In the third in our series about our club coaches, we caught up with our U16's coach Carlos Vega Mena.
Carlos joined us last year and together with assistant coach, Michael Rosa, guided the U14's to a flawless league season in 2019. The side also won the top 4 and were runners up in the cup.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background in terms of how long you’ve been a coach and where you coached before Redbacks?
"After playing international football professionally for 13 years at clubs in Chile, Indonesia, Mexico and Switzerland, I attended the National Institute of Futbol in Chile in 2003, where I studied coaching for one year.
I started coaching after coming to Australia in 2004, and since then I have coached both male and female Juniors and Seniors.
I previously coached at Sorrento, Chile Nuevo, Ellenbrook United and Perth Saints before arriving at Northern Redbacks.
I have also coached academy football since 2016 and completed the C Licence course in 2017.
I came to Northern Redbacks in 2019, where I was asked by the Junior Coordinator Alistair McMurdo to coach the U14 team. As well as my coaching duties at Redbacks, I continue to coach academy football with 'Eddie’s Football Clinic' in Alfred Cove."
What attracted you to come to Redbacks?
"My daughter Natalia currently plays on the Northern Redbacks U16 team. Prior to coming to the club, Natalia played on the Perth Saints Boys U13 team. Although Natalia enjoyed the challenges of playing football with boys, we wanted to be part of a club whose main focus was female player development.
We were looking for a professional environment that supported player growth and had heard that Northern Redbacks had a strong club culture which supported players in female football. We decided it was time to move to a club where female players are the priority and have not looked back."
Obviously last season was a huge success with the U14’s and a lot of players you coached in that team moved onto NTC. What gave you the most satisfaction last season? The results or the players going on to NTC?
"Definitely the players being selected to play NTC. Last season we had a young team of 15 players, varying in age from 11 to 14 years. Regardless of age, the girls showed such determination and teamwork throughout the season. Every week saw them showing exceptional sportsmanship whilst demonstrating skilful movement of the ball and an ability to control and dominate the game. Their ability to play such quality football at such a young age was simply impressive to watch. It was an honour and a privilege to be associated with a group of young people who play the game so well. I am proud to have been their coach."
During the lockdown period, what was your biggest challenge as a coach?
"Lockdown, what a terrible word for everyone this season. We had just started to get our momentum going when COVID shut everything down. The biggest challenge for me as a coach was patience and the uncertainty around whether we would even have a season this year. I had started to make plans for the team and just begun to see what the U16 players were capable of when the decision was made to put the season on hold. It’s extremely difficult for a coach to sit idle when you would normally be planning your next training session and preparing for the start of the season. I encouraged the girls to continue training at home and posted videos in our Facebook group. It was a huge relief when the 2020 season finally commenced."
Finally, what are your expectations for this season?
"My only expectation this season, and every season, is player growth and development. My football philosophy includes helping players develop essential life skills and encouraging them to be good people, not just good players. I believe preparing players for life, teaching them teamwork and sportsmanship goes hand in hand with teaching them football. My satisfaction as a coach comes from successful player development, both on a personal level and on the pitch. This season the U16 team is quite a young team with players varying in age and experience. I am focussing on building a solid foundation of game knowledge and technical skills, which will give the U16 players the right tools to succeed this year and next. So far this season, the U16 team has risen to the challenge of the modified season. They are full of team spirit and their determination to succeed continues to shine through every week, despite the terrible weather we have had lately."