Joanne is a life long sports fan and participator from England. She is currently a primary school teacher but now venturing into football coaching.
“Some people say they have no regrets in life. I’ve had several, but am trying to lessen the number. One of my biggest regrets is thinking I had to be male to be a footballer.
In the 70’s I knew nothing about women’s football, and little more in the 80’s. I played football with the boys in the playground at primary school and was proud that after a couple of games, they considered me good enough to be a certain choice for their team (none of this waiting until the end to be chosen).
I’ve grown up with football – I can’t really remember life without football – it’s always been there. In the early 90’s I played briefly due to a development of women’s leagues in England. Frustratingly, I gave it up too quickly (another regret). Strangely, my interest in watching the women’s game is a recent thing, probably only due to the increased TV coverage and raise in playing standards. Yet I’m currently finding myself more drawn to it than the men’s game.
Now my passion for football has always been strong and as I’ve got older it hasn’t diminished. Some people say that our jobs should be the things we are most passionate about, so, for the past couple of years, along with the rise of women’s football, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a coaching course with the view of getting my foot in the door of the women’s game.
I carried out some research and looked at some possibilities. But! I’m a thinker, not a do-er; my head gets full of ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’, so I shelved the idea. Even so, it remained strong and didn’t go away.
A couple of months ago I finally decided to stop thinking about it and just do it (hey, that sounds like a good slogan!) and in a surge of decisiveness I booked the FA level 1 coaching course in my local area. It wasn’t until afterwards that I noticed the focus of this particular course was on coaching women, not men. (Cue huge grin across my face!)
Let’s go on a slight detour from my story.
I think it’s safe to say, that if the rise of women’s football had not increased, the idea of being a football coach would probably still be in my head. There seems a natural correlation between women’s coaches and women’s teams. Surely the opportunities are higher than trying to get into the men’s game? Yes I could try and become a coach of a boy’s team, but would I be taken seriously and what opportunities would there be to make genuine progress?
Thankfully, great strides have been made for women in the sport and sport in general, but I wouldn’t be writing what I’m writing if I was a man. Therein lies a big barrier that still needs to be broken in the mindsets of both men and women, as well as in the governing bodies that regulate the game.
Also, I think it’s not unfair to say that if I were a man there would be NO PROBLEM at all in doing any course and to also have the realistic hope and expectation that if I was good enough, I could coach any team, regardless of age and gender. Yet the fact remains, that simply because I am a women, despite any amount of passion and experience (and talent), I would not have the same opportunities as a man.
Now I am an ambitious person. I also like a challenge and am willing to work hard to ‘prove’ myself. But why should I have to do that merely because I’m female?
The flip side of this is ‘pro-sexism’. Personally I think this is as bad as sexism. A woman should not be given a job just because she is a woman and because there is a push to be seen to be promoting equal opportunities. The best candidate should be given the job, regardless of gender.
In football, the majority of candidates are still men – white men at that – although that particular percentage is surely changing? So it makes sense that for the most part, men are given the job. It’s only when a women is incredibly good that she even becomes a candidate.
Detour number 2.
My current profession is a primary school teacher. It is sadly true that for some reason, pupils/ classes are more likely to listen to a male teacher than a female one; somehow they automatically receive more respect. This is incredibly frustrating and is also something that seemingly impossible to overcome.
I’m presuming that this could be the case in coaching as well, which is perhaps one of the reasons why female coaches are not taken seriously?
Right, back on course to finish off.
The level 1 course I’ve signed up for is a few days away. I’m incredibly excited yet realistic enough to know that after a couple of sessions I may know that coaching is not for me.
So I’m knocking at the door and seeing if it opens, seeing if I can apply my passion for the game in to something practical to help others develop. I have a hope/ aim/ target, but I’m just going to see how things go. My focus is, without doubt, on coaching within the women’s game, although I do occasionally ‘dare to dream’ of coaching in the men’s game. And yet – in thinking that – am I inadvertently doing the women’s game a disservice, as it continues to grow, develop and make the progress it is?
Only time will tell.”