Joey Peters has played at the elite level. She knows what it takes to be an elite athlete.
But grassroots football is where she is now investing her time hoping to help kids foster a love and a lifelong enjoyment of the game.
Peters made 110 appearances for the Matildas between 1996, making her debut as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, and her last game in Canberra in 2009.
In that time the former Matildas vice-captain played at three World Cups (1999, 2003 and 2007) as well as the 2004 Athens Olympics.
She played in the United States and was the first Australian woman to play professionally in South America with a stint at Brazilian club Santos.
For the past five years the Belmont 38-year-old has been coaching at the International Football School on the Central Coast.
Now she has launched a multi-sport holiday program aimed to get kids active while also having fun as well as futsal competitions, which she said have many benefits for footballers.
“I just fell in love with coaching kids,” Peters said. “Coaching every day has given me that passion for coaching kids, and also being a mum as well since retiring and having that wider perspective.
“I’ve gone full circle, coming from the elite levels of the game to now actually realising there’s a lot of pressure on kids to be high achievers.
“But if we can give them more freedom rather than structure to explore then we can start nurturing creativity and their own potential.”
Peters has developed her own coaching approach based around the philosophy of ‘Design the game, let them play, watch them learn’.
“It feels like the game hasn’t progressed,” Peters said.
“We’re still focused on skills and developing technique and I pursued that way as well because that was all I was taught.
“But I have realised it’s more than just about with the ball. It’s about the game and the players. What can we learn from the game? Let the game be the teacher.
“Then there is space for kids to make decisions. I think kids are losing that freedom of play and being able to work things out themselves.”
Peters is running futsal competitions for kids aged six to 15 and a multi-sport experience for primary school ages at Swansea High School.
Find out more at www.gameplaylearn.net.