I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ellie Beagley one of the coaches embarking on a UEFA B Licence coaching course as part of the Betfair Fairer Game scheme.
Ellie, an avid fan of Woking FC, has a love of football that has grown since childhood. She started her coaching career aged just 16 when her school funded her coaching badges; she soon repaid the favour by coaching their U13s girls football team, winning the Surrey County Cup and taking them to the National 5-a-side finals and 11-a-side Quarter Finals.
At aged just 18 Ellie started a sports coaching company, Sporty Kidz which is based in Woking, Surrey, and which delivers PE lessons, after school clubs, holiday camps and birthday parties, for children aged between 2 and 18 years of age, throughout the South East of England. Sporty Kidz now employs 14 coaches and its motto is: ‘Helping ALL Children to Love Sport’.
Ellie has attended a wide variety of sports coaching courses and to broaden her experience further in 2010 she travelled to South Africa, coached children and women’s football, followed England during the World Cup and visited Soccer City where the World Cup final 2010 took place.
Football isn’t her only interest though, Ellie loves all sport and plays ice hockey for a mixed team called the Windsor Knights.
In a challenge to stereotypes and to promote a positive image of sporty girls, Ellie took part in the Miss England Beauty Pageant having won the Miss South East Pageant. In her interview with the judges she explained her passion for sports and coaching, and the talent round video of her playing ice hockey was awarded the highest marks out of all 55 contestants.
This award led to Ellie being featured in Four Four Two magazine as well as appearing on Soccer AM in August 2011.
As would be expected Ellie has strong opinions; she cannot understand why women cannot play 5-a-side football in the men’s leagues, she believes that in 5-a-side format woman can compete.
She would also like to see women only coaching courses. Since women are not allowed to play on men’s teams, she explained, it can be extremely daunting to turn up for a course and find yourself the only female present and of course have to train and play alongside the other participants all of whom are men. She considers this to be illogical.
Ellie is less than impressed by the appointment of Phil Neville as Lionesses Head Coach citing his lack of experience both in coaching and the women’s game and considers it to be another setback in the development of female coaches.
She said: “I believe that women bring a different dimension to sports, and indeed, all coaching. Much research concludes that females build rapport, connections and trusted relationships faster, and at a deeper level than men. Yes, knowledge of sport is of course important, however these “softer” skills are just as critical, and this is backed up in that since 2000 every major women’s football tournament bar one has been won by teams coached by women.
“With these statistics I can’t understand the FA giving the role to a man?”
It is remarkable that despite the lack of numbers, female coaches have been so successful in the women’s game with Sylvia Neid (Germany), Pia Sundhage (Sweden) and Jill Ellis (USA) leading the way.
Clearly in Ellie we have an ambitious, talented, highly motivated coach who will go far, but as always there are challenges. She explained that despite having funding from BetFair she has been unable to get onto a course with Surrey FA. To date courses have been oversubscribed and because they are oversubscribed Surrey FA raise their criteria to coaches actively coaching 11-a-side teams. Ellie currently coaches 5-a-side, 7-a-side and 9-a-side teams!
I was surprised that any of the coaches involved in the Fairer Game initiative would be having a problem getting onto a UEFA B Course and asked The FA for comment.
The FA told me they are aware, and they already have set in place a plan to address these issues:
- They have appointed Audrey Cooper as Head of Women’s Coach Development, she will be overseeing the work being done to provide more coaching opportunities to both males and females in the women’s game
- Eight FA Women’s High Performance football centres are planned, based in Universities across the country, to ensure that aspiring coaches and talented players in all parts of the country have access to the best training and support possible.
- The ambition to increase the number of qualified coaches and improve the quality of coaching is central to the growth of the women’s game.
- August 2017 – UEFA B courses were moved to County FAs and the number of courses being run increased to 45 + courses a year (from between 7 and 12) with 24 coaches per course
- Currently there isn’t the provision of women’s only coaching courses, this is something they will be exploring and providing if the demand for it is there. Currently the feedback they have received is positive of the experiences and integration opportunities females and males get within the courses.
With these changes in place I am sure that Ellie will be working hard on a course in the very near future.
It is to be hoped that with the investment The FA are making into producing quality coaches in England we will eventually have more female coaches at the top, winning trophies and making their mark on the game.
I fully expect to see Ellie making it to the top too, but whether it will be at Woking FC or a WPL or WSL team we will eagerly wait and see.
We look forward to watching her progress and hope to report back on how she is doing in the coming months.
You can follow the Ellie and the other coaches on their Betfair Fairer Game journey here.