FA Girls’ Football Week: “I found football as a way to communicate and begin my own journey” – Jordan, Women’s Football Apprentice

AoC Sport is delighted to be supporting another FA Girls’ Football Week, taking place between Monday 6 and Sunday 12 November 2017.

The FA Girls’ Football Week is a great opportunity to get women and girls playing football at your college.

The national campaign will help The FA achieve its aim to double participation by 2020. Whether it be playing, training or simply learning about the beautiful game we want as many girls as possible taking part and having fun.

Ahead of FA Girls’ Football Week, we spoke to one of our Women’s Football Apprentices, Jordan Reek.

My football journey began when I started playing in a boys’ team and was the first girl to play for that club. I had always been interested in football from going to watch Nottingham Forest with my dad from a very young age. As I got older, I realised that football was a way to communicate: I was able to forget my worries and begin my own journey.

After playing for the boys’ team, I went to Asfordby Amateurs Girls and played there from the age of nine until 16. This is where I had my first coaching role as part of their disability team. The coaching role was fantastic and created a lot of opportunities for me. This is when the coaching and football side really benefited me the most. At the time, I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and the only stress relief I found was taking part in something I enjoyed, whether that be sharing knowledge as a coach or participating as a player.

At age 16, I came to Loughborough College to study and play as part of the Academy squad. My background in coaching and volunteering helped break down barriers and eventually win the Young Leader of the Year award. At the same time, I got asked to play for Leicester City’s Reserves, I was head of Asfordby Amateurs Sporty Tots (a sports session run from three to seven year-olds), and I was a support coach for Asfordby Amateurs Girls. Eventually I finished my BTEC with a D*D* D profile and went onto coaching in local schools as part of Active Melton (an initiative started to get more people involved in sport and improve young children’s lifestyles through sport and exercise.)

I then applied for the job at Loughborough College as Women & Girls’ Football Apprentice. During my time as an apprentice, I have been involved with some fantastic projects and have worked with many different people. But also, my role as an apprentice has increased my confidence and enabled me to do my Level 1 coaching badge in both Football and Futsal. Now I coach as part of the Loughborough College Women’s Football Academy Programme, and I’m the Head Coach of the Asfordby Amateurs Under 10s.

In terms of my playing career, at the start of this academic year I made the move to Nottingham Forest. Initially I captained the reserves squad, before getting a First Team call up in October, and I couldn’t be happier. My footballing journey has consisted of many different roles and responsibilities both as a player and as a coach, and now I am currently in a job I enjoy as it pushes me to fulfil my potential. The job I have now as a Women and Girls’ Football Apprentice has allowed me to grow as a person, ask questions, challenge others and recognise how I have developed as a coach, leader, colleague and friend.

My main motivation to work in football is creating opportunities that didn’t exist when I was a child. Starting in a boys’ team in an area where girls football was not really known, there was only one team for girls. The fact that I now get to create opportunities for girls to play in or outside of school, with friends and/or for clubs is fantastic.

My day-to-day motivation changes all the time. Motivation is whatever you make it to be, so one day it could be setting up an event, the next it could be coaching the High Performance Squad here at the college. My job has opened so many doors and so many different schemes to get involved with that I have to always strive to be motivated. But my job is about motivating others too. Whether this is from a coaching perspective at the college, in schools, within the office – anywhere!

The best thing about working as a Women & Girls’ Football Apprentice is being able to put a smile on children’s faces. Whether they enjoy football or not, it’s about bringing enjoyment and fun to the sessions as well as being able to put on events for young people of different ages. There is no better feeling than when a session, event or course that you have been involved in is a success.

Playing and working as an apprentice is hard to manage at times due to training commitments and matches. However the benefits I get from these opportunities make the hard times worthwhile. I’ve been able to talk to others about my experiences both as a player and as a coach. I’ve also been able to have conversations with people about their aspirations in life, the pathway they want their career to take and how I can help them. This could be through local clubs, doing more sessions in schools, building confidence or even setting up a school team. Playing is a huge part of my life and it’s one of the most enjoyable things I do, but when I’m able to relate it to my job that I love, it’s fantastic.

My advice for women and girls’ who want to get into football would be ‘you never know until you try.’ When I first started, I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy it or if I’d fit in, but without making that decision I wouldn’t be where I am today: playing for Nottingham Forest and working in football development. Everybody starts somewhere and football is a game in which you are constantly learning all the time – you can pick it up quickly! Not only is it a sport and a fun way to exercise, but also a way to meet new people and make new friends.

My top tips for Girls’ Football Week are:

Research: Find local activities near you to go and attend, find local clubs that are close to you that you can join.

Participate: Don’t be afraid, get involved with as much as you can. The more you enjoy it the more you will want to carry on! And tell your friends! Telling your friends will get more people involved, and you’ll be able to make new friends whilst playing together.

Ask: If you have questions about sport or how to get involved, ask teachers, parents, local sports clubs and community centres.

You have nothing to lose, this is your journey and you decide what happens on that journey.

If you’re inspired to get involved in Girls’ Football Week, visit fagirlsfootballweek.com or contact your County FA to find out more about the opportunities in your area.