Tottenham Hotspur’s Sarah Wiltshere is eyeing up one aim and one aim only for the new London Leopards coaching campaign – finding the next Karen Hills.
A new girls football schemed launched by the London FA, London Leopards is aiming to get 100 new female coaches into the game, keen to maximise the significance of female role models on girls in the sport.
Those coaches will then deliver sessions to 1,000 7-11-year-old girls, with an increase in female participation the optimum aim in a sport that is still predominantly seen as boys-only.
But for Wiltshere, this is far from the case. The 26-year-old first got into the sport after pestering her mum to take her to a club as late as 13 after her primary school had not allowed girls into their team.
And with free coaching courses now on the horizon and women’s football on the rise, the Spurs midfielder is adamant those barriers to the sport are finally coming down – hopeful women can follow in the footsteps of her club manager Hills.
“It’s really important to get women more involved in coaching. Karen’s our manager, she was a player and she’s a good role model for anyone who wants to coach in the women’s game,” she said.
“I think it’s important not just to get more female coaches in the women’s game but into coaching in general, it’s definitely growing so the fact that London Leopards are doing this is really, really good.
“I did my Level 1 and 2 coaching when I was at Arsenal academy, I got my qualifications while I was playing football so it is something I have thought about. I love coaching the young girls and seeing them develop.
“I’d really like to see more female coaches in the game, young girls would definitely like that and they can aspire to that so it’s important, but having good coaches is the main thing.
“London Leopards is going to be a really good step to bringing in more coaches, it’s a great start to get your Level 1 and hopefully we can see a new Karen Hills or Emma Hayes in the game in the future.”
Backed by significant investment from the Wembley National Stadium Trust, the London FA will provide these 100 new female coaches with the tools to complete their Level 1 qualifications.
That will be delivered by eight Professional Club Community Trusts around the capital, notably Wiltshere and Hills’ Tottenham side, as well as top-flight outfits Arsenal Women and the Chelsea Foundation.
LOOKING FOR NEW TALENT: The launch of London Leopards
Delivering eight-week introduction to football programmes, the clubs have also been tasked with identifying pathways beyond the initial bedding-in period into the new venture.
And with sustainability the name of the game, manager Hills is confident change will come to the fore – at least providing others with a different journey than the one she experienced.
“Spurs are excited to be a part of this, it’s not an unrealistic target to get 100 coaches, it’s more than doable and I’m excited to be in this process,” she said.
“My coaching journey started when I was working in a leisure centre as a lifeguard, I got asked to look after a session and got straight involved, from there the coach said I might have an eye for this.
“I went on a course, I was the only female there but that was the start. I went to Spurs and worked within soccer schools, not many females were on these schools so it was my aspiration to boost the women’s game.
“Over the past five or six years I’ve had that opportunity to get my A licence, work alongside some fantastic coaches and gain some invaluable experience, which has really helped me shape and mould my career until now.”
For more information about the London Leopards initiative and how to apply for the coaching courses, please visit: www.londonfa.com. Applications open Monday 12th February 2018.