Dr Julia Walsh has been appointed the first woman to coach a national men’s basketball team in Australia, taking up the position with the Australian Boomerangs Men’s team for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
She takes on the role 12 months out from the team competing in the International Federation for Intellectual Impairment Sport (INAS) in Brisbane next year.
Based at Deakin University’s Centre for Sport Research and the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Dr Walsh said her appointment offers a great example of the pathways available for women pursuing coaching.
“It is transformational for players and others watching as it disrupts common views on who can coach,” she said.
“As the number of women playing sport increases globally, we see a decrease in the number of women in leadership positions, always good to add a positive number.
“But it should be noted that being appointed is the easiest part, like any coach you will be judged by athlete outcomes so you also need to do the job,” she said.
Dr Walsh started playing, coaching and officiating basketball at the age of 14. Her first coach was female, which planted the seed for her to see what was possible.
“I only wanted to be a coach so it was an investment, but it was fun,” she told Women’s Agenda. “It also captured my academic interest so I did a physical education degree, followed by several other post graduate degrees, always targeting getting more knowledge about coaching and the coaching process.
“I am still doing that and focusing on how we can illuminate the pathway for young women who would like to be coaches.”
There were no coaching specific course when Dr Walsh started out, so she worked with a mentor coach and other coaches in order to get her coaching accreditation. These days there are courses in exercise and sports science that you can pursue, providing opportunities to specialise in coaching.
“So there are formal pathways but you still need to get out into the coaching world as you need to craft yourself as an instrument of coaching and that takes practice,” she says. ”
“Coaching is the job that keeps on giving and provides great skills for other occupations.”
Dr Walsh recently worked with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in 3×3, where the team finished second in the inaugural season of the new Olympic sport. “I like what this sport adds to the traditional five player game, it is physical, high intensity and it’s a players’ game so they need to develop their game IQ,” she said
Photo above: Dr Julia Walsh in action with Darren Bartolus, Tim Downie, Cameron Slacik