In general, girls haven’t come through the same pathway as boys in football. Most boys for example, will go through extensive academy pathways, where they are exposed to lots of tactical and technical training. They become used to analysing their own performances and feeding back to the coaches. Not many young girls get the opportunity to do that.
So, when we use video analysis with the first team now at Charlton, or go into tactical detail, we have to be conscious of how we give them feedback.
One coach I’ve spoken to in the women’s game said that before he goes into team meetings where he knows a player is going to get highlighted on the video analysis, he has a chat to that player individually. They take value from that. They understand that you’re not doing it to pick on them in front of their peers, but for the benefit of the team.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that football is football. Whether you’re coaching men, women, girls or boys, it’s all the same. That’s true to an extent, but it’s about the way you deal with people. You have to be conscious and understanding of who they are as a person, and how to get the best from them.
Ultimately, it’s the same sport, but the way you deal with people has to be slightly different.
“People have unconscious stereotypes of a female coach and a BAME coach. You automatically feel under pressure to prove your worth”
I spent six months working with the Under-16s before the club gave me a role with the development team. It was the perfect stage for me. I was working with 16 to 19-year olds who perhaps hadn’t had much good-quality coaching growing up, so their tactical knowledge was probably similar to that of boys a few years below.
I brought a lot of traits to the role that I’d learned from my time at Forest, where I was used to value-based coaching with a real emphasis on the tactical side. It was something I don’t think they did much of with the women’s side at Charlton at that time, and it seemed to catch the eye of the chairman and first-team manager.
The following season I was dragged up to work with the first team, competing in the Women’s Premier League. First, as a coach. Then, as managers came and went, I was given the opportunity to step up.
It has been a whirlwind journey. One that forced me to develop quickly as a coach. Especially in terms of my beliefs and self-confidence.
When you’re working with academies you can sometimes get away with it, but working with elite-level players who are focused on winning means that as a coach you have to be confident in what you’re delivering.
If not, players see through it. Everyone sees through it.