Women Working in Football - UCFB Wembley Lecturer and UEFA 'B' Coach Emily Hill (Part One)
Whilst coverage of women’s football has increased in recent years, what often goes unnoticed are the hundreds of women who play a vital role in the day-to-day functions of professional clubs, the grassroots game and national and community-based football organisations.
In a feature series, Kick It Out has been speaking to women who work within football – in a number of roles including coaching, club executives, photographers, administrators, matchday staff and more – to celebrate and gain an insight into their contributions to the professional game.
Each interview discusses their experiences of the game, how they reached where they are today and any challenges they may have faced along the way.
For October, Kick It Out spoke to Emily Hill, a UEFA ‘B’ Licence Coach, FA Affiliate Tutor and Coaching and PE Lecturer at UCFB Wembley, as well as Club Chair at South London Laces.
Sport has been a major part of Emily Hill’s life for as long as she can remember.
“From when I was knee-high, I was always playing football in some way shape or form,” she recalled. “And it wasn’t just football. I was into swimming, hockey and basketball at school – I even dabbled in rugby a little bit. Even if it was just climbing trees, I was always active and doing something.”
Inspired by her father, it was football that captured Emily’s interests, but as a young girl growing up in the 1990s, she faced a number of barriers to taking part in the game she loved.
“I mostly had to go to the park or play in the garden, because when I was little there wasn’t a lot out there for girls to play to be honest,” she explained. “I used to be the only girl in my primary school that wanted to play football and that was a battle in itself.
“My Mum actually had to write a letter to the Headteacher because the school said I wasn’t allowed to play because I’m a girl. My parents were always really supportive and writing a letter to my primary school forced them to let me – which I like to think would never have to happen nowadays!”
Despite Emily’s passion for the game, she never really considered that it was a potential career path.
“I like to think you make your own luck but it really did just happen by chance,” she said. “I went to my nearest grassroots club, was playing for the women’s team and was asked if I wanted to get involved in coaching.
“This hadn’t even been at the back of my mind at this point – all I knew was playing. They put me on my FA Level 1 coaching course straightaway and it all snowballed from there.”
Emily emphasised how important it was to have a female mentor to guide her through the early stages of her coaching journey.
“I remember that me and one of my friends were the only girls on the course and we were the youngest by a mile. I had a female tutor and that was quite inspiring as 16-year-old when I look back at it. She was brilliant. That’s where it all started and I haven’t looked back since – I got involved in literally everything I could.”
Emily’s participation in football exploded and 15 years later, she now has several roles across the game, including her position as a lecturer at UCFB Wembley and various coaching opportunities she has taken on through The FA.
One of Emily’s deepest sources of pride is South London Laces, a football club she set up to build on the success of a women’s futsal session she first launched in 2014. She expressed her gratitude for the support she received in her developing new venture and singled out Katee Hui, founder of Hackney Laces, for particular praise.
Emily said: “We were thinking of starting up our own club and thought why not contact Katee because she’s already done such a good job in this area. I called and asked if we could we use the Laces name and ethos and she was more than happy to support us.
“Even though I’ve been in grassroots for the last 15 years, Katee was a massive help to get everything off the ground. Now what we wanted to achieve in three years has been done in one – although it’s not just me, I’ve got a really great committee of women and everything is run by women.”
For Emily, her career in the game has always been driven by her love of educating young people.
“That was always the ambition – I studied Sports Development and Coaching at university and I received a scholarship to do a Masters in Sport and Physical Education. I just really enjoyed the academic side of things, alongside the delivery, meeting people and coaching. I like to think I’m always learning as well as trying to teach others as well.”
Going forward, Emily has no intention of slowing down and is eager to continue her development in a variety of pathways within football.
“Tutoring, mentoring, coaching and lecturing all complement each other, especially with the subjects that I’m teaching,” she said. “I want to keep putting everything that I’m doing at UCFB with students, learners and coaches, into practice because that’s what I enjoy most – the people side of things.
“I’ve achieved so much over the last few years, so I think there’s definitely time to pause and enjoy what I’m doing. But when you’re talking about 5 years, I definitely want to achieve my UEFA ‘A’ license – that’s probably next on my radar.
She added: “Working with the students and seeing the next generation of those coaches and leaders in football, and getting a chance to work with young people that are just as passionate about football as I am is a real privilege, as well as something that I enjoy.”