Breaking the Grass Ceiling: The Vital Role of Women’s Coaches in Women’s Football
Updated: May 4
For a long period of time, football has been considered a sport that is very male dominant, but things are changing as more and more women are taking up the game. As grassroots football in the women’s game grows, it’s becoming increasingly clear that female coaches have a vital role to play in the development of women’s football.
Female coaches bring plenty of experience and knowledge to the game, having faced many of the same challenges and obstacles that their players are likely to encounter in their careers.
They understand the needs of female athletes compared to men, and can provide guidance and a platform that goes beyond just technical skills. Female coaches need to be appreciated in the game, as women’s football can become more inclusive and a more equitable space, where women can not only play the game they love, but also lead it.
Its time to recognise the immense value that female football coaches bring to the sport,
and give them the opportunities and support they need to succeed.
The Women’s Football Pyramid above, shows that there are over 60 leagues at grassroots level between tiers 5 and 7. The leagues range from regional level down to county level. Male coaches tend to dominate the grassroots level especially in the county leagues. One league where this is proven is the Herts, Beds and Bucks Premier Division, as there are minimal female coaches in this league compared to male coaches.
Amy Dunton, Bedmond Ladies coach, is one of few female coaches within the Herts, Beds and Bucks Premier Division. Dunton was a former player turned coach that has learnt her trade in grassroots football. Throughout this time, she has acquired her UEFA B coaching badge and is currently pushing for her UEFA C coaching badges.
When speaking with Dunton herself she explained to me that “coaching is an escape mechanism for me. I enjoy coaching teams and watching them excel. Unfortunately, due to COVID, that has slowed the process of getting my UEFA C badge. I am hoping to gain that badge which in turn will help me with my knowledge of the game”.
Before becoming coach of Bedmond Ladies for the 2022/23 season, Dunton previously coached an under 16s boys EJA side in Harpenden. However, as she told me “Coaching a boys’ team to a women’s team is completely different, it is almost like coaching two different sports”.
Do you know any females coaches within the women’s game?
An incredible elite level female manager is undoubtedly Emma Hayes OBE. Hayes was hired by Chelsea Ladies on the 14th August 2012 during the mid-season 2012 Summer Olympic Break. Hayes was originally only due to finish the remainder of the season, however 10 seasons later, Hayes is still managing the Chelsea Ladies to victories and titles.
Within her time at the club, Hayes has won five Women’s Super League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and has reached a Champions League final. Back in the February of 2021 Hayes was considered by AFC Wimbledon managerial role following a remarkable record with the Blues.
However, Hayes turned down this job offer as she saw the opportunity as an insult and believes that women’s football should never be seen as a step down from men’s football. Hayes has one of the most talented Chelsea Ladies team and it consist of some world-class players.
Sarina Wiegman England Lionesses’ head coach since 2021 is “widely regarded as one of the best international coaches in the women’s game”. After becoming the first coach to lead the team to a major title win when the Lionesses won the UEFA Euros 2022 under the Wembley arch, this then led Wiegman to be awarded with the ‘best women’s coach’ at this years FIFA awards.
Since taking the job in 2021, Wiegman has overseen the Lioness for 31 games within that they have won 26, drawn 4 and only lost one game against Australia. During these games the Lionesses have scored 138 games, only conceding 12 in that time. Alongside this, the Lionesses have won four trophies. Wiegman is one of the best arguments against sexism in the sport, as she is helping to prove to young female coaches that if you are a good coach, it does not matter what gender you are.
These two incredible women within the football industry are the reason there are so many young female coaches who aspire to reach the achievements and successes that they have. These two ladies are slowly cutting out the sexism and stigma within football and are showing the younger generation to watch the game not the gender.
When speaking to a young female coach, Shelly Howard, she said “I know that I can’t make it as a player, but I still have massive love for the game and I want to have my influence, especially being a girl that really enjoys coaching within the men’s game. I just feel like I can make my mark and raise awareness that girls can have roles within the men’s game.”
According to recent studies we can see that the gap between male and female coaches is slowly closing. “Examining only ‘active’ coaches (those coached within the previous twelve months of this survey), the survey found 1.7 million active male coaches and 1.4 million active female coaches.”
This shows that the younger female generation are not afraid to get into the sport and want to aspire to be like individuals such as Emma Hayes and Sarina Wiegman. “In 2015, only 25 per cent of managers in the Women’s Super League were female. However by 2020, this figure has risen to 66.7 per cent.” From this, we can see that the women’s game is forever growing and that female coaches are being given the platform to perform at an elite level.
Women’s coaches are essential for the growth and success of women’s football. Female coaches bring a unique perspective and experiences to the sport, and serve as a role models for young girls aspiring to play at the highest levels. With more and more women taking on coaching roles, there are greater opportunities for players to be supported and mentored by individuals who understand the challenges of the women’s game.
As we continue to strive for gender equality in all aspects of sport, it is crucial that we recognise and support the contributions of women coaches to the world of football, which poses the question… When will we see a female manager grace the Premier League?