10 December 2014
Wednesday 10 December
Francesca Brown, former semi-professional footballer at Manchester City & Middleton Colts and now a qualified football coach, has written about her experience of coaching girls and young women including on our award-winning Getting Ready programme below:
Tell us about your coaching experience
I have worked for many youth centres around the UK bringing my vision to life of how women should be recognized in sports. I worked in the Millennium Youth Centre in Manchester where I casually coached alongside qualified coaches in under privileged communities like Moss Side and Fallow Field to break down the postcode barriers which young people face in today's society. Here I went on to complete my Level 1 Coaching qualification.
In 2013 I ran small football sessions at the Shipman Youth Hub Prince Regents Lane. With the success from this pilot, I reached out to the local community and schools, and developed a partnership to deliver regular training sessions for young women aged 12-15, from this work I have gone on to train 40+ Girls in schools across East & South East London, know ranging from the ages of 6-15 and I am currently undergoing my FA Coaching level 2.
What is your role as a coach?
My role as a coach is to make good players better and better players great, I like to create a players pathway, and give my players a rounded learning experience of the game. As a coach my aim is to educate myself first and foremost so I can give my players the best training, and knowledge on and off the pitch. If my players do not feel confident when leaving my sessions, I have not done my job properly. My expectations and demands are very, very high but I still try to be fun by implementing boundaries. I think part of being a good coach is knowing how to extract the best from different people and this is what I aim to do.
What made you get involved with Football coaching?
Former England Women’s Manager Hope Powell has been a massive inspiration of mine from a young age. I have followed her transition from player to a successful coach demonstrating it is possible.
From a young age I noticed how difficult it was for young women to get involved in football. I noticed that when young women were in a team, they were coached by men the majority of the time, which I felt was and still is an underlying issue, as men cannot relate to female problems no matter how good of a coach he is. With that being one of many issues, I found also there was a lack of ethnic female coaches and this was a void in which I was willing to fill.
The ultimate thing which made me get fully involved, with the help of London Youth, was the lack of grassroots clubs and development opportunities in and around the Borough of Newham. Knowing it’s an underprivileged community the young women are already at a disadvantage and with all the opportunities being handed to young men, I felt it was time to take a stand and offer the young women an authentic learning experience through football. As a coach you have to give your players recognition and empower them as individuals increasing their confidence, & I thrive off this challenge.
Your best moment as a coach?
I have many, but when I took the girls on the first ever girls only residential in Newham was a highlight. Some of the girls had never even stepped foot out of London so for them this was a great opportunity. On the residential the girls were involved in team building activities to boost their confidence and to expose their life skills. Also they did workshops around role models and played football. I was named by the young women as an individual they would like to aspire to, this was amazing to know I've had such an impact on the girls, and was an achievement in itself to know the work I am doing is influencing them. This has made me want to dedicate more of my time into making a difference in their lives and to expose them to further opportunities.
What are the biggest challenges when running girls football sessions and how have you overcome them?
Having the right facilities which is accessible to the wider community was a challenge, in order for the girls to play the sport there was a big cost just to rent a facility which caused implications. By working in partnership with the local community and by successfully running the pilot football program I was able to secure the Royal Docks Community School 3G artificial pitch. This has given the girls the ability to perform in a stable, fully equipped environment.
Getting the girls involved and to stay dedicated was another major challenge as in previous years I was told that the young women dropped off and did not attend training. Throughout the two years of this program running we have had 40+ players turn up to training weekly, this is through dedication of the coaches and offering them a players pathway rather than a closed door and by giving them things to work towards the momentum is never lost.
As a coach being proactive in your player’s development is key and also working closely with the community by making it accessible makes the young girls want to come along. Making the sessions fun and diverse made it easy for all abilities to come and train and feel comfortable among their peers.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year?
I would like to branch out to more schools and create a team of qualified female coaches to go into schools and youth centres to deliver an elite football program which creates new teams and reaches out to young women in deprived communities. I hope to get the work I am doing more recognised among the FA and Sport England and also get some female sports leaders on board to inspire the young women on the journey of change. This will provide a voice and an educative pathway putting the girls at the heart of football offering a gateway to young player development.