Female coach

Female coaching at the top with Charlotte Healy

As part of Female Focus Month, we spoke to leading female coach Charlotte Healy about her career so far.

So Charlotte, tell us about your journey into football and your roles in the game?

I played for Long Eaton United back when it was a Centre of Excellence (now RTC) and loved the game from an early age so decided to pursue it as a career! I did my Level 1 and Level 2 at college and headed over to North Carolina to gain more experience. On returning, I volunteered at Derby County’s Girls Centre of Excellence as a coach and ended up spending a further 8 years there after getting a job and really falling in love with coaching. Whilst studying at the University of Derby, I continued my training and passed my UEFA B the day after my last University exam!

I also used this time to give something back to the place where my love for the game started and coached Long Eaton United’s first team. The chairman offered me this role with little experience which was really kind of him. He supported me incredibly well and I learnt so much over those 3 years and will always look back fondly on those days. It was also really nice to be able to give something back and help rebuild the girls set up to ensure there’s now a pathway there for girls like we had. This was where I think most of my coaching development took place, it was a fantastic 3 years and I will always look back fondly on those days!

Once I graduated, I headed up to Manchester, where I live now and started working for Manchester FA as a Football Development Officer, whilst working at Liverpool Women coaching the U16s, U17s and U23s for 3 years. 

In 2018, I then moved to Manchester City to be head coach of the U21s alongside a new role at the FA Women’s High Performance Football Centre where I worked with fantastic, promising talent here in Manchester with coaches across all levels of the women and girls’ game. I’ve loved my time in this role, along with the other 7 centres we support the coaching strand of the FA National Game Strategy in supporting the increase in the quantity and quality of coaches who can support the doubling of participation in female participation. It’s been amazing to see how many coaches have engaged across the FA WHPFC over the past 18 months; the clubs have also been incredibly supportive in opening their doors and offering deployment opportunities.

Most recently, I accepted a new role at Manchester United Women, where I will manage the club’s U21 WSL Academy dual career programme and deliver the coaching provision for the U21s. It’s a really exciting time to be working in the WSL Academy Programme. All players will be holistically supported in building foundations for a life away from football, whenever that may be.

What are your hopes for your own career?

I’ve always loved coaching and throughout my 13 years working in the talent pathway, it’s always been a dream to work full time in a coaching capacity within the female game. I wasn’t sure if or when that would happen, if ever! But the growth of the game over recent years has been incredible, so to work full time in the role I’m now in is incredibly exciting. To be around a WSL first team environment in a morning and then be able to deliver an U21 programme in the afternoon is exciting and an unbelievable development opportunity for me. 

Listening to Casey talk through her vision and what she wants the pathway at Manchester United to look like was both inspiring and motivating and I know I will learn huge amounts in this role working with the staff here!

How important is it for females to coach in football and why is this? 

I think it is really important, from top to bottom! There’s so much work to do still to transform the culture and perception of females playing the game. Everybody needs role models in life and football is no different- if girls grow up seeing friends, mums, sisters, teachers all involved in the game it becomes ‘normal’. The same at the top, if young girls never see females in ‘power’ positions, how do they ever grow up wanting to be that person? Everything has to be relatable. I was lucky growing up seeing people like Hope Powell, Laura Harvey, Mo Marley, Kay Cossington and Emma Hayes all flying the flag for female coaches which has always been inspiring. 

Do you have to be able to play football at a high level to be able to coach?

I don’t think so. Coaching, like playing, is a craft. With playing, the harder you work and the more you practice, the more you improve. Coaching is the same! Like football, you have to work hard, you have to try things, you have to fail and you have to learn! No experience or coaching qualification can replace the hours you put in onto the grass. There are benefits of being a player transitioning into coaching- your technical detail, your game understanding and player understanding/empathy. I believe though, that if you’re a dedicated coach, these are things you can learn through your professional relationships you build with your players.

What advice would you give to young females looking to start coaching? 

There’s a big perception with females that they can’t coach because ‘they don’t know enough about football’. I delivered a workshop last year and used the analogy of ‘Beer-Pong’. Everybody knows the game, everybody likes to give their mate instant feedback about how good or bad their throw was, or how they should ‘next time try throwing like this’. I don’t know any beer-pong experts, but we can all give feedback to support game understanding and performance. I often find that if you asked a player to list what they like most about their coach, football knowledge is near the bottom, or not even mentioned! 

Players want somebody who can be fun, relatable, who cares about them and listens to them in a fun and safe environment so for new coaches, this is a great place to start!

Where do you see the future of female coaching heading?

I honestly think it is an incredibly exciting time for female coaches! We have a Head of Coach Development for the Female game in Audrey Cooper at the FA. She now has a team of 8 Coach Development Officers working in the High Performance Centres supporting entry level to Level 3 coaches as well as 3 National Coach Developers who are out delivering on the UEFA A Licence and delivering female game in situ visits. 

We have more female managers in the FA WSL and FA Women’s Championship than we’ve ever had before. There are more role models and people in visual positions than we’ve ever had and I think that’s inspiring for any female wanting a career in coaching.

Are you excited for the Lionesses this summer in the Women’s World Cup? Can we win?

I’m very excited! I’m heading out to France to watch 6 games over the summer and can’t wait to see how England do. I think they have a really tough group, if they can do well in there I think they could well bring it home.  

On a wider scale, the tournament puts young, relatable female role models in the spotlight who can inspire young girls to play football. I think it’s a real chance to showcase the women’s game and all the good work that goes on within it across the whole player pathway, as well as now having the opportunity to play professional football! 

And finally, what is the best piece of advice/quote that stays with you in your career to date?

I’m a massive Brene Brown fan and she speaks a lot about not fearing failure and the importance of choosing ‘courage over comfort’. That’s always stuck with me because I think in football (and life!) you have to be brave and take a chance to be innovative and creative when working with people and if you live in your comfort zone, it’s hard to do that.