Former England footballer Rachel Yankey speaks to Sport Industry Group about transitioning from playing to coaching, supporting the growth of the women’s game, and being part of Betfair’s Fairer Game campaign…
How have you found the transition from playing to coaching?
It hasn’t really been a strict transition period for me, as I have always coached. Since I joined Arsenal on a YTS scheme I have always been involved in the coaching side. I guess both my playing and coaching careers have progressed in parallel, but most people do know me from the playing scene.
After leaving Fulham I set up my own coaching business where I went into primary schools and worked mainly with kids. From there I have progressed to a more elite level of coaching as I have worked towards my UEFA A License after completing my UEFA B License. So for me the transition has been from working in youth football, to challenging myself by working with more elite players.
How did you get involved in the Betfair Fairer Game campaign, and what is your role exactly?
Once I was told about the figures and stats behind the lack of female coaches out there, I was shocked. If I could do my bit to try and change this imbalance then I felt I should at least try.
It is difficult to find coaching courses and find exit routes in clubs, but by working together with this group this will be easier. During the process I will be passing on advice to the 50 selected coaches, using my experiences of coaching and playing over the years.
Why do you feel it is important to get more female coaches in football?
At all levels we need a more diverse coaching setup working with players. There are many stereotypes we need to break down, and it is not just about getting the qualifications. It is about the confidence to get out there and do the job.
From my experience it does not matter if the coach is male or female, if you know what you are talking about and you can put that across in a way that people can understand and learn from then you will get the results. The key is opening doors and providing opportunities from these coaches to prove their abilities, which is exactly what we are doing here.
Have you ever experienced push back whilst coaching due to gender?
There have certainly been times when coaching at schools where comments have been made about their coach being a woman. I basically had to rise to that challenge, I took it upon myself to show them my abilities as a coach and a player. By the end of the session you do see the change in mentality and the embracing of the change. The key is for female coaches to be confident in their own abilities and show that in the sessions. That is why courses like the UEFA B License is great as it can provide you with that confidence.
Can you see female coaches working in the men’s English league club structure in the coming years?
I would like this to be the case and that is part of the reason the Fairer Game campaign has come about and why it is so important. It is not just about getting 50 female coaches working in women’s football, but to get 50 female coaches working in football - from grassroots to the elite level.
The change does need to be embraced from the top of football, from chairman to academy heads, and only then can we fully break down these barriers.
To follow the women on their Betfair Fairer Game journey visit fairergame.com
Entries for the BT Sport Industry Awards 2018 are open until 30th November, including the new Diversity and Inclusion Award. Find out more here.