Daisy Pearce upon being unveiled as West Coast coach on December 11, 2023. Picture: West Coast

WHILE each of the five women in AFLW head coaching roles have extensive, and impressive, footy resumes, their experience outside of footy informs their coaching just as much.

Backgrounds in teaching, midwifery, and other sports have set Lauren Arnell, Tamara Hyett, Daisy Pearce, Lisa Webb, and Natalie Wood up to tackle one of the most challenging jobs in footy.

"So much of what I draw on as a coach hasn’t come from being an AFLW player, or coaching courses," Pearce told AFL.com.au.

"Coaching is managing people, and encouraging and believing in people, and supporting them to get where they want to go. There's so many different ways to learn that skill."

Before the advent of the AFLW, Pearce was a midwife, thrown into high pressure situations within the medical field.

"I was working as a midwife before I got involved in the footy industry, and that's where I learned how to manage people… and be able to communicate in a really pressurised environment," Pearce said.

Daisy Pearce talks to Eagles players at quarter-time of the practice match between West Coast and Fremantle at Mineral Resources Park on May 4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Arnell, Webb, and Wood come from teaching backgrounds, a trend that has existed across AFL and AFLW coaches for several years. The overlap between the two vocations is significant, essentially requiring the same skillset, just in different settings.

"I've got a class of 30 students who want to be here, so I'm not giving out detention," Wood said with a laugh.

"They're turning up on time, I'm not giving out late slips. They're here, they're eager, but essentially, the fundamentals of what we're doing, it looks very much like a classroom and education setting."

Learning to adapt to changing environments, and changing personnel, is another thing teaching experience offers coaches.

"You think you've got access to the gym, and you don't. You're outside on an oval and it's raining, and then you've got five classes inside the gym… you need to be agile, you need to adapt, need to be able to work with the other teachers," Wood said.

Natalie Wood addresses the team during the AFLW R4 match between Essendon and Fremantle at Windy Hill on September 24, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

"You have to be able to change plans on the fly, but also stay true to what your outcomes and what you're trying to achieve are."

For Arnell, the key difference transferring from the classroom to the footy field is the win-loss column.

"It's almost the same job, the difference being the wins and losses count," Arnell said.

"And sometimes that can be challenging because, philosophically from a teacher's perspective, you're always with them and you can achieve a small win every day… but when you get to the top level of AFLW and the wins and losses really, really count, it can be a little bit more challenging when you don't get the 'W'."

Lauren Arnell speaks to her players during the AFLW R7 match between Port Adelaide and North Melbourne at Arden Street Oval on October 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

But whatever the ultimate marker of success or failure might be, on a micro level it is all the same.

"Trying to get the best out of them, essentially, is something that I really strive for in all of our players. No matter if it's Tunisha (Kikoak) who's just flown over here from Tassie, or one of our more experienced players like Hayley Miller," Webb said.

New to the Western Bulldogs, Hyett's experience as an elite golfer offers her insight into the athlete's mindset, which helps her establish strong relationships with her players.

"You've got to bring your own strengths to the coaching side of things," Hyett said.


"There could be groups that require some more connection pieces, there could be groups that require more the technical aspect, but finding your niche and also having an understanding of what your strengths are, and just being authentic. I think that helps in the coaching landscape."

Every person is a complex sum of their life's experience, and for Arnell, Hyett, Pearce, Webb, and Wood, those lives encompass footy, family, and non-footy professions, coming together to offer their playing lists unique, and important leadership.