As part of our ongoing #ThisIsSurreyFootball campaign, we spoke to female coach and founder of Inspire Girls Football, Sophie Hollis about how she made it to where she is today, and her recently established coaching company, Inspire Girls Football.
When did you first get involved in football?
“So, I first got involved in football when I was about five, played for a little kickers team and things like that. Then when I turned about seven or eight, I started venturing into just girls football and joined my first girls' team when I was about eight or nine years old.
I then travelled in and around the area of Surrey and played for several different teams in the age groups of twelve, thirteen, fourteen. When I was about fourteen or fifteen I trialled at elite clubs and unfortunately, I didn’t get in so that wasn’t a huge confidence boost but I didn’t give up.
When I ventured into college, I took part in a football coaching course alongside an academy and then I gained an agent and flew out to America where I took part in a full scholarship, unfortunately, gained an injury so then my playing career is now over.”
Why did you decide to start coaching?
“So, I started coaching when I was about sixteen just volunteering at a club near me called Camberley and I found myself really really enjoying it and I completely fell in love with it.
I then went to college and did a level 1 and 2 course, unfortunately, I was the only female so it was a little bit of a setback in that regards but because I was the only female it opened up a bigger avenue for me to tap into and the fact that I can now say I have a career in my passion that’s brilliant.”
Tell us more about Inspire Girls Football?
“Yeah, so we’ve been running for only a couple of months now so we’re very fresh.
I originally started it up just to create pathways for all girls, so I’ll do nursery classes and go all the way up to academy level. Some of my development centres will be advanced and some will be for beginners and some of them will just be mixed.
The whole idea behind it is getting grassroots team together and give players more opportunities to play so we’ll do things like six week development centres, three week development centres, spring long development centres and things like that. I’m trying to get involved in every club in Surrey, bringing the girls out and give them a safe place to come and express themselves.”
What advice would you give to females looking to start a coaching company?
“So, I think the advice I would give is to be confident. I think the more and more involvement there are with girls and women in football, the more platform they’ll be with the introduction of the WSL (Women’s Super League) there is now a clear pathway for coaches and players as well.
There’s a quote that I always go by – “Coaches have what children want, the power and influence to impact their game” so that’s the main reason why I got involved in coaching.”
Have you ever encountered discrimination whilst coaching?
Whilst coaching I actually haven’t. Now the main thing that I notice especially when I went out to America there were a lot more girls’ team than there were here. So, on top of all the girls' teams I had I also coached a boys team as well. Now that was my first ever time with an actual elite boys team and I was going in very nervous and I didn’t know how they would react and they were under 16 as well and I also had an under 18 team, I at that time was only 19 or 20 so only a few years younger than me but they warmed to me really well and went the whole season unbeaten so I gained respect from them very quickly which was brilliant.”
What made you want to join Surrey FA’s Youth Forum?
Yeah so, when I was growing up around football, I didn’t really have many role models as such in Surrey, I looked up to the likes of Kelly Smith and things like that, the role models at the top at the time in the England team.
I want to go into schools and be that role model for the girls and boys as well and educate them about the power that football can have, the careers, the playing side and you know there are so many more different elements to football that they can get involved in. Kind of inspiring the youth.”
What do you think governing bodies should be doing to encourage females to take up coaching?
“I think at the moment there doing a brilliant job with the likes of the FA introducing the wildcats programme. I know for Surrey, for example, they have so many sessions in and around the area which is brilliant.
It just needs more people like myself to really drive football forward, obviously, the more people you can get behind girls football the more platform it’s going to have to shoot off but I definitely think the likes of the FA getting involved with the WSL, the more publicity it’s getting now, the more people that are coming to the games as well and the popularity of it is growing and growing and growing.
I believe the media has a huge influence in that as well as the players, you know they're going out doing all their outreach programmes so the more wildcats centres, the more just play centres that we can that then that would be brilliant and hopefully, I can be involved in that partake as well.”