For Kick It Out’s ‘Season of Action’, to recognise the 20th anniversary since the organisation’s inception, Raise Your Game headed to Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City, and Wembley Stadium, the home of English football, to host two conferences that saw over 350 aspiring mentees attend.
The blue half of Manchester hosted the inaugural Women’s Raise Your Game conference, designed to encourage more women to seek opportunities within the football industry. In April 2014, the organisation headed to Wembley for its biggest national conference, held in the Bobby Moore Suite.
National Conference 2014 – Wembley Stadium
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Over 300 people looking to break into the non-playing side of football made their way to Wembley Stadium yesterday (16 April) to seek guidance, support and opportunities from leading industry figureheads at Kick It Out’s Raise Your Game conference.
Presented by former Professional Footballers’ Association chairman Clarke Carlisle, the conference kicked off with Alex Eckhout, Kam Uppal, Isaac Fanin and Cory Hendricks-Jackman telling the audience about how the support of Kick It Out and going through the mentoring process helped them in their pursuit the game.
Musa Okwonga, a leading poet, sportswriter and broadcaster, then performed his ode to the beautiful game which marked The Football Association’s 150 year anniversary, before the conference got underway with attendees given access to specific workshops, one-to-one mentoring sessions and exhibition stands.
The separate workshops covered art of commentating, led by ITV’s Clive Tyldesley, player development, empowerment and ownership, co-ordinated by Tony Taylor, head of youth development phase at Burton Albion FC, and performance analysis in sport delivered by Daniel Sale from Prozone.
Over 80 mentors from across the game, including Henry Winter, chief football writer for the Daily Telegraph, Martin Allen, manager of Barnet, Cathy Long, head of supporter services at the Premier League, and Jason Euell, senior professional development coach at Charlton Athletic, imparted their wisdom via the one-to-one mentoring sessions.
The exhibition stands saw Sports Interactive, Chelsea FC Foundation, Our Game, West Ham United Community Sports Trust, the Zesh Rehman Foundation, The FA Learning, The FA refereeing, Focus Fitness and Kick It Out providing attendees with further information on their services and how it can benefit them.
The afternoon session began with a speech from Lord Herman Ouseley and concluded with a panel debate, led by BBC broadcaster Caroline Barker, featuring Mark Warburton, manager of Brentford, Scott Field from The FA, Dharmesh Sheth of Sky Sports News, and mentees Jazz Hervin and Michael Akinle, reflecting on their experiences of the day.
Troy Townsend, Mentoring and Leadership Project Manager at Kick It Out, brought the event to a close encouraging all of the attendees to use the conference as a springboard as they build towards future careers in the game. Widely regarded by all as a major success, mentors and mentees spoke of their gratification at being a part of the initiative.
Testimonials from the National Conference
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Troy Townsend spoke of his pride at seeing the growth of the conference over the last four years and how the appetite for the event is proven by positive energy generated between the mentors and mentees.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic, just the buzz of the room and so many people having conversations, it’s been unbelievable.
“Every individual has to take out of it what they need for their own career path and you couldn’t wish for a better set of mentors in one room.
“It’s the fourth year of the conference and it’s been the biggest one and if the appetite wasn’t there, the room wouldn’t be filled.
“The appetite is there and I’ve already had someone tell me how they’re going to bring the whole coaching system from Manchester down next year!
“That’s the type of thing I want to hear and if it can lead to people getting opportunities or building relationships with people within the media or coaching, then there is a longer plan there.
“That alone, for me, makes it a success and the feedback that we’ve had has been unbelievable.”
Caroline Barker, who has also been in attendance for every Raise Your Game conference, suggested she learnt as much as the 300 plus mentees throughout the day.
“You always come to these events and meet a diverse range of people, from all backgrounds and walks of life, who can talk to you about all of the different experiences they’ve had in football.
“It is incredible seeing the huge amount of people who are willing to change their jobs and go for a dream. That is just inspiring in itself. It constantly amazes me how much you gain from the mentees you talk to.
