Bev Priestman is a football coach from the U.K. Everton FC knew she was a winner, hiring her even before she finished university. A year later Beverly Priestman joined England’s Football Association. Soon after, her ability caught the attention of New Zealand Football, where in 2011, after five years and a series of promotions, she became the?head of football development?at 25 years-of-age.
In 2013, Priestman, in search of a new challenge, decided to join Canada Soccer as the Director of the Women?s Excel Program (U-14/U-17). And, once again, results have followed.
At the CONCACAF Women?s Under-17 Championship, Canada was the class of the tournament. Lauded for its ball possession and organization in both attack and defense.
Having scored 24 goals and conceded three, Priestman?s players swept the individual honours, including the Golden Ball, Golden Boot, Golden Glove and seven spots on the tournament’s Best XI list.
Born in Consett, a small town 23 kilometers outside of Newcastle, in Northern England, Priestman is a self-confessed workaholic what she calls the price of excellence.
Her next challenge comes in March, when Canada travels to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014. While Canada has a strong team, Priestman says that it?s a mistake to focus solely on the results.
For her, it’s more important to develop players. Players like Sura Yekka and Jessie Fleming, who have already transitioned toward the senior team. It?s a rewarding task, and one of the reasons why Priestman chose to come to Canada.
The FCN caught up with Bev in the build up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada…
How did a girl from a small town in the North East of England end up working at the top levels of women’s football in Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada, all before the age of 27?
Firstly, I think an inherent passion for the game, which probably started on my local estate and at primary school around the age of 4. That linked with a clear vision and some great people around me to learn from and to provide me the opportunities. In the positions I have had I would say I have never taken anything for granted and I have never wanted to just be good; I have wanted to be great and perhaps that has led to my progression.
What inspired you to become a coach at such a young age rather than continuing with a playing career?
Simple answer, I wasn’t good enough to go all the way. No left foot and I only started club and then country football at the age of 13, but I was great at all the tricks! I was coached at a county level by a female coach and was completely inspired by John Herdman who also coached me, so perhaps the female made me believe a female could coach and John’s teaching methods resonated with me as at the time I had always wanted to be a teacher. I went to John?s Brazilian soccer school 5-6 days a week and picked up cones, helped him and joined in, so I think there I knew I wanted to be a coach and a good one at that.
You joined Everton Ladies FC not long after completing your degree at Liverpool Johns Moore?s University; can you tell us about your role with Everton and the impact that working with the likes of Mo Marley has had on your career?
When I talk about people taking a chance on you that was exactly what Mo did. I contacted her and she invited me along to the Ladies training sessions, week-by-week she had me do more and more and I couldn?t stay away. I supported her and her assistant Andy Spence (now manager) from taking technical components of sessions to doing video analysis and going on away trips and international tours with them. I also coached at the Girls U16 and U14 Centre of Excellence teams and then I took over from Mo with the Liverpool County FA team. I cant underestimate the impact Mo and my roles at Everton had on me, she taught me so much. The experience opened doors later in my career but more importantly really taught me about good people, work ethic and character, all of which Mo has and showed it in abundance.
After working in the UK with Everton Ladies you went over to New Zealand Football in 2009 and soon become the Head Women’s Football and then later the Head of Football Development; what was it that drew you to that role and what were some of your biggest achievements in your time there?
Prior to moving to New Zealand, I spent two summer breaks playing and coaching over there and I absolutely loved the country. As well as that it was an opportunity to work and learn under John Herdman and the challenge of tackling a country where Rugby and Netball were the main sports versus my role at the Oxfordshire FA where great work had already been established to grow and improve the Women?s Game.
During my time in New Zealand, I got my hands on so much and developed the national strategy for Women?s Football. ?I hleped develop along with John Herdman, the overall Football Strategy called ? the whole of football plan?. This was a strategy that aligned the country from top to bottom in both the grassroots and talent arms of the game. ?I still think now it was something very innovative, a word that sums John up.
In the women?s game, New Zealand has grown significantly and at the time we really focused on the impact of girls only environments as a growth tool as well female specific coach education environments for beginners, something I and many other women probably never got to experience.
You are currently working as the Director of the Women’s Excel Programme for Canada Soccer, can you tell us about your role and what is involved day to day?
My role is really dynamic, which is something I love about it, it involves both leadership and strategy as well as on the grass coaching with our most talented youth players in Canada. The head coach part of my role is something I will always love and want to grow further in no matter how old I am, you cant quite beat that high performance growth environment. ?The other part of my role has been to develop and lead the Women?s Regional EXCEL program, whereby we licence centres to deliver our National Curriculum. We regularly support, train and quality assure them, meaning our best players are working everyday in a high performance environment across all four corners, basically living a national camp but regionally. I view myself as a youth specialist and I really enjoy breaking down the curriculum and trying to teach the right piece at the right time as well as leading people. So I am really enjoying the role and learning under John, it?s been a great year and a half for me so I’m thriving so far.
Having worked in football in so many countries, have you experienced a difference in attitudes towards female coaches and women’s football in general?
I have to say coming to Canada has been a breath of fresh air in terms of the status that the Women’s Game and the Women?s Team has within the country, it’s more of a profession and the profile you could say is higher. In all three countries they are embarking on the growth and development of female coaches. Ultimately for me its about providing the right opportunities to the right people at the right time. John Herdman has really done a great job at the Women leading Women strategy in providing opportunities to females. He has myself as a female with three female technical staff and I am certain that a fellow female does bring a good social / emotional connection for a positive growth environment.
Working in the roles you have in football take some guts; how have you developed your confidence and self-belief in making these roles such a success?
Many people have said to me I have this innate belief and confidence where gender doesn?t come in to it and perhaps that’s due to the people I have been surrounded by and the experiences I have accumulated. I would say that both Mo Marley and John herdman both carry that trait and potentially have instilled that in me. I also think its something about my mind set in the sense of I never wanted to be the average person, whatever it is I am competitive and I want to be the best I can be and anything less is a let down. So you could say there is a learning when mentoring other female coaches. ?Trust and belief is everything and that pressure and scrutiny of performance needs to come at the right time without impacting someone’s self belief.
What advice would you give to young beginner female coach?
Good question, I think you have to have a mindset that opportunities must be earnt through good character and work ethic. Harness the traits that females bring, which I believe is that gut feel in the social/emotional corner but more importantly believe in yourself. I think finally, surround yourself with good people.