Eilidh Mackay’s life today would have been very different if it wasn’t for the itch to pull on her boots.
Visiting Australia in 2009 on a gap year from her native Scotland, Mackay signed up to play for the local club of her relatives in Sydney – Lindfield FC.
The team was coached by current Northern Tigers Men’s Under 20’s coach Rich Byrne and swept all before them in the NSFA WAA1 competition, winning the league, the finals series and all their matches along the way.
“It’s one of the best years I’ve ever had playing football,” Eilidh reflects.
“The results were great, but most of all I still have friends from that team today!”
Returning to Europe after that whirlwind season, it was a chance catch-up years later that would introduce Eilidh to Northern Tigers.
In the harbour city for a futsal tournament in January of 2015, Eilidh reached out to her former coach Rich, who was now involved at Tigers.
“Rich told me to come down for a kick-around and afterwards the head coach Kai (Lammert) asked me if I was interested in joining the squad for the season,” she explains.
“I was hesitant at first but I ended up staying, though my season was cut short after I did my knee in May!”
Despite a curtailed playing experience that year, off the pitch Eilidh found her newest passion – coaching.
“I got started coaching through the NSFA Football School and Knox Grammar and realised how much I enjoyed it.”
“Through NSFA I was running sessions for teams at clubs like Hornsby RSL and St Ives and I guess was getting positive feedback because Jason (Eagar, NSFA Technical Director) approached me about becoming involved with Tigers.”
“I did my C Licence over the Christmas holidays in a leg brace!”
With a newly-minted C Licence under her belt, Eilidh took charge of the Women’s NPL Under 13’s and the Girls SAP Under 10’s for the 2016 season, while also playing and balancing her NSFA Football School commitments.
The season brought success in both coaching and playing, with the Under 13’s and Women’s First Grade winning their grand finals.
“It was a really special day because all five of our Women’s teams were playing in grand finals,” Eilidh explains.
“I started off the day with the Under 13’s winning, then in the First Grade final I scored the opening goal and we came out on top.
“It was a phenomenal year from all the Women’s teams, which I think showed we were ready to make the step up to NPL1 the following year.”
Eilidh would spend the next two seasons playing for the senior squad before hanging up her boots to focus on coaching.
After coaching her grand final winning Under 13’s the next year as they stepped up into the Under 15’s age group, Eilidh moved across to the club’s Boys Youth NPL teams, coaching successive seasons (2018 and 2019) in the Under 13’s and 14’s.
2019 also saw her take on the role of Girls SAP Technical Director, overseeing the coaches and players of all four teams within the program.
“I wasn’t sure if it was for me, because I was still very keen to continue coaching teams myself,” she says.
“However I’ve really enjoyed being able to mentor our coaches, and the club has always used Girls SAP as an opportunity to develop female coaches.”
Eilidh has used her experience within the Girls SAP program to develop the NSFA Female Coach Mentoring Program.
The program forms part of the NSFA’s Female Football Plan – What’s Best for Her – which Eilidh played an essential part in creating.
“Within GSAP we have a great environment for the coaches where they feel supported and bounce ideas off each other,” she explains.
“I wanted to bring that same idea to grassroots coaches and give them the chance to further their development.”
“We have a range of coaches involved, from more experienced development coaches to teenagers and parents just starting out.”
The program kicked off in March with 24 local coaches to sign up but has already bolstered its ranks to 34 during the season delay.
While she has been continuing to build her skills as a coach mentor, Eilidh has also furthered her own development this season by taking charge of the Women’s NPL Under 17’s.
“This is the oldest group of players I’ve ever coached and it’s the first year of the performance phase so it’s different to what I’ve done before,” she comments.
“However, I’ve coached a lot of these players before so that has helped in making the step up.”
“I would love to coach senior teams at some point, but right now my focus is on this season.”
Contact Eilidh if you are interested in the Female Coach Mentoring Program: firstname.lastname@example.org.