“These people are the future, these are the people who will affect change and that will become the policy makers, but they won’t unless you hit all areas and all groups so it is important that Kick It Out does this and creates a platform for progression.”
Sohail Rehman, a young disabled coach and mentee on the day, spoke of how through his one-to-one mentoring session with Ian Taylor of QPR, he will now experience an academy training session at the Championship club.
“I just wanted to get a little bit more information about football coaching because that’s what I want to get into. I’ve got my Level 3 badge and this is kind of the next step to just learn a bit more about it.”
“I spoke to Ian Taylor who gave me some great advice and invited me down to the training ground to watch one of the academy drill sessions and to just pick up anything I can from it.
“Everyone has been brilliant, they all come up and talk to you, especially the mentors if they’re not talking to anyone, they’ll come and have a chat so it’s been brilliant like that.”
Leon Mann, a leading broadcaster and film-maker who previously worked for Kick It Out, discussed how the campaign helped him gain a career in football.
“It’s been a great day and I’ve met loads of motivated people of all ages, backgrounds and different communities who are eager to get involved in football. It’s something which I wish I had the opportunity to do, because I desperately wanted to be involved in football as a young person and didn’t have any avenue to get into the game.
“It was this campaign, Kick It Out, that gave me a first step into football which acted as a springboard to do lots of other different jobs in football such as interviewing for programmes like Football Focus and Match Of The Day, and also going to work on other initiatives with professional footballers.
“I was at the first mentoring conference; I’ve actually been at all four now and seen it grow massively. Huge credit has to go to Troy Townsend and the team at Kick It Out for delivering today – it has been an outstanding event.”
Chris Perry, former Tottenham Hotspur and Charlton Athletic defender, suggested that the event had ignited his enthusiasm for football once again.
“I really enjoyed the conference. There was so much enthusiasm from the mentees that I spoke to that it has rekindled my passion for the game and the belief that there is a real love for football in this country.
“I think it’s nice for people to come here and to be able to speak to other people who have got plenty of experience in so many different parts of football.
“I’ve obviously come from a playing background into coaching, but in every single aspect of the game there are people who have years and years of experience at different levels who can impart their knowledge and that is fantastic.
“I think it’s hugely important that the message gets out to as many people as possible and say that Kick It Out is not just about tackling racism, it is about promoting people and opportunities and making sure everybody knows exactly what they can achieve.”
Brighton & Hove Albion defender Dylan Lall, a ‘Next 20’ ambassador for Kick It Out, acted as a mentee at the conference and had the opportunity to be mentored by Henry Winter.
“My mentoring session with Henry (Winter) was really good. To hear about the other side of football, where he travels to games to watch and report, and I travel to games to play – it’s nice to get a spectator’s perspective however critical it may be.
“It was a good insight into how football journalists work as a job – how they think, the logistics of the job, and the media’s perception of the game in general.
“The conference has been really good, it’s my first time and I have been surprised by the huge turnout. I came along not really knowing what to expect and it was really eye-opening.”
Women’s Raise Your Game Conference – Etihad Stadium
Women's Raise Your Game - November 2014
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Kick It Out’s inaugural Women’s Raise Your Game conference saw leading female figureheads from across all areas of the game come together to exchange ideas and promote opportunities available in the industry to aspiring individuals at the Etihad Stadium on Monday (11 November).
Fully booked two weeks in advance, the event caught the interest of a number of current women footballers with England captain Casey Stoney, her international team-mate Siobhan Chamberlain and Women’s Super League (WSL) star Megan Harris all signing up to seek advice and network with experienced females working in other fields throughout the game.
Getting underway with a number of keynote speeches from Kick It Out’s Roisin Wood and Troy Townsend, Manchester City club journalist Nicola McCarthy and Women Win executive director Maria Bobenrieth, participants then broke out into designated mentoring sessions throughout the rest of the morning.
