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The Football Coaches Pushing For Grassroots Representation

Meet the Football Coaches Pushing For Women to Have a Seat at the Table

A seat at the table
Image Source: Jade Keshia Gordon

In 2023, an incredible milestone was achieved in British sports broadcasting. According to Women's Sports Trust, a record-breaking 46.7 million viewers watched women's sports on television throughout the year. This change stemmed heavily from the Lionesses' Euro's win in 2022. The moment the women's squad lifted the trophy it was another catalyst for the ever-growing popularity of women's football.

But despite the improvements that have been made for those on the pitch, there is still a lot of progress needed to improve representation behind the scenes. A new survey by Kick It Out suggests that 80 percent of women football coaches have experienced some form of sexism or misogyny while in a coaching environment. The survey, which was conducted among 115 female coaches ranging from those working in the professional game down to grassroots, also found that 70 percent of respondents had faced sexism or misogyny while on a coaching course. Which is why celebrating and uplifting female coaches is needed now more than ever.

Beth Freeman. Image Source: Jade Keshia Gordon.

Bloomsbury Football, a charity using the power of football to support over 5,000 young people in London per week, has partnered with Momentum On (a women's football campaign group that celebrates the game - led by co-founders Jade Keshia Gordon and Martha Omasoro) to tackle the lack of women in coaching and to inspire more girls and women to get on the pitch. 'A Seat at the Table' celebrates the women coaching Bloomsbury Football players and draws attention to the barriers that prevent more female coaches from getting on the pitch. And three coaches from the grassroots community, 23-year-old Beth Freeman from Gloucester, 19-year old Sasha Lewin from London and 26-year old Morgan Briggs from Arizona, are leading the way.

After all three of them suffered from various career ending injuries whilst playing football, they turned their attention to working behind the scenes instead. Taking on this new role meant the girls now have a newfound appreciation for the art of coaching, and realise just how much coaches from a grassroots level mould the players we idolise today.

"It's about creating avenues where more women see coaching as a viable career option"

Morgan says: "My coaches had such an impact on me from a development perspective that had nothing to do with football. They taught me life skills; from time management to respecting your teammates and coaches. These are what I remember the most, not what they taught me in terms of technique." Beth touches on the importance of grassroots clubs for athletes. "Grassroots is everyone's first step at a career within football, all your favourite players in the Lionesses would have played at a grassroots team first," she says. "It's so important that this area is well looked after — and those behind the scenes play a big part in that." Sasha agrees: "As coaches, we create a safe space for the players — it's like having another family. We teach the juniors ranging from 10 and under so they're almost like your kids and you really bond with them."

Morgan Briggs. Image Source: Jade Keshia Gordon.

However, as we've seen from the Kick Out report, sexism continues to run rife within the sport - and female coaches are still fighting to be heard. But this trio of grassroots coaches have their own suggestions on what can be changed from top to bottom. Sasha says: "I don't think there's enough support for coaches at the top level." The 19-year old goes on to expand on the unspoken mental load coaches go through behind the scenes. "When things go wrong in games players of course get the heat - but the backlash also affects the coaches and managers," she says. "However, they can't always show those emotions because they're in that position of authority." She adds: "Sexism is also a big issue and I think there should be a group for female coaches where they can go and share their experiences so they can lean on each other."

A new survey by Kick It Out suggests that 80 percent of women football coaches have experienced some form of sexism or misogyny while in a coaching environment.

Morgan believes that the key to change is representation at the elite level. She says: "Representation is so important - you can't expect women to want to be coaches if there is no representation. It's about creating avenues where more women see this as a viable career option. I think at a grassroots level we're doing well, but there needs to be more coaches at the elite level within the premier league too so that girls starting out can see that this job is a possibility, rather than just a tick box."

Beth says that the opportunities are available for women - but the issue is access. The coach tells POPSUGAR: "These coaching roles need to be signposted better. There are opportunities for women to get their level one coaching course funded for them, but it's not always easy to find."

Sasha Lewin. Image Source: Jade Keshia Gordon.

Taking up a seat at the table as a woman in a male-dominated sport takes courage, so what do the trio hope women take away from this campaign? Sasha says: "I hope girls can see the different avenues within football - you can be a referee or a coach too. It's a rewarding feeling being a coach. You don't always have to be in the spotlight on the pitch, you can make just as much of an impact on these players behind the scenes too."

"When things go wrong in games players get the heat - but the backlash also affects the coaches and managers."

Whilst Morgan wants women to know that you can have multiple interests and still thrive within the sport. "Coaching is not my full-time job and probably never will be," she says. "I want to show people that you can do it all - you could be a scientist that also plays football." She adds: "We're multi-faceted people who happen to all care about the same sport."

Beth concludes: "I want women to know that there's always a space for them within football, it's obviously a male-dominated industry, but it goes back to that representation - if you can see it, you can be it. So, hopefully they look at this campaign and our stories and see that coaching is an option."

Aaliyah Harry (she/her) is the associate editor at POPSUGAR UK. She writes extensively across lifestyle, culture and beauty. Aaliyah also has a deep passion for telling stories and giving voice to the voiceless. Previously, she has contributed to Refinery29, Grazia UK and The Voice Newspaper.

Image Source: Jade Keisha Gordon
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