It was a reality in bygone eras of the sport that now proves a challenge for all state-league level players and coaches around the country.
Juggling a full-time job with a semi-professional sporting life.
But Hayley Gregory, a long-time primary school teacher at Mt Eliza Primary School, says her job and her “passion job”, as she refers to her coaching role with the VFLW Hawks, form a productive alliance that is only fast-tracking her development as a coach.
“It’s not easy, I certainly think it is a skill you have to learn to be able to juggle footy with your home and professional lives so that no area is being left behind,” Gregory said.
“You’re generally running straight from school to footy training and then going home and often having to do reviews or look at footage.
“Being a teacher helps with this area though, you’re constantly juggling different roles as a teacher.”
It’s a struggle that Gregory relishes.
Having had her own playing career that spanned across 19 seasons in the VWFL, football is clearly one of her great passions.
She says the pace of her coaching rise, after hanging up the boots in 2015, has somewhat shocked her.
A match day coaching assistant for the Box Hill VFLW team in its inaugural year in 2017, she then became a Development Coach the following year, before being assigned the role of Assistant Coach - Forward Line in 2019.
She credits her progression to the symmetry between coaching and teaching.
“The principles and philosophies float across so well from teaching to coaching and vice versa.
“Player management, the ability to give and receive feedback, creating development plans to move forward, there’s a real flow between the two capers which has helped with my development as a coach.
“You can marry those two things up and, while I might not have much experience in the football side of coaching, I think my teaching experience helps a lot with those kind of things.”
Gregory says the environments that she tries to foster in both the classroom and the changeroom are near identical as well - safe environments where children and players feel comfortable to make mistakes and learn from.
Gregory’s own coaching development has also been accelerated with the presence of Bec Goddard headlining Hawthorn VFLW’s all-female coaching staff.
Gregory says Goddard has brought a high expectation of what is expected at the elite level.
“That’s been really good for not only the playing group but the coaching group as well, to be able to gain an understanding of what is required, how we need to improve and what we do already do well in order to get ourselves ready for that next level.
“She is a great storyteller as well and she applies that a lot to her coaching, which is a different way to go about it compared to what I’ve seen previously but I think that’s a really good thing.
“In that way, you learn what works for you and your own coaching.
“You don’t need to emulate someone else, but you can take little bits that work well for you, in terms of motivating the group and getting everyone on board an outcome that a group can work towards.”