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Sophia Samartzis is proof that you can land your dream job – from an internship. Sophia has just been announced as the AFLW’s new female talent manager, moving from the Geelong Cats, where she has been assistant general manager for the past three years.
Sophia lives and breathes football, and knew very early on that she wanted to make a career out of it. Before she’d even completed her Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science at Deakin University, Sophia landed a sports science placement with the Geelong Cats Football Club. It was so much more than an opportunity to find out how her qualification could be applied in a workplace – it led to career opportunities beyond graduation that she’d never even considered.
Sophia recalls being certain that she wanted to work in football once she graduated. While studying, she was working as Head Trainer at Williamstown Football Club and knew she could take her learnings both on and off the field to an elite level. But once she accepted the placement at the Geelong Cats, Sophia realised she could eventually accept a range of roles. ‘If you keep your thinking open and don’t start on a narrow path, opportunities can be really broad,’ she suggests.
During her placement, Sophia was able to demonstrate her ability to be a strong team player. ‘Deakin taught me how to work strategically, differently and to think on my feet. Those skills have transferred across,’ Sophia says. Her abilities were certainly recognised, with the club offering her a graduate opportunity.
'If you keep your thinking open and don’t start on a narrow path, opportunities can be really broad'
Deakin University graduate
Although she started in a sports science position, Sophia was promoted repeatedly and within a few short years she was the club’s Football Operations Manager. ‘My job involved coordinating the various components of the club into a holistic football program for players, staff and coaches. It was anything from logistics management, to budgets, to working with external partners,’ Sophia says and highlights that the responsibilities extended well beyond what she studied.
Through the Geelong Cats Football Club’s research and innovation partnership with Deakin, Sophia has seen history repeat itself. ‘The Cats program with Deakin starts out with student internships through to strategic research and development appointments,’ she says and adds, ‘These sorts of of projects are a fundamental part of the Cats football program, in an industry where a competitive edge can make all the difference.’ In these roles, students and graduates look at many aspects of the sport, including patterns of play, diet and sleep. The collaboration with Deakin gives the club access to leading technology and expertise. But knowledge is only part of the job criteria. ‘What the club looks for in graduates is adaptiveness, not the perfect answer,’ Sophia says.
Sophia’s new role with the AFLW will oversee the female talent program, working alongside AFL Women’s talent manager (and Geelong recruit) Aasta O’Connor.
The role will include overseeing state resourcing and managing the NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships.
Sophia will also be charged with implementing the new female under-16 club academies, which will see all 18 AFL clubs, as well as Tasmania and the Northern Territory, have their own development academies.
Be inspired by two more outstanding sports women, linked to Deakin.
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