A partnership between the Oceania Football Confederation and the English Football Association is adjusting to the new normal with the launch of a new webinar series; Developing Mentors.

The pilot programme targets Tonga, Solomon Islands and Fiji, and is spread across five 90-minute sessions, all delivered online. The content is aimed at supporting the development of mentoring skills and strengthening understanding around safeguarding and learning in a safe, positive environment.

Chairman of the English FA, Greg Clarke, addressed the opening session on 19 August, with a message acknowledging the new approach to long-distance partnerships, within the constraints of the pandemic.

“I’d like to welcome you from Tonga, Solomon Islands and Fiji. I worked for many years in Australia and travelled to the Pacific Islands and know well the hospitality, friendliness and drive of the people,” Clarke said.

“It’s a real pleasure to work with you. I’m sorry we can’t send coaches in person to help you develop the game but COVID-19 is causing all kinds of problems and we’re now working really hard to maintain our links with you via video.

“Enjoy the coaching course today, have a great time, and please give us some feedback so we can continue to work with you and develop.”

Facilitated by English FA experts, Les Howie and Steve Smithies, the five sessions will help participants gain the knowledge and expertise to become mentors in their environments.

OFC Head of Social Responsibility Melissa Palombi said moving forward with the partnership between OFC and the English FA through a collaboration which will enhance leadership in the Pacific is hugely positive.

“We have some talented people doing great work across the Pacific and it is a pleasure to be able to collaborate with the English FA, through Les and Steve, to enhance the skills and knowledge they already have in the areas of leadership and mentoring.

“Leaders play an important role in shaping the future and we want to make sure our leaders are as prepared as they can be for the betterment of football development.”

Tonga Football Association Head of Social Responsibility Palu Uhatahi Tuamoheloa said her participation in the webinar series is driven by a desire to become a better leader.

“Interpersonal skills are an essential part of our roles in terms of dealing with human behaviour and attitudes, for example. Mentoring is part of this as observation, active listening, giving accurate feedback, questioning and reflection are crucial aspects of being a good leader. The webinar series will offer the means to develop each of these areas further and ultimately improve my skills as a leader and future mentor,” Uhatahi Tuamoheloa said.

“I’d like to thank OFC and the English FA for delivering this webinar, it’s very exciting for our region and I hope this pilot will be just the first of many opportunities for us to collaborate and engage.”

The interactive sessions are led by the facilitators, with Howie and Smithies proving adept at encouraging active participation to draw out the underlying knowledge and experience of the participants.

Maria Rawara, Just Play Programme Manager in Solomon Islands said having strong interpersonal skills are a good start to becoming a mentor, and the webinar is refining and expanding on those existing skills.

“Mentoring is a relationship where an experienced person guides or helps a person with less experience. It’s sharing knowledge and building a relationship with the mentee, but there are strategies for mentoring which we are uncovering during these sessions which will make us all much better mentors in the future.”