Lisa Fallon is a UEFA A licensed football coach who works with Northern Ireland men’s National Team and Cork City FC as a Performance/Opposition Analyst.
She grew up in Dublin, attending school in Lucan and played for Leixlip United and Lucan United. In 1994 she moved to the UK to study Sport Science and spent 8 years there where she played for Southampton ladies, Gillingham Ladies and Sittingbourne ladies as a central midfielder.
Upon her return from the UK, she won a Dublin Senior B Camogie Championship with Round Towers Clondalkin (playing as a full-back) before signing for St Patrick’s Athletic in 2004.
A second cruciate ligament injury in her right knee ended her playing days at the age of 28 when she commenced her coaching badges.
In 2013, Fallon became Ireland’s first ever female manager of a senior men’s team when she was appointed by Lakelands FC.
Can you tell us about your sporting background and what inspired you to take up football…
My granddad was big into football and took me to matches with him all the time.? He was a manager of an amateur football team, so I used to go to all the games with him and I really enjoyed it. I was only about 4 at the time, there’s a family photo of me walking up and down the side lines behind him. I fell in love with the game then I suppose.
I realised that at a fairly young age that being a female, I was probably never going to play at a level of football that I really wanted to. I watched World Cups on TV and saw the huge crowds watching, and FA cup finals with the massive crowds; the reality was that even if I got to the women?s versions of these, the crowds where never going to be the same. Plus, I found that the quality of the coaching I got probably wasn’t always great. Often as a female footballer you were at the mercy of a well meaning parent that decided to take the team in order to make sure the team just ran; there was no coach. So I suppose it did get to a point in my career, probably when I got to England, that I knew that the years I’d had as an under-age player, because I hadn’t had such good coaching, I knew that my chances of making it where gone because of that. Then I got injured, I tore my cruciate and as a result of that my playing days were over early. So that is really then what inspired me to become a coach, because I knew that number one; it was going to be the only way I was going to be able to stay involved with football and number two; I felt as a potential coach and former player I had an opportunity to make sure that at least some people would grow up and feel like they hadn’t missed out on an opportunity because they had bad coaching. It was just to remove regrets really so that was where I came from and why I got into coaching in the first place.
You have quite a few roles within football, would you be able to tell us a little bit about each of them?
First and foremost I am an Opposition Analyst working for a premier division professional club in Ireland; Cork City and also at senior men’s international level. We just came second in the league here so we have the Europa League to look forward to next season. They are my two biggest roles and come with the most pressure to deliver top quality information from a technical and tactical perspective. Its all about providing the best information that can help the manager and players make good or potential match-winning decisions in a game.
I also coach a men’s team in the top amateur level. That’s important too because it?s very important that I am actively out on the pitch regularly from day to day, making sure I am consistently involved on match day as well.
I am also Director of a club called Castleknock Celtic in Ireland which is in Dublin. It’s probably the biggest or the second biggest club in Ireland as a non-professional club. My job there is to implement a football philosophy that can stand with the club through time and make sure we have the right development structures in place so that the players can develop and realise their potential, whatever level their potential will take them too.
You have just got your UEFA A license and you were the only woman on the course, what was that like?
I’ve not fully finished my license; I have my final assessment in a couple of weeks, and have to say I’ve enjoyed every minute of the course so far. The experience I’ve had working with men’s teams meant it didn’t really matter to me that I was the only woman in my group because I’m pretty much used to that from the roles I have within football at the moment. I’ve loved the course, it was tough but that’s what you want. You want to be challenged, you want to improve, you want to come up against situations and you want to learn from them. And also what I think is great about those courses is that you’re working with players and coaches and managers from other clubs, other countries and at different levels of the game. No matter what coach you speak to, you always learn from their experiences or they can maybe learn from yours. That’s what’s really great, it’s great for networking as well and building contacts and also for learning from other people. So not only are you learning from your course work, but you also learning from all the other people on the course as well.
Why do you think there are a lack of female coaches at the higher levels of football?
