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Ten clubs to open doors to multicultural coaches

AFL Club Coaching Diversity Program: Jamie Pi speaks to our inaugural Coaching Diversity Intern, Jamie Pi.

Ten clubs will open their doors to multicultural coaches in 2017 after St Kilda's success with the newly named Alex Jesaulenko Program last year.

The Saints placed Jamie Pi in their football program last season as part of a multicultural coaching pilot developed by the AFL and the AFL Coaches' Association. 

A Chinese migrant, Pi has now moved into part-time employment with the Saints, working with their Next Generation Academy and community programs, and spending one day a week with their AFL coaches. 

Six clubs participated in the pilot program last year, but that will grow significantly in 2017, with 10 clubs confirming their participation this week.

Essendon, Carlton, Richmond, Melbourne, Hawthorn, the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast, Sydney, West Coast and Greater Western Sydney will all take on one participant, pending suitable applicants.

Pi said the program had given him a different perspective on football and valuable insights into elite preparation that coaches could take back to community level. 

"It showed me what the requirements are mentally and physically for someone to be an elite athlete and what coaching at that level looks like," Pi, who migrated from China with his family when he was eight, told  

"It motivates me even more to be better at what I do, not just from a coaching perspective … it's been a great program." 

The Jesaulenko Program is designed to give multicultural coaches exposure at AFL level and then send them back into community football where they can share their experience. 

For Pi, the program has opened doors at St Kilda and seen him this year named coach of the AFL Victoria All-Nations team, an under-15s representative team made up of players from multicultural backgrounds. 

"I was lucky to get into that environment and be accepted by everyone, and that has led to staying at the club on a part-time basis, bettering myself and helping," he said. 

"The club has been really generous in letting me stay involved with the training schedule once a week, helping with the coaches in whatever capacity they need. 

"So I'll go to the main training session, I'll sit in on their meetings and basically continue my learnings … it's like my internship is continuing." 

Multicultural coaching is the next frontier in football diversity and last year's successful candidates for the pilot program come from Korean, Chinese, African, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern backgrounds.  

The coaches spent one training day at their clubs during the week, as well as match days. 

The AFL and AFL Coaches' Association hope the program will help close the gap between the number of amateur and elite-level coaches with a multicultural background and the general community. 

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs