Rachel was once at Solihull College, where she created the first female football team. She is currently working for the FA as National Women’s Football Participation Manager.
We caught up with Rachel on how FE can help support and achieve The FA’s goal of doubling women’s football participants and spectators.
What made you decide to volunteer in football?
I was working as a Sports Development Officer at Solihull FE College and went on an FA female-only prelim coaching course with Birmingham Football Development Scheme. Over the duration of the course I was asked by the CEO, Tom Stack and his FA colleague Donna McIvor, if I would like to volunteer to develop women’s football for both The FA and Birmingham County FA. My college principal Colin Flint thought this was a great fit for his vision to develop more sporting opportunities both within his college and in the local community, so actively supported this.
How has volunteering in football helped develop your personal/workplace skills?
The volunteer role evolved into a lot more and I ended up developing a massive girls’ football development programme both to college students and in the local schools and clubs. When The FA advertised for a full-time Regional Director for Women’s Football, I had the experience, knowledge and passion to apply for the position. 18 years later I am still developing the female game at The FA, with a lot of thanks to Solihull College, Tom Stack, Donna McIvor and Birmingham FA!
What benefits are there for colleges to offer a good level of female football opportunities?
Colleges are one of our major partners in our strategy. There is so much potential to develop the game both within the college sector and outside into the local community. I have first-hand knowledge of seeing young girls in local schools starting their football journey in our college Mini Soccer Centre that was run by staff and students, joining a local club where we started a partnership, and then going on to study at Solihull College when they were older. I believe we raised the profile and reputation of our college through our girls’ football development programmes which has left a great legacy in the area. So many of those students who we supported with coach/referee qualifications, and most of all confidence and character building, have gone on to work in the PE/Sports sector themselves. This example alone hits student development, college reputation, community involvement, club partnerships, leadership and workforce development.
To what extent do you feel it’s important for colleges to have a pathway link with a local club?
Many colleges may wish to go down the elite pathway with a Women’s Super League or Women’s Premier League club, or even a Women’s Football Academy – just look at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College and their partnership with WSL team Bristol City! Having a strong link with a local female club helps ensure your students have a progressive pathway to play the game and hopefully will keep them enjoying the game for years after they leave their college.