Somehow, be it by sheer good luck or superb people skills, Zoe Bickerstaffe successfully combines motherhood with producing champion football teams.
The 35-year-old mother of twin girls Matilda and Emma applies domestic knowhow with leadership skills as coach of Mitchelton Football Club in the Queensland NPL Women’s competition on top of her full-time job as a marketing and communications manager.
“Just lots of planning, I guess,” Zoe said when asked how she balances it all and what is the secret behind it.
“Just making sure that everything is in place well in advance and hoping it all falls into place.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time now so I’m used to it.”
As only one of three female coaches in the Queensland NPLW – the other two are Belinda Kitching (Western Pride) and Karyn Longbottom (Eastern Suburbs) – Zoe has built an enviable record with Mitchie, as her team of female warriors is called.
Despite her twins being only three years old, Zoe managed to win back-to-back Brisbane Premier League championships with the Mustangs before the club was promoted to the NPLW this year.
“That’d be nice but we’ll just have to wait and see,” Zoe said when asked of the chances of a hat-trick of titles.
“Probably not the title because our aim was top half (on the table) but spots four, five and six are very close right now.
“We’re hoping for finals but potentially the league championship is out of reach – there are much more experienced teams ahead of us.”
Mitchelton are currently sitting in sixth spot on the ladder, level on 25 points with Brisbane Roar and only two points behind fourth team Moreton Bay United.
Mitchelton beat Gold Coast United 3-1 last weekend and have a must-win match against Sunshine Coast on Saturday night.
Why on earth would a young mother of twins want to take on such a demanding schedule as she does? There has to be an ingrained love and passion for the sport.
“I love football, I’m a football nerd so I’ve always enjoyed it,” is Zoe’s simple explanation, not forgetting she has English parents although her pathway to Brisbane has been via one of the most exotic routes imaginable.
“My plan was to get Mitchie to the NPL so it has been a five-year exercise,” Zoe said.
“Mitchie was or is one of the joint biggest clubs in Queensland and last year we had nine women’s teams so it has been a real development project.”
But back to Zoe’s pathway to the Sunshine State.
She was born in Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands in the Coral Sea.
Her parents then moved to Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea where she started playing football as a junior with the Ledra Nicosia club.
It was then to New Zealand for a university degree before she landed in Brisbane six years ago.
Now for the obvious question: Is it an advantage to have a woman coaching women’s teams?
“I think so, because I think coaching women is 100 per cent different to coaching men’s teams, dealing with different characters,” Zoe said.
“I’ve seen men come in to women’s teams and fail miserably because they don’t get how to work with women.
“But the good male coaches get it (what makes women tick).”
Words: Terry Wilson