Kyabram Free Press

Sam learns from the best

- By Andrew Johnston

IT WAS late in 2018 when Paul Newman told Sam Sheldon he would give coaching away.

Newman had been at the helm of the Kyabram juggernaut for three seasons, coaching two flags and 62 victories.

But his time in the sport was nearly up.

In 12 months’ time it could be a problem; the Bombers could be without a coach.

But Newman wasn’t willing to let that happen.

He knew who he wanted to take the reins when he rode off into the sunset – he wanted Sheldon.

“The idea of coaching came up a few years ago, but it wasn’t the right time,” he said.

“But Paul still had that idea and floated it with me late in 2018. If ever there was a time to go for it, it was now.

“Paul was going to be there for the year so I would be able to learn from him throughout the season about how to coach – and especially how to coach Kyabram.”

The new coaching team of Newman and Sheldon rolled through a strong pre-season with a team Newman thinks may match any side in the era of dominance on pure talent, building up for a tilt at one last flag for Ky’s favourite son.

In round one, Sheldon coached his first match of the arrangemen­t.

But unlike his co-coach, who rarely pulls the boots on any more, Sheldon would be coaching on the field.

It’s a task he admits has its challenges.

“You actually don’t see much,” he said.

“When you hit the field, for the most part you’re focused on playing, on your own execution. If you start to focus too much on everything else, you remove yourself from the game.

“I’m lucky with the arrangemen­t we have that I am learning from Paul about the other aspects of coaching during the week. I’m able to throw in ideas and opinions on game day but what I’m learning most is about how to manage the side in the times between the games.

“But on the sidelines, he takes more in and can make those adjustment­s.

“The reality about our side is they can essentiall­y coach themselves. They’re a smart group who have played a lot of football together at a really good level. Our job as coaches is really to keep them on the right track.”

And it is on this line Sheldon is learning the most.

“Paul knows how to keep our players on the path,” he said.

“He is calm, he never loses his head, he rarely yells at people.

“He is also able to give honest feedback to the players, he’s built a level of respect with them. That’s something we all learnt from him – every player is able to give open and honest feedback and everyone takes it on board.

“That’s the kind of coach I want to be – someone who can be real with his players and who fosters an environmen­t where we are open about our football because we will continue to develop as a side if we do.

“I still have a lot to learn, especially about how to coach on the field, but I have the right mentor to do it with and I look forward to the rest of the season and becoming the best coach I can be.”

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