OFC’s Football Development department completely changed the way they worked in 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown many challenges at workplaces around the world and OFC is no different.
Travel is one of the key pillars of how the Football team operate at OFC as it allows them to conduct their workshops and build connections face-to-face.
Border closures, quarantine periods and flight restrictions made all of this impossible to do.
OFC officially put their football activities, including tournaments, on hold on March 9 as COVID-19 took over around the globe.
OFC Head of Football Development Paul Toohey said it forced them to rethink how they would perform their roles.
“A crucial part of our team’s work is being available to people throughout the Pacific and seeing firsthand the difference we can make with our development programmes,” Toohey said.
“COVID-19 changed that and we were forced to move online, which presented a number of challenges.”
Toohey said the Football department aimed to continually upskill staff in OFC’s 11 Member Associations.
“It’s all about us giving them the tools so that they can run things on their own turf.
“That’s probably the theme from 2020 in terms of our activity, while focusing on capacity building.”
The numbers have racked up; Futsal Coach Educator Juliano Schmeling oversaw five OFC C Licence coaching courses, while four Member Associations took part in refresher courses.
James Bannatyne, OFC’s Goalkeeping Development Consultant, ran 10 workshops for his Goalkeeping Development Officers throughout the Pacific and they were able to pass on that knowledge to coaches in their own respective countries.
OFC Women’s Football Development Officer Emma Evans conducted a six-week online workshop as part of the Women’s Football Capacity Building Programme, among a host of other projects.
OFC Player Development Officer Phill Parker completed more than 50 grassroots workshops and launched the Skills Challenge Awards system.
Despite the logistical challenges caused by the pandemic, more than $600,000 of equipment was distributed to OFC’s 11 Member Associations during 2020.
That equipment will be used in key areas such as player development, goalkeeping, women’s football, futsal and beach soccer.
On top of that, another $30,000 worth of equipment is being sent to associate members Kiribati and Tuvalu who are making strong progress in many areas of the game.
OFC will also continue to conduct capacity building workshops with Kiribati and Tuvalu.
There were a few instances of in-person courses being possible and the Education and High Performance department, led by Owain Prosser, conducted OFC/NZF A and B Licence coaching courses. Bannatyne also ran two OFC/NZF Goalkeeping C Licence courses.
Toohey said despite 2020 being a challenging year, some positives could be drawn.
“Our department has become more dynamic with the way we work and while we might travel less in the future, we could produce more workshops for OFC’s Member Associations.
“One other outcome is our Member Associations have been able to focus strongly on development at the domestic level and this should set them up well for the future. We have been really pleased with how well they have adapted to the online learning environment.”
Special mention must also be made for OFC Head of Refereeing Kevin Stoltenkamp who facilitated nearly 100 workshops in 2020.
Refereeing sits alongside Football Development at OFC and Stoltenkamp was busy throughout the year with seminars that touched on football, fitness, futsal, rules quizzes and sessions that were specifically designed for female officials.
“We had great support from our Member Associations during the year and we also used Facebook forums to discuss video clips around decisions and new rule changes,” Stoltenkamp said.