what they’re doing at all times.
It’s important to not just do everything for players all of the time, but to guide them so they develop life skills after football.
It’s known that if there’s something else in an athlete’s life, they’re more successful, because good sport/life balance gives them another focus away from elite competition and the pressure to perform. It is my goal to get players studying or doing something else other than playing football.
Completing a Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) at La Trobe was really beneficial for my career. It gave me insight into how the sports industry worked, how policies and procedures were implemented and also accounting and budgeting. It helped me establish my organisational skills and see the importance of communication with a variety of people from all aspects of life. As part of the course, I did a practical placement at VicSport, which supplemented the theory I’d learned.
My first job was as Game Development Officer for the former Melbourne Heart Football Club, which put my uni degree to good use in the workplace. In this role I organised, planned and managed festival clinics and community events in suburban and regional areas, schools, local community centres and football clubs. The work also involved match day activations, including small-sided games at half time, football clinics and mascots (5-12-year-olds that walked out with players before the match).
When I got the job at Melbourne Heart FC, they didn’t only just ask the references on my resumé – they also rang different coaches and spoke to my lecturers to find further information about me.
It’s a big industry with tight networks. Your sporting achievements and behaviour, along with your professional reputation, definitely contribute. You need to behave in a manner that will assist you with potential future work, regardless of whether you’re an elite athlete or not.
Having studied at La Trobe, I can say it’s one of the best sports universities in Australia. It’s a very supportive, athlete-friendly university. My lecturers were easy to talk to and very understanding of my football career. It’s not just the course content that allows you to gain career opportunities, it’s also advice from the lecturers when you need it and a professional network. The teachers have a lot of contacts within the sports industry. Since graduating, I’ve maintained relationships with lecturers like Professor Russell Hoye and Dr Pam Kappelides. They’re always willing to have a conversation and ask me how I am.
My advice is to gain as much experience as you can while you’re at university. At university, I knuckled down, studied hard for three years, made networks and did some volunteering. I helped out with couple of local football clubs and volunteered at events like triathlon and rugby. Even if it’s not a sporting event, you’re still going to learn something, there are always logistics behind it. It’s about challenging yourself – the more experience you have, the higher your chance of getting a job.
Discover how you can access placements in a professional club environment through La Trobe’s sport industry partnerships.