As part of International Women’s Day being this week, we posed some questions to Norfolk-based Coach, Angie Westgate, about her experiences as a female in the grassroots game.
What is your involvement in Norfolk Football?
I am currently a Coach for Aylsham Women’s 7s, Aylsham U16 Girls and Old Catton JFC Wildcats. I am also the Events Manager (Presentation & Summer tournament) for Old Catton JFC as well as the Vice-Chair of Aylsham Youth – Women’s & Girls.
How did you get involved?
A friend told me she was taking her 5 year old son to Old Catton for a football session as her oldest son already played there, so I took my son along too. Pete Tallent informed all the parents that someone would need to take over the U6s as coach with a view to coaching them for the next few years at the Club. This would also involve taking the Level 1 Football Coaching badge. Being an ex-footballer, I was never keen on being substitute or standing/sitting in the cold watching the football, so I decided it was a job for me.
Why do you enjoy being involved?
Football is just the best sport! To be able to encourage and guide, especially youngsters, into a passion for football and yield so much enjoyment with so many little characters and personalities – it’s the best job for mental wellbeing and fitness.
As a female in the grassroots game have you ever had to overcome any barriers?
Being bypassed/ignored and patronised is what I struggled with most, especially in my early days. As my husband was an assistant coach on some match days, male managers would approach him to discuss the match arrangements and talk over me or passed me by. He would say that I am the manager of the team (especially when I was the manager of a boys’ team U6-U17 for Old Catton JFC) and they would look or have a gesture of shock, literally shock! Then greet me with such things as “Oh hello love”, “Should be a good game darling” etc. I overcame it by knowing my stuff; attending all coaching CPD sessions available, completing the FA Youth Awards, and other CPD etc… as well as knowing the offside laws, so that I couldn’t be patronised for being a female in the game. This was proved when I took my U15 boys’ team to the NCYFL Plate Final and stunned them all with fantastic football, team spirit and a great win. I was told I was the first female manager to do this and as far as I know am the only one to date.
What else could we do at a local level to get more females involved in Norfolk Football?
Personally, I think Norfolk are doing a good job. The relationship with Norfolk FA and NWGFL seems to be a very good one. Earlier in the pathway, i.e., Weetabix Wildcats is where we need to encourage more ‘mums’ to get involved – it’s not just for dads. I often encourage and support mums in my Old Catton Wildcats sessions to get involved and I now have one mum who is assisting and looking to take football badges. I am giving her all the support and encouragement to do this.
I think once their children are signed up to a team at a later age, it seems to become more about daughters and dads.
What would be your advice to other females who may wish to take a step into the game?
I would encourage any female to have a look at training with a team, especially a 7s so they can just start with the fun, it’s great fitness and learning of the game, without the bigger pressure that comes with playing 11v11. If you are going for a run, what better way to do that than with a football at your feet, it has way more purpose than just running.
What has been your highlight of being involved in Norfolk Football?
Becoming Aylsham U14 Girls at the end of their season in 2019, having conceded double figured score lines for nearly all their 50 matches. Trained all through the summer to teach a great unit of girls the game. And then for them to get their first 0-0 draw in November 2019 was an awesome day of achievement for those girls.
Did anyone inspire you to get involved in the game?
Not so much to get involved, but to stay involved and reignite my passion in coaching football was accepting the opportunity to have a mentor. Tom Leeder was an inspiration in often reassuring me that I was doing a good job, with my insecurities that I didn’t think I was and telling me that “You got this”.
Should you want to know more about female football in Norfolk, or want to get involved, please e-mail our Football Development Officer, Harry Diggens, on Harry.Diggens@NorfolkFA.com.