Coach Cowan inspires with tales of perseverance
“DON’T give up – I once called an employer seven times before I even got a coffee date.”
That was one of the many pieces of advice Dockers women’s coach Michelle Cowan offered Presbyterian Ladies’ College students last week.
Speaking to Year 11 and 12 students at the launch of the school’s leadership development program, Everest, Cowan inspired the crowd with stories of perseverance.
A football lover from a young age, Cowan said she knew coaching at AFL level was her dream job.
“When I was 14, I’d go down to East Freo oval and I’d watch the league and reserves and watch as much footy as I could,” she said.
“That was a key moment for me; I was going to coach in the AFL.”
However, cracking into a maledominated industry was not easy.
“A man once told me I’d never coach football, as it’s a man’s sport,” Cowan said.
“But that just made me want to even more.”
In her final years of school, Cowan wrote to all 16 (at the time) AFL clubs asking for a chance.
She heard back from 14 and was offered a chance to meet with two.
At 21, she landed her first big coaching role, which she described as a daunting but exciting experience.
“I was employed by West Perth to be the midfield coach,” Cowan said.
“I am forever grateful to (league coach at the time) Darren Harris, who told the boys I was their new midfield coach and if any of them had a problem with it, they could leave and never play footy for the club again.”
Cowan’s first AFL job was with the Melbourne Football Club, which also offered her a role as coach of its AFLW team.
“The club were so good to me, but I just knew I had to take the role with Freo,” she said.
“It was hard having a young family and flying back and forward, so I knew it was right.”
Cowan said her experience was a reminder that women could achieve anything.
“As a child, I had 44 men livestreamed into my lounge room,” she said.
“Now my daughter Milly turns on the TV and sees 44 inspiring women.”