I think it’s because there’s a lack of coaches at the lower levels of football. I think there’s a lack of female coaches in sport across the board and I think that’s the biggest thing that needs to be addressed. I think it?s inaccurate to look at the top level of the game because I don?t think we have enough qualified coaches with experience to maybe operate at the top level of the game. What you need to look at for example in Ireland is there are probably only 2 or 3 women that have UEFA A licenses. The reality is those 3 women are all working at the top level of football either in women’s football or men’s football. There are male A licensed coaches in Ireland who are not in top jobs. So the reality is there’s only 3 women here who have it, and they are all in top jobs. I don’t think the question is why are there not enough women at the top level. We need to get more women to work through the qualifications and ?go down the coaching pathway and then when we have enough women coming through, it might be a question worth asking.
Do you think the Rooney Rule should be applied to women in football?
I think it’s because there’s a lack of coaches at the lower levels of football. I think there’s a lack of female coaches in sport across the board and I think that’s the biggest thing that needs to be addressed. I think it’s inaccurate to look at the top level of the game because I don?t think we have enough qualified coaches with experience to maybe operate at the top level of the game. What you need to look at for example in Ireland is there are probably only 2 or 3 women that have UEFA A licenses. The reality is those 3 women are all working at the top level of football either in women’s football or men’s football. There are male A licensed coaches in Ireland who are not in top jobs. So the reality is there’s only 3 women here who have it, and they are all in top jobs. I don’t think the question is why are there not enough women at the top level We need to get more women to work through the qualifications and go down the coaching pathway and then when we have enough women coming through, it might be a question worth asking.
Have you ever experienced discrimination in football because you are female?
I’ve come across one or two sexist incidents but certainly never discrimination in football in terms of my ability to get a role or to be offered a position or to do a job. I’ve never been told no and left feeling it was because I was female. Never.
You’re obviously very passionate about football, which has helped you reaching the top in football. What other traits do you feel you have that have allowed you to progress in coaching, particularly in the men’s game?
I think you need to be loyal, be confident, but not arrogant. You need to be humble too, I think it’s important to understand that you are always learning and for me, I want to get better every day. My objective when I get up in the morning is to make sure I have gone to bed that night knowing I have learnt something new. That way I feel I am developing every day, that’s my passion and that’s my challenge to myself. I like to be challenged and I like to feel that I have worked hard. So I am a hard worker, I am a person who wants to learn. I feel I am still a student of the game. I think I am loyal to the opportunities that I get, I like to see them out. I don’t walk away from something when it becomes difficult because I believe that is the time when you will learn the most. You do need to be confident, you do need to believe in your own ability, I think that’s important. That’s something I didn’t always have. That has taken time to grow because at some point you have to believe in your ability. You’re not going to sustain those jobs if you are consistently doubting yourself because if you are doing that and somebody questions you, are you going to be able to convince them that what you’re trying to present is right. You need to have conviction in your belief, that conviction comes from experience and things that you have learnt and seen. If you are doing your research properly and interpreting it properly, your confidence comes from that.
Are some of those traits ones that you have learned from a mentor?
I think life has taught me them more than anything. I think life gives you good days and bad days and I think that just transfers into football and everything you do. In terms of mentors, I have 4 or 5 different mentors that I can turn to if I need advice. They tend to be managers I work for or have worked for previously and that side of it is invaluable because you have to have somebody to learn from. Otherwise you are ploughing a lonely furrow and you can come to an obstacle or a t-junction and really not know which way to go, that’s where your mentors can come in. They may not make the decision for you but they may just give you their own experience of something similar and the decision they made and that?s where you learn. That’s when you are looking at your situation, taking on other peoples experiences and learning from their mistakes. You are constantly looking at things in terms of the consequences and the pathway to achieving results. That’s where the mentors are so invaluable. You might not take their advice, but you might learn. Now when you make the decision you are making a more educated decision. You may not always make the right decisions, but it’s important to learn from them because that’s what educates you. It’s a much easier path when you have another couple of people to ask, mentorship is so important.
What are your future ambitions within football?
I think to keep getting better, I want to finish off the A license and get that ticked off. I want to continue to do well in the roles I have at the moment. The thing about football is, if results go well it can change where your future is going. Likewise if results don’t go well, it can change the picture also! I think it is a bit of a clich, but in football even though you’re learning, you have to take it game by game. At the end of the season you are going to know where you have moved to and from where you where at the start of it. Then other opportunities may or may not arise from that, so for me at the moment I’m going to keep going in the roles that I have and to just keep working as hard as I can and you know, who knows where the road ends up.