From minority player to coach and role model

Date: 30 September 2020   Author: Energise Me

Growing up Jane was aware of being a minority at the football academy where she trained. Inspired by her female coach she decided to make a change and become a coach herself. Now she’s starting work bringing better football opportunities to inner-city youths.

Growing up:

I’ve been playing football for as long as I can remember, coming up to 18 years. As a kid, I was always active and energetic. Bouncing everywhere! I loved football and was even training at an academy. But I was aware that I didn’t fit the mould of all the other girls on my team.

In the whole of my academy, there were only two girls, including me, of mixed race. This didn’t stop me from being active but I was very aware of the fact. I found it hard to see myself doing well in football as there was no one to look up to. There was nobody for me to aspire to be like.

I had a female coach and she inspired me. I will always remember her because she was a woman. But there was no one from the BAME community to look up to. I wasn’t represented.

I love football as it gives me an outlet. If I am stressed I can go and run around on the pitch and let it all out. It’s a way for me to express myself.

Becoming a coach:

At 18 I joined the fire service. I was again a minority but this time because I was a woman. At 21 I became a mum and at 23 I lost my job due to budget cuts. A mum to a young daughter and recently unemployed, I decided football was my next option for a career path. I decided to go to university and study football coaching and management.

I love football as it gives me an outlet. If I am stressed I can go and run around on the pitch and let it all out. It’s a way for me to express myself. Football is not rigid, plus it’s social.

I have currently been coaching a girls’ football team for three seasons. Coaching allows me to share my love for the game. I especially love working with grassroots clubs as I feel like the players in these clubs often miss out on having a trained coach. They don’t have access to the same opportunities because of this.

I hope I might inspire the girls to become coaches themselves, like my female coach inspired me.


Being a mum, player, and coach:

At times I have found it hard to juggle being a mum, player and coach. When I first had my daughter, I struggled to juggle work, being a single mum and football. I felt guilty for carrying on playing as it was for me and not her. It was important for me to keep up as it’s part of who I am.

I didn’t want to give up anything as I want to show her that I can do it. I want to give her something to aspire to by being a strong female role model! Sometimes I still struggle. There is no childcare at the pitch! Maybe if there was more women could be coaches and players. But my daughter has just started kicking a ball and she even has her own little football shirt.

I often feel like I have to prove myself. People are like ‘why has she got a ball’.

Inclusivity in football:

I feel like football has the opportunity to be so inclusive but often isn’t. Women’s football is insane compared to men’s. I often feel like I have to prove myself. People are like ‘why has she got a ball’. Then they’ll see me do something simple and be shocked that I can play. It’s like their expectations are very low.

There is also little money in most women’s football. There is a big divide between the top 4/5 teams and the bottom teams. They can afford to pay their players and pick who they want, whereas most teams you pay to play.


Working in inner cities:

Motivated by my own experiences, I have just started working on a project to help inner-city youths. We are going to go into the cities and offer free football coaching. Hopefully, we will also be able to take the players to some better facilities outside of the cities to open their eyes to what is out there.

I hope this work will help them have better opportunities and inspire them. It’s a start at reducing some inequalities and helping make the sport more inclusive.

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