Donna Stevens - The Toast of Dingley

Last Wednesday night Dingley Football Netball Club’s Donna Stevens was honoured as the inaugural recipient of the SFNL Women’s Achievement Award at the League’s Women of the South Cocktail Event.

Stevens got the nod ahead of four other shortlisted candidates – Margaret Torpy (Moorabbin), Sue Anderson (Cheltenham), Sam Downie (Keysborough) and Deanne Barnes (Carrum Patterson Lakes) – for her years of tireless service, and in particular through her role as Head Trainer of the Dingoes.

And she said she was not only thrilled to be recognised as the first ever winner of the prestigious award, but also glad to be part of what was a wonderful evening.

“I’m very honoured and happy to have won it,” Stevens beamed.

“It was lovely to win an award and to win an inaugural award is very special.

“(But) it was lovely to be nominated and just to attend the night.”

Stevens is a Dingo through and through, and has black, red and yellow coursing through her veins.

She began her association with Dingley as a spectator in 1994 when her eldest son began playing with the club’s juniors in what was then known as the MSJFL (now the SMJFL), but her love of volunteering and community sport saw her help out as a trainer for her three sons’ junior sides in 1999.

Stevens took to the role like a duck to water given her wealth of knowledge in the field of sports medicine.

“I lecture for Sports Medicine Australia and my background is in Physical Education, Science and Health in the secondary system,” Stevens revealed.

“And I’ve worked for Chisholm Institute for the last 17 years. I coordinate the Diploma of Sport and Recreation Management and Sport Development and also the fitness courses there.”

In 2006, the Seniors were in need of a Head Trainer, and turned to Stevens for help finding one.

She wrote up a job description, advertised the position and interviewed candidates before selecting the appropriate person for the role. Stevens then worked alongside them to ensure they had a solid understanding of the job and that the correct procedures were followed in accordance with the club’s requirements.

The following year Stevens filled in as Head Trainer before taking over the role permanently in 2008 – a position she said she simply couldn’t give up.

“We were being smashed every week (in the Casey Cardinia League in 2006) and the only thing we could do to make it any better was to look after the players and I stayed. I couldn’t really go,” Stevens admitted.

“Once you’ve developed relationships with the players you couldn’t leave them so I’ve been there ever since.”

The Dingoes tasted success shortly after transferring into the SFNL in 2007. They won the Division 2 premiership the following year and have since become a Division 1 powerhouse.

With Dingley now fielding four football sides (Senior, Reserve, Thirds and Under 19), Stevens finds herself putting in extremely long hours on Saturdays, which only serves to highlight her extraordinary work ethic and commitment to the task.

While many enjoy a nice sleep in on a Saturday, Stevens will usually start her day at 7:45am to make sure everything is ready for the Under 19s game, and she will often work through to 6:00pm before her duties are complete.

Taping, massaging, preparing the players for the game, assisting injured players, rostering the club’s trainers and restocking the medical supplies – it’s all in a day’s work for this dedicated club person.

Season 2015 marks Stevens’ 10th year of involvement with the Senior club, and although her sons have long since departed Souter Oval, her devotion to the club and her role has in no way diminished. Part of what keeps her motivated to continue is her unwavering love for the club and the players she looks after.

Stevens is also keen to ensure that the next generation of trainers are properly educated so that all Dingley footballers present and future receive the highest level of care when it comes to injury prevention and management.

“(I have a love for) the education of trainers and I employ and mentor a lot of trainers obviously and I just think it’s an important part of the game to make sure that players are (cared for) and injuries are prevented and managed correctly and so I like to see that that continues to be done,” Stevens explained.

This love of education saw her work with the MSJFL to run numerous courses and workshops on behalf of Sports Medicine Australia to train a lot of the trainers from other clubs. In addition, Stevens served as the SFNL Interleague team’s Head Trainer for their clash with the EDFL in the AFL Victoria Metro Championships back in March, which confirms her standing as one of the preeminent trainers in suburban football.

Stevens has also served an eight-year tenure on the junior club Committee and was awarded life membership of the Dingley Football Netball Club in 2009 in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the club.

And while Stevens is honoured to receive her latest accolade, she added that players at all clubs should acknowledge the tremendous work of all volunteers as their work is paramount to the games of football and netball.

“Women contribute in a variety of ways and I think it’s really important for players to recognise that without a large number of volunteers contributing their time that the game just doesn’t go ahead,” she said.


By Will Hunter

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