By Jodie Neville
Women’s football has undergone a surge in popularity recently thanks to the Lionesses winning the Euros. It seems the struggle for recognition and investment in women’s football is starting to be won. This long and bumpy road started with pioneer players, and the history on them has been vastly added to by writers and scholars in recent years. There are, and have been, women football coaches, but it is an area and a story that remains comparatively unexplored. There is a lack of debate on gender, race, and class participation in coaching, and this often also takes place in a historical vacuum. This is where this research project comes in.
There has been a growing interest in Britain’s sporting heritage over the last two decades, as highlighted by an expansion in the number of sports-related museums and statues, although heritage is not solely represented by physical artefacts, it can equally be represented by memories and oral histories. This project will be an agent in the heritage process by adding interview accounts of the life histories of women football coaches to the historical record. The project will then assess how far the cultural heritage characteristics of coaching have contributed to the marginalisation of women in coaching.
Sports coaching is a social practice that is shaped by its cultural context. Developments in coaching, therefore, reflect wider public values. Some of the key cultural constraints that hinder female coaches are historically embedded patriarchal structures and misogynistic attitudes that continue to view women as ‘homemakers’ and unsuited to sports coaching, especially at elite levels.
This project represents a research collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University and the National Football Museum. It will focus on uncovering the history of women coaches in football to develop an understanding of how constraints on their participation manifested themselves during the last century and how women managed to negotiate with, or circumvent, them. Any implications or lessons from the research findings for twenty-first century women’s football coaching can then be derived and shared.
Part of this work will be carried out by identifying and cataloguing material related to coaching, with an emphasis on female coaches, held within the NFM archives. This will add significantly to the existing historiography regarding sports coaching more generally. These outcomes can be used to inform wider debates about the lack of female engagement in sports coaching and raise public and academic awareness of the archival holdings of the NFM.
In order to carry out this research, the project will be seeking participants who have first-hand experience and knowledge of being a woman in coaching. This extends to undertaking coaching responsibilities informally as well as formally. You might have managed games or training if the regular coach was absent, for example. Or you might have worked closely with the coach, and they relied upon you for assistance. If this sounds like you or someone you know, get in touch.