Rossy’s way: Inside the mind of Fremantle Dockers coach Ross Lyon
Ross Lyon, entering his eighth year as Fremantle coach and coming off a disappointing 2018 season, says he believes he is coaching better now than ever before.
“I’d like to think I’m a better coach today than in the past,” Lyon said, responding to a question at a business breakfast in Geraldton recently.
A member of the audience had commended the 52-year-old’s record as a defensive coach and asked if his approach to coaching had changed since his St Kilda tenure.
Lyon reflected that the pressure of expectations was on him at St Kilda and the situation was no different when he arrived during a “tumultuous” time at Fremantle.
“I’ve always coached under pressure. That’s what you sign up for,” he said.
Lyon acknowledged his squad fell away after round 13 last year, when the side finished 14th, but said he hoped for an improved showing and a better run with player availability this year.
“We’re not putting a ceiling on it,” he said of his side’s prospects.
“It’s a very even competition. We want to improve in attack and defence.”
The Dockers have recruited strongly in the off-season, bolstering their forward stocks with the arrival of Rory Lobb (Greater Western Sydney) and Jesse Hogan (Melbourne), along with an injection of youth.
Lyon wasn’t about to make any rash predictions about 2019 but said he hoped his young group could build to finals in the next few years.
“They’re part of a rebuild we’re still doing,” he said.
In a wide-ranging question and answer session with members of the public, Lyon gave an insight into how he and the club hierarchy shut down external noise and pursued internal goals.
“You can’t be worried about that (what people say — good or bad),” he said.
“You’ve just got to roll your sleeves up and put your shoulder to the wheel.
“In the end, slowly but surely the wheel turns.”
Raised in working class Reservoir, Lyon was once coached by John Kennedy pupil Don Scott.
He lists Scott, along with Robert Walls, Jeff Gieschen, David Parkin and close friend Paul Roos, as his coaching influences.
“If I look back, I’ve gleaned something everywhere. I’m a good listener,” he said.
Like his mentors, Lyon takes a pragmatic approach.
In a business where winning is everything, he doesn’t put great stock on isolated outcomes, believing they have the capacity to limit potential.
Instead, his coaching focus is on controlling what you can control.
“The only thing that counts is action, otherwise you’re just talking and dreaming,” he said.
“We all make mistakes, we’ve just got to learn from them. It’s about catching people doing the right things.
“You can’t be defined by results. All things being equal, you can’t let past results limit you.
“It’s about having the ability to handle setbacks and pressure.
“We feel that’s happening and it’s starting to pay dividends.”
Personally, Lyon is not a big advocate of adopting rigid work and life boundaries. Instead he talks about an integrated life.
“For me, it’s about my kids, the players and my club,” he said.
“I’m lucky enough to have a swimming pool so every morning I’ll do a few laps in my pool.
“I also stretch and do some deep breathing at night.
“I like to read and I have my mates in Melbourne.
“I’m also fortunate to have access to a world-class gym.”
Lyon is mindful of the club’s responsibility not just to its members, but to its players.
Every club is a microcosm of society — Lyon observing his list includes young men from challenged backgrounds and some from private schools, brought together by a love of the game.
“They’re young men with growing pains, they’re not going to be perfect,” he said.
“(But) we don’t want tragedies,” he said.
“We want premierships, but we also want to produce fine young men.
“(Retired St Kilda skipper) Nick Riewoldt today is in great shape as a person and that makes me proud.”
Lyon has been inspired by the philosophy at Arizona State University, where athletes are routinely challenged to think about their lives after sport — and asked what their 45-year-old self looks like.
“It’s a problem if you only identify as a footballer,” Lyon said.
“We have those conversations with our players.”
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