As a mother to three beautiful boys, the first things we played with were in fact footballs. My children are all keen footballers and my eldest even has a YouTube channel called the indoor freestyler where he shows football skills and does challenges from home and yes, he does break things and no, I do not recommend ball games indoors!
However, I’ve always loved playing football, and as a child I spent my summers playing at the local park, which we fondly called ‘Red Pitch’, with my brother and other children in our area. I stopped playing football as a young girl due to cultural pressures because football had always been seen as a ‘man’s game’.
I later rediscovered the sport when I went to University although the numbers of girls interested was so low that in the end I just joined the gym and forgot about playing as I thought there was no demand for it. Nonetheless here I am today a qualified level 1 Coach!
This came about when I got involved with the Football Association Level 1 (FAL1) through my organisation, Muslimah Sports Association (MSA). I was persuaded to take part by our Chair, Yashmin Harun, who is always looking to invest in the people around her. Roughly six months prior to starting the course I had started playing football again which reminded me how much I enjoyed the beautiful game and how good it felt to get fitter. So although I had my reservations and was apprehensive about how the course would work, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved in something centred around my passion even though it was frowned upon amongst my community (I knew other women from similar backgrounds shared this problem).
The FAL1 helped rekindle my love for football, and I thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience which I felt was perfectly tailored for me. The coach that trained us, Louise, was truly inspirational and shared many common barriers that we all faced including being a mother.
Louise became a coach when women’s football was seen as small scale and football still had the stigma of being a ‘man’s sport’. Although attitudes may not have been in her favour, she remained dedicated to spreading her knowledge and involving other women in the sport, gradually breaking down the barriers that society had formed. She was there to coach for the love of the game and teach children, including her own.
Throughout the course she was not only professional and very supportive but very accommodating too which was well received as quite a few ladies on the course were mum’s too, and Louise knew first-hand of the issues that we had all faced. Being a parent would often make attending sessions difficult, but our coach was aware of issues such as childcare, and so would be flexible, she also allowed a child to sit in with us until they were collected during one session. This all helped to make the course easy, and less stressful for us all.
The course was split into theory and practice, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. When I started I was already coaching my students football as part of the National Curriculum, however FAL1 taught me additional mentoring aspects of the game that I had not previously considered such as how we play and how we support others. We also learnt things about ourselves such as how we interact with others and how easy it was to get on with people from different backgrounds, as well as different ages (the youngest student on the course being around college age, to the oldest around 40 years old) simply because we have the same goal in mind as well as the same passion for the game. It was great to meet new people who quickly became a network of friends I can call on.
We did a range of practises on the course, from passing to scoring and everything in-between and we had a rich variety of coaching styles to work with.
We were also introduced to the Football Associations Four Corner Model which I thought was a unique and effective teaching tool which, due to its adaptability, can be applied to any sport. I have since used this in regular teaching as I was so impressed by how the model covered the main areas which add to the development of an individual.
After finishing the course a huge number of fantastic opportunities have opened up to me. I am currently being mentored and occasionally co-coach our ladies football night on a Friday which is run by MSA. I am also really excited to be fully coaching a ladies session in partnership with Leyton Orient Football Club as I feel that with the amount of resources and support provided by an official Football Club, I can only thrive. Lastly, I have just been approached to run a girls session and after school club for girls. So all in all it was a truly positive experience which I would highly recommend to anyone considering this course.
The highlight of this journey for me has been my realisation of women’s football and with these new initiatives things will only get better. I am really proud to be part of this and look forward to seeing more fruitful partnerships which will help people to try new things in future. I am also humbled by the ample opportunities’ available if you are willing to look. I consider myself in a privileged position to help the next generation of girls realise aspirations and dreams that my generation could not have.
The FA and all the people that were involved in this venture have broken down some barriers which have created new pathways for the future and I have now learned that this sport isn’t just for one gender, it is for everyone!
Football is a passion in my household and my husband, alongside local dads, has recently started up an initiative called ‘Dads and lads’ where local dads go and have a kick about in the park with their sons. I have been thinking of an initiative similar to this for mums and their kids but it’s still only in my head. Watch this space….
Post Author: Reha Ullah