Focusing specifically on areas away from the playing side, there was the opportunity to speak to experts in media and communications, grassroots and community, football administration, sports science, physiotherapy and psychology, and the work of licensed agents and player services.
England and Everton Ladies striker Toni Duggan, who is one of Kick It Out’s nominated ‘Next 20’ ambassadors, came to show her support in the Colin Bell Suite and was extremely impressed by the scale of the event, and the level of interest which had been shown.
“This is a great platform for women in the game to come together and share their thoughts and opinions about other departments away from the playing side,” commented Toni.
“It’s massive having all these role models here showing others that there is a route into sport because we really do need to promote the opportunities which do exist out there.”
During the interval, a coaching masterclass was delivered by City Ladies head coach Leigh Wood and Hannah Steele, women and girls co-ordinator in the club’s community scheme, before attendees regrouped for further mentoring sessions with Siobhan, who plays for WSL runners-up Bristol Academy, and Lincoln Ladies midfielder Megan, speaking about the need to broaden your skillset.
Siobhan and Megan play part-time in the top-flight of women’s football domestically and uphold coaching jobs on the side. Keen to explore other avenues which may present opportunities in the industry both during and beyond their playing days, they act as digital ambassadors for the WSL and are actively looking to find a particular area which may suit them long-term.
“When people finish playing they’ll say ‘I’ll go into coaching or I’ll go into management’ but I think for a lot of players that’s all perhaps they’ll get offered even though there is a lot more out there,” said Siobhan.
“It’s about finding out how you can access these different opportunities.
“Gaining the knowledge of different people’s experiences and information on the qualifications which can help supplement what you’re doing is crucial. We’ve got to look for what we’re going to do whilst we’re playing let alone after we’ve stopped so the event today gives you an insight into where you can work in football.”
Megan has recently been on placements at the Lincolnshire Echo and Lincs FM to gain experience in journalism and broadcasting, and found the event extremely beneficial as she continues to discover more about her chosen pathway.
“It’s the off-season right now so I’ve been spending time with local media to try and to get some experience to see where it may take me,” said Megan.
“It’s been great as I’ve had the chance to cover some of the men’s games, attend press conferences and expand my experiences. Speaking to people here who are experts in their field is great as you get the chance to learn so much.”
The day concluded with a panel session, which was made up of Lincoln skipper Casey, Women in Football (WiFs) committee member Shelley Alexander, The FA’s equality manager Funke Awoderu and tutor workforce manager Tessa Payne, hosted by BBC broadcaster Caroline Barker.
“The event is something I registered my interest for as it’s a good chance to speak to other people who work in the industry across a range of different roles,” said Casey.
“It’s massively important for me as the transition to retirement is getting closer so it’s great to come here and see where future opportunities may lie.
“I think the best bit of advice I’ve had today is to find exactly where it is you want to go. I’m passionate about coaching, match analysis and punditry, and maybe even radio stuff so that’s quite a wide variety.
“Someone said to me what’s going to make you different to anybody else so I need to go away and think about that now.”
Sam Johnson, a presenter on the Sun FC, acted as a mentor at the event and spoke about her own journey into the game: “I have been in the sport’s industry for six years and there was nothing like this when I started out. I had to do it the old-fashioned way, and sometimes it can be a bit intimidating especially as I moved from Birmingham to London and didn’t know anybody.
“I just had to buck-up my ideas and get on with it. If I had something like this there is every possibility I could be even further along in my career than I already am. You have to get out there but I do feel as though these types of events help females in the game. The more of these events the better!”
Troy, who runs the campaign’s Mentoring and Leadership Project which facilitated the event, informed the audience about the lack of female representation at similar conferences in the past and emphasised the importance of specifically targeting women in the game this time around.
“There has been a real hunger for this event,” said Troy. “This was clearly shown by the fact we were fully booked in such a short space of time. I know the value of these types of events having been mentored myself so it’s important to make the most of the opportunity and to speak to as many people as you can.”