Country Coastal Junior Soccer Association finds new ways to grow players

Football Federation South West regional development manager Peter Dohnt talks about his role and what he looks forward to in 2021.
Football Federation South West regional development manager Peter Dohnt talks about his role and what he looks forward to in 2021.

Football Federation South West regional development manager Peter Dohnt wants to see soccer played all year round in the region.

Dohnt has had a fair bit of adjusting to do since he moved into the role from New South Wales two years ago.

The soccer fanatic was living in Wollongong where it was the most played sport by the community, to WA where it has to compete with the likes of AFL and basketball.

He said the federation was setting up programs which would provide the opportunity for players to play the game all year round, if they want to.

Pre-COVID Dohnt's role would include travelling around to schools in the district and taking identified players on tours to play interstate teams.

But like many of us in 2020, Dohnt was forced to change his job to suit life in lockdown.

"COVID was tough, we moved all our stuff online, set up a you tube channel where I did live streams," he said.

"I would come down to the park with camera and ball and work on skills that kids could do at home."

The federation also created booklets with training programs for children to ensure they were still playing soccer and keeping fit.

"Unfortunately during one of the live streams I tore my calf muscle so had to stop doing them for a while," Dohnt said.

For the lead up to the start of the season which will take place in May, Dohnt has been able to visit schools once again to promote the game and the local clubs.

Dohnt is part of the Country Coastal Junior Soccer Association, which has ten junior clubs.

It covers Harvey, Collie, Blackwood as well as the Greater Bunbury located teams.

The training programs' Dohnt runs ranges from five year-old to 17 year-old players.

"We put them into groups, so the 5-9s go into the mini roos program, the 9-12s have a skills based program and then 13 plus is game training phase," he said.

This year the federation has provided booklets for junior coaches to support them for training.

"Some coaches are parent coaches who might not know a lot about the sport and have put their hand up because they want their kid to play," Dohnt said.

"So the booklet has eight sessions which is designed for each age group and will help the coaches put on a training session.

"We want more people to broaden their knowledge and also help keep players in the game."

The other big focus for Dohnt is providing opportunities for players who want to go further with the sport, whether that is representing their state or higher.

The federation runs a skills training centre where the better players can then progress to the excel program and from there is the talented support program for identified players which is run state wide.

Dohnt said females can get into the NTC state squad and there is the Pheonix representative team for the males.

Before COVID, the federation was able to take a female and male squad to Canberra as part of a Kanga Cup Tour.

"From that team, three girls went into the state team and a lot of boys went to Pheonix, so it was a great advertisement for the programs we run," Dohnt said.

The country week squads is also another pathway for players to progress through the game.

Dohnt said the country week program was free for identified players and there were seven teams that go on to compete against other regions in Perth.

"We have about 150 players in the country week program at the moment and we hope to get up to about 200 once the season is underway," he said.

Dohnt said country week squads get narrowed down to 30 players but only 16 would go ahead and compete.

"However, the players that miss out still get to do the program for free for six months and then go back to their local clubs with improved skills which then builds up the competition," he said.

He said determination goes a long way as well as skill.

"I had a few setbacks when I was trying to get into the representative team over east because of my height,"

"But I kept at it and once I got in there I also went and played overseas in England, Scotland and Italy."

After a few injuries, Dohnt made the decision to step away from playing and become a coach instead.

"I keep coming out of retirement to play though," he laughed.

"Its an exciting sport, it's a great feeling being on the field.

"I get a lot of joy being off the field now too, watching players progress, watching them learn, seeing them do something at training and it is then implemented in the game.

"Now I can take a step back as a coach and you get that reward of seeing people enjoying the sport."

After the success of the Cantoni Cup late last year, Dohnt is hopeful to make the event bigger and better in 2021.

The Cantoni Cup was a soccer carnival which included the WA para team visiting and playing against the Country Coastal Junior Soccer Association squad.

The federation partnered with former paralympian Brad Scott who also played for the national Pararoos team.

Dohnt said the event raised money for the para team and it was a great way to show off the sport.

"These para players are unbelievable athletes," he said.

"We used the slogan 'football for all' and it was able bodies playing with the para teams, but when you watched the match it was just people playing soccer."

Dohnt said it was an example of how the game has evolved.

"We're not always looking for the tall, quick and powerful player but a player that is nimble on the ball and smart on the ball," he said.

Dohnt said he wanted to dream big for the next event and have other para teams from interstate come to Bunbury for the cup.

For more information about Football Federation South West, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ffswa/

For more information about the Country Coastal Junior Soccer Association, visit https://ccjsasoccer.com.au/