The FA has made huge strides in creating opportunities for women and girls to play our national sport. Football is now officially the biggest female team sport in England. Last season over female 147,000 players competed in affiliated league and cup competitions – a figure which has risen from just 10,400 in 1993, when records started.
However, females continue to be massively underrepresented in the coaching side of the game. For every 96 male coaches working in the female game, there are just four women. As of 2017, there were just 398 female coaches in England holding a UEFA B Licence qualification to the 10,679 men. These startling figures not only show a lack of participation from female coaches but also how few choose to progress beyond a Level 1 coaching qualification due to a lack of opportunities. Surrey FA is seeking to address this imbalance through a number of initiatives including female-only courses, bursaries and mentoring supporting.
As part of our ongoing #ThisisSurreyFootball series, we spoke to three female coaches who are undertaking their Level 2 coaching qualification. Kerry Knott coach of Mole Valley Ladies, Sarah Chapman of Kingswood Terriers and Kathryn Howes from Motspur Park told us about their journeys in football and what has motivated them to continue.
How long have you been involved in football?
Sarah Chapman [SC]: “I’ve been involved in football since primary school, so I was lucky enough to play football with the boys, my school supported it. Then we played in Metropolitan Police competitions then clubs from around the area asked me to join their team so I joined a club and it just progressed from there.”
Kathryn Howes [KH]: “I played with boys when I was at school. I then joined a Women’s team and then I’ve been out for the last ten years since I’ve had my kids and just got back into it.”
Kerry Knott [KK]: “I started playing with a boys team until they stopped girls playing with the boys and then at the age of 16 I started playing for Brentford and then ever since played so I’ve not stopped – a long time now.”
Why do you coach?
SC: “I stopped playing football and had kids myself and then my eldest boys joined a club. I slowly got involved, the manager asked me to help coach, so I did. So, it’s literally because of my son.”
KH: “I got into coaching because no one else would coach the girls team at our club so they convinced me to do it in a nice way.”
KK: “I’m a little bit different I stopped playing about four years ago now and generally for me playing from the age of sixteen to the age I’m at now (which I won’t let you know what that is) it was what can I do because I love football. Someone asked me to come down to help out and that was four years ago now and yeah I loved every bit of it. It was only when we had a conversation earlier at lunch that I believe to me now that coaching I love more than actually when I was playing.”
Can you give an overview of your coaching experience so far?
KK: “It’s been three years as assistant manager at one club and then went into do the development team. I’m going to be honest it was great being with a first team, it was a good experience and then going into development for me was even more of an achievement seeing players doing so well to get them into the first team.
That’s me going back to being a player obviously you’re out there on your own but then when you become a coach people rely on you more so and I just feel from my experiences of playing football it’s just great to see these players move up to the next level and just seeing them enjoying it as well so yeah it’s a nice achievement. That’s why I’ve enjoyed coaching more than I did actually playing because I didn’t win any medals.”
KH: “I did do my level 1 back in my early twenties when I played women’s football because we needed a coach then and now, I’m coming back into it so I’m sort I’ve starting over again really.”
SC: “The manager of my son’s team told me to go do my coaching badges which I was nervous to do and it’s the best decision I’ve done.”
What advice would you give to other females looking to get into coaching?
SC: “Go for it! It’s the social aspect – you meet people, we’ve all made friends of this course. We have a little WhatsApp group but it’s a challenge and if you don’t challenge yourself then you’ll never know.”
KK: “From my point of view – I think we need to give back to what I got out of it when I was sixteen to all the way through I’ve got many friends now through football and I feel as though I wouldn’t want to sit there and watch it when I could probably give something back you know.
Playing at grassroots football for so long I just think for someone should I do coaching or something like that, I think like Sarah said just try it and I think a lot of people would be shocked. I mean it was daunting for us three. To stand here now to say we walked in on our first day as females walking into we say a guys environment but I can be honest with you know everyone made us feel welcome. Actually we’ve come out of that as friends and we know most of those people now will be our friends for quite a long time unless we play them in a game I guess.
Like I said it’s something I would say – try it and see how you are. The women’s game is getting better any way and that’s because of coaching.”
KH: “I think also it’s important for young girls going into football to have and see female coaches sort of inspires them because at the moment they still think of it as quite a male dominated environment. I know my daughters at school and all the boys don’t like them playing. So the more female players and coaches they see the better it will be.”
KK: “Yeah because going back to when I played, I never had a female coach. At County level I did but at club level, no. I do that you’re right that’s a role model situation there where if you saw a female coach it would make you want to do that more.”
KH: “Sometimes they can understand what you’re going through as a player better being a female as well. I think sometimes is harder for a male coach to maybe relate to female players and what they’re going through and the challenges they experience.”
Why do you think there is a lack of female coaches working in the male game?
KH: “Because it is so daunting going and joining these courses. Once you’re on it you see it’s not the way but I think perception is still that it’s very male orientated and it’s scary I’m not going to lie it’s scary, I was scared a bit to turn up on the first day and I was praying there was a least one other female on the course.”
SC: “It’s hard as well for time, I’ve got three children and I’ve got to get cover for the three boys. I’ve got to do school pickups, arrange childcare because one doesn’t go to school so it’s time to do it.”
KH: “Maybe some of the coaches you’re working with I know some of men still think they know more than we do so it can sort of put you off a little bit and they don’t really want to listen either I think even though we have been trained.”
KK: “I think as well on the other side of it is obviously you don’t have to join in but I think as well by playing we gain respect because actually they realise we can play football and I think that helps.”
SC: “[On] day one they weren’t passing now they want to be on Sarah’s team.”
KK: “To be honest with you as well it’s not really their fault. I just think the volume here of three [women] out of a twenty-five [on the course] - I think it’s all to do with women having a bit more confidence and seeing more women coaches will help that because if they look at someone and go ‘what can I do after I’ve finished football’ – there you go there’s a good example there. We’ve got some wonderful coaches up the top now haven’t we that are coaching and that’s all I can say really I just think it’s a role model situation again.”
SC: “If I didn’t start coaching I wouldn’t have started playing again so I didn’t play for thirteen years, I started coaching and found another club purely through word of mouth, through other coaches, go try down there and I would not have had the confidence to coach now at Mole Valley but I would not have stepped up and went up there unless someone went ‘no you could go go’ – so again goes back to coaching.”
Interested in starting or continuing your journey in coaching? Click here to find out more about the opportunities Surrey FA can offer you.