Footy mom ‘hang up the boots’

Graduates: Walt and Cale James are graduates of the Rochester Auskick program, which for the past five years has been coordinated by their parents, mother Casey and father Al.

Rochester’s “soccer mom” Casey James has mixed emotions about hanging up his boots as coordinator of the city’s hugely popular Auskick program.

She and her husband Al were key figures in the busy Sunday morning sessions, but with nine-year-old son Walt, now an Auskick graduate, the family moves on.

Walt and his 13-year-old brother Cale inspired Casey and Al to throw their hats into the ring – and five years later they will follow their sons into the next stage of their football development.

Both James boys started with Auskick when they were in kindergarten, Casey and Al befriended then-coordinator Craig Williams.

This relationship ended when Craig asked the couple if they would take on the role once he stepped down.

Casey said the fact that she ran a children’s festival in Rochester (Kids Capers) for a few years meant that Craig was aware that she had the skills to coordinate the program.

“The fact that we were on the sidelines every week also made it easy for him to target me,” Casey said.

The energetic mum, however, has no regrets taking on the role as she tried to keep up with her boys’ development.

“Their skills far exceeded mine very quickly,” she said.

“Taking the role of coordinator was a good way for me to be part of it.

Casey described the coaching group of 10 who supported her as “brilliant”.

“Having so many coaches every week was great. It’s a very committed group,” she said.

Casey said the Auskick Group’s “replacement policy” has helped it maintain a high number of coaches.

“We have worked hard to recruit two new coaches each year. There are a few who have been with me for five years and, oddly enough, Craig Williams has now returned to help me,” she said.

“He, along with Warren Martin, Steve and Tim Rasmussen, and Dylan Cuttriss, has been there the whole time.”

Luke Ryan, Tom Acocks and Ash Watson are also involved in a coaching capacity with the band.

Casey’s proudest moment is probably the addition of another mom, her first since becoming involved, on this coaching panel.

“This year we brought in our first mom as a coach, Phoebe Cuttriss,” she said.

Phoebe is no newcomer to football, she is the co-captain of the Bendigo Thunder women’s team.

Casey said her five years have seen an increase in the number of girls participating, which has added more moms to the team.

The Jameses are also involved with the Rochester Under-14 team, which competes in the Bendigo Junior League.

Cale plays on this team and will soon be joined by his brother.

Casey said the different skill sets of her and her husband made them a good team.

“Al has been a huge support. He is good at practical things, inflating balls, setting things up and putting things away,” she said.

The family benefited from Casey and Al’s long-term association when they were visited by Essendon players Orazio Fantasia, Michael Hartley and Paddy Ambrose.

“They made camp here and, via Auskick, had breakfast with us at home,” she said.

The house is dominated by Bombers fans, save for Tiger Walt, a Bombers-painted wall in the back yard that shows support.

Casey said the Rochester Auskick Center has managed to maintain good numbers, 90 children involved in the program, throughout his tenure in the top job.

“We are keeping our older children in Auskick a little longer. We don’t have an under-10 team,” she said.

Casey has already recruited his replacements, Nigel and Sharelle Riordan, who have agreed to step up

Sunday mornings won’t change too much for the James family, who still have junior football for a few more weeks.

And then the cricket season comes.

“I did a little cricket scoring, it crossed my mind to get involved in the committee,” Casey said.

“These clubs are so important for cities. We have to give the children a good experience at junior level, then that forms a basis for the future.

She said the only downside was not watching her boys as closely as she might have if she wasn’t running around organizing things.

But as the team leader of the Under-14 team, she remains at the heart of the action.

“We are a young and developing team. We’ve had some good wins, some surprising ones, but it’s tough competition,” she said.

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