Licata, Coventry Join Freedom Coaching Staff

As he prepares his team for the 2020 AFL International Cup, new USA Freedom head coach Dannie Seow is also assembling his coaching staff which will help him towards his goal of growing the program.

It’s a task that will involve knowledgeable people, not only of football the game and of people who play it, but of the footballing landscape of the US.

And he couldn’t have picked two people who fit the bill more perfectly.

Portland Sockeyes head coach Martin Coventry and New York Magpies head coach Christina Licata are the first two assistants to join Seow’s staff.  Coventry will take on the role of forwards coach, while Licata will handle coaching the backliners.  The two have each seen the game here blossom for a long time; combined, they have 35 years of service to the USAFL, including roles as coach, player, and umpire.  Both are legends for their contributions, and both are looking to impart their experience on the next generation of female footballers.

“The Women's Association is elated with the selection of Christina and Martin to round out the Freedom program,” said USAFL WA President Lisa Arredondo. “The passion, experience, and dedication they have for the Freedom program and the women's program as a whole will help bring women's footy to a new level in the USA. We are excited to see them build upon the strong foundation that has been set and support them while they do great things.”

The Tasmanian-born Coventry played footy in his youth for Sandy Bay in the TFL reserves.  He helped found the North Carolina Tigers in 1998 and is still going strong as a player racking up a massive 178 games for the Tigers (1998-2003), Tuscon Javelinas (2004), Seattle Grizzlies (2005-2009), and Portland Steelheads (since 2009).   He also had a hand in founding the Portland club.   He is a three time premiership winner, winning D2 with the Grizz, and was an integral part in the Steelheads back-to-back D3 titles in 2015-16. 

“Marto,” as he is known, also has quite a bit under his belt in terms of coaching.  He was head coach at North Carolina for five seasons, and spent eight years at the helm in Portland.  Last August, he served as an assistant coach and scout on the USA Revolution men’s team during their run in Melbourne for the AFL International Cup.  He began his role as head coach of the Sockeyes, Portland AFC’s women’s team, this year, after having an assistant role previously.  His prowess as an attacking player is a key component in helping Seow develop strategies for the Freedom forwards. 

“Martin was selected as our forward line coach not only for his experience within the USAFL and player knowledge,” said Seow, “But he [also] has some interesting ideas on how we can address our ball movement and player positioning coming into the forward line.”

There is a willingness to teach the game residing inside Coventry, one that is evident whenever he mentors players with his home club in Oregon.  Outside of his role with the forward line, his overall vision for what the Freedom can become is one of long term growth through a number of facets, on and off the ground.

“The Freedom program has an excellent foundation and there is big potential for improvement,” he told USAFL.com.  “Women's footy is growing rapidly in the U.S and we need to harness that energy. I want to help raise the standards and expectations in the program as far as fitness, skill level and professionalism. The skills I am looking forward to bringing to the table are my abilities to spot and assess talent, help turning talented players into competitive footballers, and game day coaching.

“I'm excited to be part of the next phase of the USA Freedom!”

Licata, a native of Pittsburgh, is a true pioneer of Aussie Rules footy on the women’s side.  A lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team, she realized her athletic ambitions and began her footy career at the 2005 USAFL Nationals, alongside fellow Freedom and league fixture Drea Casillas with the Arizona Lady Hawks.  She was selected for the 2009 Freedom tour of Australia, but had to miss out due to an ACL injury.

With Casillas, Licata helped form the New York Magpies women’s team in 2008 during a time when one could count the number of women’s teams in the league on one hand.  She was honored with a Pioneer Award at the 2015 Nationals at the tenth anniversary of the women’s division.

Of Licata’s selection to the staff, Seow said, “It was important to me to have at least one woman coach in our staff both from a perspective point of view as well as for the growth of women coaches and staff within the national program. There were a number of decent candidates but I chose Christine Licata as our back line coach for her attention to detail, passion for the game and her knowledge of the playing group available to us.”

Known as a defensive-minded center with a booming voice, booming kick, and trademark bandana, she took over as head coach of the Magpies women in 2014, becoming the first American to attain the AFL’s Level 2 Coaching accreditation, a process which take a full year.  She served as an assistant to Judith Stein on the USA Liberty Development Squad for the 2015 49th Parallel Cup and 2017 Liberty Australian Tour.  As a coach, she has quickly adapted the more than two dozen rookies who have joined the Magpies over the past two seasons to not only the fundamentals of the sport, but to nuances of the game.

“I think that the National program has great room for growth as women's footy continues to grow in Australia and the United States,” Licata told USAFL.com.  “As the sport grows here, we are gaining access to young players who are new to the game, athletic, and eager to learn. This with the solid base of experienced players we've had come through the program gives us a great foundation to build on in the lead up to 2020.”

But Licata knows, as does Coventry and Seow, that this success won’t just me measured by how they do in Australia in two years’ time.  Though they would surely love for the Freedom to improve on their fourth-placed finish in 2017, Licata knows that the International Cup is just one part of the puzzle.

“For me, it's all about the process; not looking to 2020, but living and working hard in the here and now. Dannie's vision of developing local programs to bring the skill level of the entire league up is spot on. With all of the women's coaches in the nation being on the same page about drills, skills, and fitness, onboarding to the National level should become more seamless.”

In the end, however, Licata believes that building a bond of unity across the women’s program in the USAFL is essential to its success.  “That unity starts with hard work on a personal level and on a team level. I'm excited to join Dannie, Marto, and the players to build that unity and foster an elite National program for the growth and development of US players. I'm thrilled to be taking on the Defensive Coach position for the Freedom and look forward to continuing to challenge myself in this great world of footy.”

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