TOP COACH: 'Dedication and heart'- Meet 8 of Gympie's Top 40
IN CASE you didn't have reason enough to vote for Gympie's Top Coach, here is the story of why these dedicated Gympie men and women do what they do.
The Gympie Times put the call out for the region's top coach last week and the response was overwhelming - from junior sports to premier men's and women's coaches, The Gympie Times has narrowed down the list to a Top 40.
To decide Gympie's top coach we need you to vote in the poll by clicking the link below.
MEET MORE OF GYMPIE'S TOP COACHES: Why I coach: 8 selfless men and women making a difference
Meet eight of the Top Coach nominees here and tune in tomorrow for more profiles on Gympie's favourite coaches.
Janessa Keogh, football
IT WAS determination that led to Janessa Keogh being the first female player signed for Gympie Diggers Football Club at just 14 years old when women's football was introduced in Gympie in 1992.
Now Janessa puts her passion into a team whose opportunity to play unfolded earlier.
This season Janessa took over coaching the U11/12 Gympie Diggers boys team, but as the team's assistant coach to her father Bruce Jones for the past five years, the transition was a natural one.
"Every year they have been strong competitors, rarely losing a match,” Janessa said.
"I am proud to have been involved with coaching my daughter as well, and promoting the game as a great sport for girls.”
"I love watching the kids improve and grow as players, and as people.
"I love helping them to believe in themselves and their ability to work as a team. I think to be a good coach, you need to be patient, positive and passionate. I think the most important thing is to make it fun.”
Janessa was recognised as a life member of Gympie Diggers Football Club and is one of three generations dedicated to the club.
Matt Watkins, tennis
FOR 15 years Matt Watkins' energetic coaching style has been the right mix of fun and dedication to get kids of all ages to fall in love with tennis.
Starting out as a local Gympie junior on the tennis scene, Matt reached state level after training through Tennis Gympie's junior development program.
His grass roots start in the game is the motivation that keeps him dedicated to helping junior (and senior) players excel in training and in competition.
Matt's down-to-earth coaching style is what keeps players coming back, coaching partner Brett Cottrill said, and he is a welcome face at many of the region's primary schools where his lessons engross students of all ages and abilities.
"Matt's coaching style is skills and fun based. He is very good at keeping the kids engaged for the whole lesson,” Brett said.
Matt has also been a tournament director for many of the Australian Money Tournaments, including the Gympie RSL Open.
Michael Buckley, rugby league
WITH about 20 years of coaching under his belt, Devils A-grade coach Michael Buckley was bound to have some superstars on his list.
While living in Mount Isa he coached the Townies under-11s, and former Australian halfback Scott Prince was one of those youngsters.
"It was my first year of coaching and I enjoyed that,” he said.
After a short break while he got married and had children, he moved down to the Sunshine Coast and from there he coached the Sunshine Coast Falcons U20s, Mal Meninga Cup Falcons U18s, assistance coach of the Falcons.
Buckley won two grand finals with the U16s Wide Bay and Central Crows U16s but the best moment was the year he coached his son.
"He was the player of the match in the U20s competition. I coached him and he had been struggling a bit but he listened to his father,” he said.
His laid-back approach allows players to play what is in front of them.
"You give them the tools to play the game and I like them to play eyes-up footy,” he said.
"Just put simple structures in place and then plat what's in front of them.”
Over the years on the side line, Buckley still enjoys his role as not only a coach but a mentor.
"Some rugby league players come from broken families and you have to show guidance off the field. Some children come to you when they have problems and you,” he said.
"Many have become apart of my family and I have great relationships with some players.
"I know rugby league has given me friendships for life.
"You have to love the game to love coaching and you get satisfaction out of children improving and not only on the field but also off.”
Natalie Bates, touch football
NATALIE Bates has been playing touch football for more than 20 years, since she started in high school.
She loves the game; the pace, the excitement and the fitness aspect of it all.
Bates also loves being able to pass that love of the sport onto the students at Jones Hill State School.
She coaches two mixed Jones Hill State School touch teams, the 8-9 years and 10-11 years and has done so for the past five years.
"I really enjoy the interaction with the kids and the enjoyment on their faces,” she said.
Bates said she teaches children at all skill levels and tries to treat them all with care and respect.
She was nominated by Kirsty Delisser.
"Natalie Bates is the best coach ever!
"Training and coaching not one but two touch football teams for Jones Hill State School.
"The time, knowledge and enthusiasm she passes onto the kids is fantastic,” Ms Delisser wrote.
Joel Bond, football
WHEN Joel Bond stepped in to help an under-9 Gympie football team who were without a coach, he thought it would be temporary.
But that was 16 years ago and now the dedicated trainer - who has coached numerous teams from U6 to men's divisions - couldn't imagine life without the thrill of the sideline.
"In all honesty I had never considered coaching and wasn't interested.
"I thought I would turn up once and that would put it to rest but I was hooked after one session,” Joel said.
The former Gympie football player now coaches the Gympie United U13 (3), a group of talented 11 and 12-year-old players making a name for themselves in the Sunshine Coast Football league.
"I coach because I love the game and want to pass knowledge on that has been passed on to me,” Joel said.
One of his proudest coaching moments was playing against kids from the first team he coached in the Sunshine Coast Men's competition.
"To know that they had the same love for the game as an adult made me extremely proud.”
Kerry Long, netball
AFTER playing netball for many years since she was a young girl, Kerry Long decided to try her hand as a netball coach.
For the last two years she has coached NetSetGo, a mixed-gender netball team for ages 5-10.
Her coaching of NetSetGo is aimed at teaching young kids the rules of netball and encouraging them to continue playing the game as they get older and enter competitive ages.
Not content to stop there, Kerry also volunteered to coach one of the older, more competitive teams.
She has coached the Fireflyz, an A-grade girl's team for 14-year-olds, for the last two years and has led them towards success in competitive netball.
The Fireflyz have made it to the quarter-finals for the last two years, a testament to both the players' talent and the ability of their coach.
And Kerry is showing no signs of wanting to stop coaching either team after this year.
Chris "Gabba” Gablonski, rugby league
CHRIS "Gabba” Gablonski has been coaching the rising stars of rugby league in the Gympie Devils Knights under-11s team for four years.
"I get a lot of reward from coaching and having an impact on people's lives,” he said.
"I want to set a good example for my children. If they see their dad doing it and as they get older they might think to coach themselves.”
"Being able to have a positive impact on a child's life is why I love it,” he said.
"You never know what is going on in their world and sport could be the highlight of their week.
"You can change their life a little bit for the better the world is going to be a better place.”
"I get a kick at the end of the season as to how much they have transformed,” he said.
"They come so far from their first game to the last.”
His coaching style is firm but fair.
"I want to see the children have fun but I want them to grasp the fundamentals of league,” he said.
Melissa Flood, equestrian
HAVING learned to ride before she had learned to walk and having had success in her own competitive riding career, Melissa Flood was a natural choice for people to turn to for advice about riding or caring for their horses.
Soon enough she was being asked to help out and judge at local pony club events.
Nine years later, and Melissa is now running a flourishing equine instruction group that teaches all ages, genders, and abilities with a focus on English and Western horsemanship.
The enthusiastic coach loves watching her students make progress and knowing that she's doing her job right.
One of Melissa's favourite moments from her coaching career was being able to take one of her students to the 2014 Grand Nationals in Sydney.
One of the key skills Melissa stresses in her classes, is making sure that the students are listening to her and trust in her judgment to avoid any injuries.