Ante Juric forging a career path in coaching

Former Qantas Socceroo Ante Juric is forging a coaching career at the helm of one of our newest National teams.

In June 2009, the latest additions to our National teams will make their debut appearances on the international stage, when the Qantas Australian U/13 Boys and Westfield Australian U/14 Girls teams played in their respective AFC Festival tournaments.

First to get underway will be the boys in Malaysia and for former Qantas Socceroo Ante Juric, its provided him with the chance to progress his coaching career to the next level.

Having forged a highly successful career in the old National League, mainly with Sydney Olympic, Juric, a PE teacher at the Trinity Grammar School and assistant coach at the NSW Institute of Sport Women-s Program, is looking forward to the challenge of kick starting this new chapter in Australia-s national team history.

“It-s very exciting, not only because it-s the inaugural Australian U/13 side, but because we have the new curriculum coming in and it-s an exciting time for all of football,” Juric said of the challenge ahead.

“In particular for the development of football and this goes hand in hand with the 13-s, so yeah it-s very exciting for everyone, the players and coaches.”

It should also be pointed out that Juric is one of the first appointments that have coincided with the release of FFA-s new football curriculum, which is the blueprint to take Australia forward on the international scene. This not only applies to the development of players, but coaches as well and while surprised to have got the job, it-s something he has been working towards and he was always confident that one day he would get to this level as a coach.

“I won-t say I expected to get this position, but it was always something I was confident of getting down the track.

“With my background (as a professional player and school teacher) and doing my licenses, it-s something I-ve been trying to gear and prepare for, although it did probably come a little earlier than expected.

“I think there is going to be opportunities for a lot of people in football, not just young coaches,” he added. “This position is a part-time gig at the moment but obviously down the track I would love to get a full-time position.

“It-s going to be a huge job for the FFA to get the new curriculum out, but I-m sure there will be a lot of doors opening for a lot of people. It-s definitely an exciting time for Australian coaches, players and administration people alike.”

Juric and Queensland Roar W-League coach Jeff Hopkins have very important roles to play with the newly formed 13-s and 14-s teams, as they introduce players to international football for the first time, the start of which most will hope will be a long time in the national set up.

Juric has no doubts that these experiences will give them an understanding of what-s required further down the track and will better equip players for what lies ahead in the Youth Teams.

“The opportunities for players now are far greater now than when I was a kid and definitely, to have that experience to play overseas; to play for Australia; to get that recognition will only help our national teams going forward.

“It will help players develop; it will help them set goals earlier on in there careers; to see where they are at and what they need to develop in terms of their skills and tactical wise. It will give them an insight in how things are done professionally like coming into camps and travelling overseas and it-s a really good grounding for them I think.”

The selection process for these teams has taken a different path, with the squads chosen not necessarily chosen with a results focus, but looking at players who possess the technical skills of the game.

“With the new FFA path its taking (through the curriculum) which identifies the way and style of play we are wanted to go down, at the National Junior Championships we looked predominantly at technical players, not necessarily the size of players, which may have happened in the past in Australia.

“We looked at the player-s decision-making abilities, their game awareness; the things that may have been missed before, especially at an early age where growth spurts made players better than some of the smaller boys who were perhaps technically better.

“So we have looked at technical aspects plain and simply I guess and their understanding of the game.”

Juric was pleasantly surprised by the calibre of players at the Nationals in Canberra last month, which made selecting a squad of 30 players rather difficult.

“I must admit I have been involved with a few young boys- teams and I have seen a lot of good young players come through, but to see so many in one competition was great.

“I was surprised to see the amount of them, but not surprised by the quality.

“It-s a hard job coaching at any level, but when it-s a 13-s team, it-s extremely difficult to pick and choose, because you are still working on (players) potential.

“Like I said we are going for a lot of boys that are a little bit smaller and their potential from a technical level. We are not looking at results as such when picking these teams and more what they have got at the moment in terms of technical know how and we will work on the rest of it later.

“So it was tough differentiating between a few boys.”

At the training camp this week, the squad will be cut down to the 22 players that will travel to Sabah in Malaysia for the tournament, which starts at the end of May.

“Sadly we-ve got to select 22 out of the 30, so there are first and foremost a few spots up for grabs. Even at a young age, we-ve got to see those boys who can handle the pressure. They are all good players in their own right, but to get them in an environment like that, being away from home; being in a camp with other good players, it will be interesting to see how they react.”

Juric also hopes that he can pass on some of experiences at a National Team level, where he made four appearances for the Qantas Socceroos and also played at the 1993 FIFA World Youth Cup that played in Australia.

“Outside of me being a teacher (PE) and used to being with kids that was probably a big reason why I also got the job.

“To have that background and talk to the boys about your experiences, I think boys at that age like to hear stuff like that. Stories like about travelling overseas; playing with someone and against someone and to give them experience from your eyes. I believe that-s a huge thing.

“I had the same happen in my career and I remember a lot of things from those days till now, so hopefully I have that same effect on the boys.”

The Australia U13 Boys team will play in the AFC U/13 Boys Festival from May 30 - June 6 in Sabah, Malaysia.