The second edition of the English FA/OFC Developing Mentors Webinar has seen a new set of participants from five Oceania nations upgrade their skills and knowledge as leaders in their field.

The group, representing Vanuatu, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia and Cook Islands, met every Thursday morning for six weeks with English Football Association expert facilitators Steve Smithies and Les Howie.

The Developing Mentors Webinar series aims to equip participants with the knowledge and expertise to become mentors in their environments.

Howie said the six weeks sped past and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to share his stories and experiences with the participants.

“You start to realise that we all have things in common, and that’s part of what makes the game so great,” he told participants during the final session.

“Well done everyone. It’s been great to meet you all, keep up the good work and continue to make a difference.”

For Papua New Guinea Football Association (PNGFA) Women’s Football Development Officer, Margaret Aka, the course came on the back of her participation in the 2020 FIFA Female Coach Mentorship Programme and the 2020 OFC Women’s Capacity Building Workshop.

She said the main difference between the two she’s previously completed and the English FA webinar was the different processes.

“There were differences and similarities, capacity building is about helping people to understand themselves, their capacity and how they can build new skills, whereas mentoring on the other hand is about knowledge, power and influence.

“In a developing mentor process is usually run by consultancy services, in this case The FA is doing that, and the focus is on the personal development of the mentee. The mentoring on the other hand is learning relationships and focused on long-term career development,” Aka explained.

With a constant desire to learn and improve her knowledge across a wide area of topics, Aka said the series was an opportunity to do just that, while also engaging with regional colleagues and the two England-based experts.

“It’s all learning for me. It’s helped me to improve on some things I may have learned earlier, and for me with this one it helped me to go back and review and revise some things I learnt through the FIFA course, and think about how I can keep trying to do things better in the future.

“It was a good learning experience for me, and I hope my peers will learn a lot from the sessions.”

Additionally, Aka said the benefits of her participation in the series will hopefully be seen in the wider Papua New Guinea community.

“I kind of see things in a bigger picture than just football alone and it’s helped me to develop other areas that I feel I’m not good at, and to help other people I feel I could help, and helped me to want to do more than I’m doing at the moment. It’s been a really good six weeks and although a lot is similar to what I did with FIFA, although that was a more intense, longer-term programme.”

Vanuatu Grassroots Development Coordinator Samsley Vanua Toa said despite some network challenges from his base in Luganville, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

“It’s the first seminar that I have attended in an island setting where the network is often unreliable. I was able to participate one or two times during the whole session which builds my interest to continue,” he said.

“I enjoyed participating and listening to colleagues sharing their views and picking up points. I just love listening to everyone, especially our two facilitators, they were really good and do have a great wealth of knowledge on mentorship.”

In terms of real-life application, Vanua Toa said he has already felt the benefits of his participation as it has given him a greater understanding of the role technical mentors play in his federation.

“I have colleagues or friends who hold positions as technical mentors of Just Play Northern or Southern Mentor, but to me their roles were not clear. I always presumed they were in their position to report our work or queries to our superiors and vice versa,” he said.

“I have learned from our first two sessions that mentors, or mentorship, is more than being a leader or a boss. You have to come down to the level of your coaches or teachers and create an environment whereby both can work freely. A positive environment and a good working relationship between the mentors and mentees will allow for a successful programme.

“I have learned to build rapport and develop positive relationships with my coaches or the teachers I am working with. That is through how we approach them, and by giving positive feedback and encouragement.”

Vanua Toa set himself objectives for his participation in the webinar, and despite not having a full understanding of the purpose of it when he began, said he quickly came to appreciate and understand the concept of mentorship.

“Thanks to all my colleagues and our two facilitators who shared their knowledge, experiences and points of view on the topic. I came to realise my role as a mentor in the Grassroots and Just Play Programme here in Vanuatu, and I have learned ways to do it even better.”