02/08/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/08/2018 12:30
Footy runs in Dannie Seow's blood. As a player and a coach, his passion for the game has transcended the ovals of his native Melbourne all the way here to the United States.
And it is that passion as a simultaneous teacher and student of the game that he prepares to take the story of the women's game here into its next stanza.
The USA Freedom women's national team is proud to introduce Dannie Seow as the third head coach in the program's history. He succeeds Leigh Barnes, who announced his retirement from the position following last year's AFL International Cup.
'I am really excited and honored to be part of the next chapter of the USAFL's women's national team,' Seow told USAFL.com. 'I hope to establish a foundation of an ongoing USAFL women's national program that will develop an elite playing unit and grassroots talent pool.'
Having played his youth football for Montmorency of the Northern Football League in suburban Melbourne, Seow was recruited as a teenager to play for Collingwood's U19s. In addition to playing for the senior side under legendary coach Leigh Matthews, he represented Victoria in the U17 Teal Cup and Australia's U18 tour of Australia. After six seasons at Victoria Park, he spent a year at the University of North Carolina, attempting to make the gridiron team as a wide receiver, then as a strong safety, before returning home for a two-year stint with the Melbourne Demons.
After retiring from pro footy, Seow moved to Shanghai before heading to Washington, DC two years ago. There, he joined the Baltimore-Washington Eagles in a player-coach role, and took over the head coaching position of the Lady Eagles team. Last year, the Lady Eagles sent a record number of players to Nationals, as they combined with Boston to finish fourth in the Women's Division 2 field.
USAFL Women's Association representatives Emily Riehl and Anna Thexton expressed what set Seow apart in the selection process. 'We were impressed by many aspects of his application: his previous AFL experience, his extensive coaching experience, and the seriousness with which he approached the USA Freedom head coaching role,' they said. 'We believe that under his leadership the USA Freedom have the potential to be transformed from one of the pioneering women's footy programs into a truly world class side. The players and alumnae of the USA Freedom aspire to raise the program to the next level in strategy, athleticism, and skill, and believe that he is the coach that is best equipped to bring those changes about.'
Having coached the Lady Eagles and played along aside them during Ausball sessions in DC, Seow was 'inspired by the determination and commitment made by all the women who were involved; they really make an effort to work hard on and off the field to better themselves at the sport.' The beginning of AFLW added to his excitement over the position, and to the potential of where the Freedom program could go.
'I think it's an exciting time to be involved with the women's game in the US,' Seow said. 'There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but from my experience here in DC, and what I have witnessed at Nationals in the past 2 years, it seems the number of women being involved has grown quite quickly, particularly this past year 2017.
The incoming coach's goal over the next three years will be two-fold. The first will be putting a competitive national team on the field that can contend with the likes of Canada, Ireland, and Great Britain, all of whom defeated the Freedom at IC17. Off the field, the priority will be on developing the American footy player on the women's side, both through grass roots efforts and through the player exchange program in Australia.
'Development at the grassroots level imperative,' Seow said. 'The current women's teams along with the people involved is where it all begins and ends. I am hoping we can all work together to develop women's football in the US by broadening its reach throughout the country so we can provide opportunities to discover talent that may otherwise has passed us by. This in turn will enhance the standards and level of competition throughout the USAFL.'
As for opportunities to develop as footballers abroad, Seow pointed to the rapid maturation of Katie Klatt's game as proof that stints in Australia work in molding talent. The Sacramento Suns player has spent the last two seasons playing with Melbourne University, and her time at Uni has paid off in spades. 'Watching the IC women's game I was wondering if Katie was actually an Australian with a US passport!' he quipped. 'The way she moved, her positioning along with her skills I was convinced she had grown up in Australia playing the game.
'I would say it's one of my development priorities and a most necessary experience if we are to be competing at an elite level internationally. I have already spoken to a few coaches and administrative people in various clubs in a number of states in Australia about giving those girls of a certain level who are willing to travel to Australia for a season a chance to play and learn the game.'
The optimism that radiates from Seow's responses to his appointment mirrors that which emanates from the growth of the women's game, both in the US and around the world. The sky is the limit for women's footy in the USA.