Gleeson among many giving back

Haley Gleeson believes it's important for girls to have a female coach to learn from and look up to. Photo: Shane Wenzlick /

With just over a week to go until nominations close, the footballing public are being urged to put forward the selfless volunteers they feel are deserving of recognition in the McDonald’s Junior Football Coach of the Year competition.

One such worthy individual is Haley Gleeson, who passes on her knowledge for Ellerslie AFC and at schools in the Auckland region, working predominantly with girls in the junior and youth age-groups.

While coaching is still largely dominated by males, New Zealand Football is taking steps to encourage more women to get involved – including the running of female-only courses – and Gleeson says it’s vital for girls to have fellow females to be coached by and look up to.

“I believe it’s hugely important and what’s great about New Zealand Football is that the Football Ferns and ex-Ferns are so approachable – they’re always keen to help grow the sport and inspire the kids,” she says. “A number of Ferns have come down and coached or trained with my girls at Ellerslie, they inspire and show the girls to dream big and that anything is possible.”

New Zealand internationals such as Nicole Mettam and Malia Steinmetz have been involved in sessions at Ellerslie, as well as many other clubs.

Gleeson says she gets as much out of coaching young female players as the girls do themselves.

“It’s such a great opportunity to give back and I’ve learned so much working with girls. I feel I reap as many rewards, if not more, than the kids,” she says. “I am passionate about bringing a female perspective and I think it is really important for kids to experience different coaching styles to learn from. It’s important for women to coach because we all have a lot to offer.”

Gleeson, who has also coached at a Federation Talent Centre (FTC) level for Auckland Football, relishes being able to teach girls life skills in addition to improving their footballing ability.

“The things these girls learn in a football environment are so transferable to the things they face at home and school – friendships, team work, the highs and lows,” she says.

“When they are struggling, it can actually be good because it shows me they are in a place of growth.”

Gleeson admits there are barriers that may prevent women from getting involved with coaching but is pleased to see those being broken down.

“The federations and New Zealand Football have been fantastic in hosting female coaching courses all around the country. Within FTC and NTC, there are female coaches helping build our next round of Ferns which is fantastic,” she says.

“All you need is a willingness to learn and, most importantly, to love the game. I believe it is really important for our young females to create a habit of giving back. We have girls as young as 11 or 12 already stepping into that phase at Ellerslie and it’s really exciting to see.”

The second McDonald’s Junior Coach of the Year competition was launched by New Zealand Football and McDonald’s in May and the overall prize is once again a behind-the-scenes experience with Oceania champions Auckland City at the FIFA Club World Cup, this time in Abu Dhabi.

To nominate a wonderful coach like Haley Gleeson and for more information on the range of prizes up for grabs, please click here

For more information on NZF Coach Development, please contact Steven Dillon at or visit

Related Topics: