|Organisation:||Kings Hill FC|
Jess is a qualified Level 1 football coach in England who volunteers as an Assistant Coach at Kings Hill FC. Jess has been a keen footballer since being a young girl and moved on into coaching after working behind a bar at her local football club and deciding it was time to coach instead of serving beers!
As the only female coach at her club and the only female on her level 1 course, Jess is well aware of the challenges she faces in becoming a female football coach. She now coaches girls aged 4- 16 on a Saturday morning developing the next generation of women to grow the sport…
I have always been sporty and got involved with sports throughout school and university. Whenever a sports club was on, I was there! But I have always had a passion for football and played it every chance I got. First I played for a boys team when I was 8 and then my auntie found a girls team for me to join when I was 10 and I played with them until I was 19. My managers always pushed me to be the best football player I could be aswell as the best person and their passion for football and coaching inspired me to coach others. I wanted to pass on my knowledge to the next generation and make a positive impact on the individuals and the community as a whole. I got involved with Kings Hill by serving them beers every week! I work behind the bar at their home ground, Kings Hill Sports Park and got talking to a few of the coaches. Dan Mason mentioned the girls development club and I wanted to be part of it! It sounded like a perfect opportunity for young girls to play with other girls of their own age and ability in an environment that focuses on their individual performance and development. I had no option but to be part of such a fantastic programme which I just wished I had when I was little. We get girls aged between 4 all the way up to 16 wanting to play football and coming every saturday! More coaches are needed to cope with the intake of girls and so we can organise them into teams and enter them into the league!
I got my level 1 badge when I was 18 which was kindly funded by my previous club. It involved theory and practical elements focused on laws of the game and simple drills that can be used to develop an individual players skills. I did the course with one of my teammates and we were the only females on the course! At first it was a bit intimidating being in a classroom with 20 other fully grown men learning about football but when it came to the practical we proved that we had more than enough ability on the football pitch. There is always mixed reactions when I play football among men. Some are impressed and play with us like equals, some are patronising and ‘go easy’ on us because we are females and ‘too delicate’ to play with the men and others don’t care if we are female or male and perform their most violent sunday league slide tackle to prove it! I would obviously prefer them to play with us as equals but you don’t always get that! But the coaching course was a nice environment to be in. Once the initial nervousness was out the way and the boys knew we weren’t incapable of kicking a ball it was good fun to learn new drills and how to be an effective coach. The course was extremely helpful as the following year I was the coach for the Canterbury Christ Church University team who I played for for three years. I have signed up to do my level 2 which was funded by Kings Hill FC and can’t wait to start it! It will enable me to provide a better coaching session for the girls so they can get more out of it!
Football is a very male dominated environment especially in the UK and it is understandable why some women are hesitant to get fully involved with it. It can be intimidating for a female to walk onto a pitch that’s full of men who feel that the only way to assert their masculinity is through football. Also the stigma that women are inferior in sport and therefore their opinion is not valued is a common fear for females in all sport let alone football! Increased support for female coaches may encourage more women to become coaches as well as increasing their confidence. Clubs such as Kings Hill fully support my coaching and are more than happy to help me in anyway they can and this is an important step in encouraging women to get involved in coaching! My advice to any female wanting to coach is just get stuck in! Every grassroots club in the country want more coaches to increase the amount of participants they can attract so they should fully support your aims whether you’re completely new to coaching or have been coaching for years! Its fantastic when mums want to get involved with the team to help in any way they can but its absolutely brilliant when they want to take on a coaching role within the club! Its just having the confidence to take that first step and putting yourself forward!
Kings Hill is very close knit and has a lovely community feel about the whole area. This is no different in the football club. Everyone knows everyone and works together in order for the club to succeed and reach their full potential. They have 17 male football teams but are extremely eager to give the girls an opportunity to play. All the male coaches are extremely supportive of me and are never afraid to share their experiences or words of wisdom. They fully believe in my ability and one of them even said I should get involved with coaching the boys sides aswell! But as I provide them with their post match food and drink they have to be nice to me!
I don’t necessarily have a mentor but I have various people who have inspired my coaching styles and choices. For example my first year university captain had a massive influence on the way I should approach situations in a game and how to turn a game around through one half time team talk. Her pre-game and half-time talks were inspiring and I always refer back to the way she talks in order to inspire my player. I had to make the most important half-time talk of my university career at our varsity event against the University of Kent, which to us is the most important game of the year! We were 1-0 down at half time and my players were struggling to keep their heads up and battle on! The half time talk was the game changer for me and I had to make sure they didn’t give up and kept working until full time. We managed to win 2-1 and it was the most emotional game of my life and I was so proud to be the captain of the team that managed to come back from 1-0 to win the game!
The best thing is seeing players develop and improve on a skill, especially if its over the course of one session. It is the most rewarding feeling ever as you have played a major part in that players development. Its even better if they use that skill effectively during a game. My U9 and U11 girls had their first ever game this week and they were so excited to play and get stuck in! It was the proudest moment to see them use a specific skill that you have taught them in training in a game situation. Its also rewarding to see their faces light up when they know they have done something correctly. When they are enjoying playing football and making some good friends in the process is fantastic!
Unfortunately I have whilst I was coaching a female adult team that I also played in only a few years ago. We trained on the same pitch as the mens team as the ability to choose when and where you trained was a rarity! A few sexist remarks were made to my players which weren’t taken kindly too! I was furious and upset that it had happened as I had never personally experienced sexism in football before. I have heard the worst stories about sexism in sport as a whole, for example females being kicked off pitches because they weren’t welcome to play there, but you never think you will be subject to that sort of discrimination just because of your gender. It’s a shame that sport can have such a negative and discriminatory side not just with sexism but with homophobia and racism as well! However the current environment I coach in has none of that! Just shows its only a handful of people that hold medieval views against females participating in football or sport. But I am so thankful that I haven’t been subject to more as I know some people have been through much worse than myself.
I want to continue to work with Kings Hill FC and help build and develop their girls side. I feel I can give a lot to the club having set up and developed a 2nd team for Canterbury Christ Church University whilst I was captain there. And at the moment both female Christ Church teams are unbeaten so I am hoping that their amazing form continues throughout the season (touch wood). I have my FA level 2 course coming up so hopefully I can use and build on that to help the girls develop further. However my ideal career lies within sports development. I would love to be part of a team that helps more individuals of all ages and abilities take part in sport whether that be for a council or a sporting national governing body. I believe everyone has the right to participate in sport whatever ability, age, race, gender, sexuality etc and I want to help make sport much more accessible to them! But of course I will be coaching at Kings Hill on the side!