Emma Coates

iCanCoach: Emma Coates

So Emma, tell us about how and why you got involved in Coaching football?

I started in football really early, around 4 just by going to work with my dad. As early as I can remember I wanted to be involved in football but reality of a career from playing wasn’t visible to me so I set my eyes on coaching. I was lucky my dad is a football coach so I spent my time from the age of 13 going to work with him until I was at an age to peruse formal coaching opportunities at 16. At 16 I completed my Level 1 and 2. I was working at Leeds United Foundation at the time doing after school programmes and holiday clubs whilst I was at college, my granddad would drive my to work or I would cycle or get the train. I balanced coaching at a Leeds United Girls Centre of Excellence, Community Football Sessions, Playing for Leeds United Ladies and studying. It was eye opening when I suffered a knee injury and I invested all my time in coaching, this was the moment I realised I got more of a buzz from coaching than I ever did from playing.

There is something extremely satisfying helping people develop and I see a large part of my role as problem solving which I find really addictive. 


What does your role entail at The FA?

I am National Head Coach currently working with the Women’s Under 19s. My role is to prepare and support players journey towards becoming a Senior Lioness. This year the players are competing in the WU19 European championship in which we can gain qualification to the finals through the Elite Round in April 2020. I work closely with a Multi-disciplinary team to help prepare the players for the demands of international football and very much work across the 4 corners. I work with clubs to monitor players’ performances and work with both the player and the club on Individual Development Plans. 


What do you enjoy about Coaching?

I love working with people. Developing a relationship with a Player or a Coach over a period of time and seeing them grow and develop, knowing you have played in role in their journey when they have hit their goal or target is rewarding. For example seeing players I worked with at Leeds United COE now competing in WSL or for England is amazing, and hopefully seeing the crop of Young Lioness’ making their senior debut in the future will be something I will be proud to have played my part in.

I am, rightly or wrongly, really process driven and my favourite thing about coaching is Problem Solving. I find it really addictive. I love solving tactical problems or discussing ideas of the game, everyone wants to and likes to win, but developing and winning it in a way which links to your philosophy is the best feeling!


What are your greatest achievements in Coaching and why?

Every moment in my coaching career in my eyes is a milestone and something I am proud of.  I still remember getting my first opportunity to “Head Coach a Summer Holiday Camp” for Leeds United or my first year as assisting the U12s at Leeds United COE which led to a Head Coach role. At the time these were amazing achievements, these are the times that are easy for forget.

Being asked to become Head Coach at Doncaster Belles was an incredible moment for me, not easy, but an experience I am forever grateful for. One of the best feelings was my first game managing in WSL 1, when we scored the players ran over to celebrate with my which I thought was an amazing token from the players.

I never take for granted my current role working for England. Someone once said to me “you’ll travel the world with football” I always assumed it would be playing and having not really made it as a player I now have this opportunity.  Wearing the 3 lions every day and singing the national anthem prior to a game is surreal. Representing your country for anything is an honour. My personal ambition was to always work with the England Youth Teams at some point in my career, I always thought it would be later in my career. None of my current role would be possible without the early milestones and people such as Julie Chipchase and Gary Waddington stretching me and giving me opportunities I always thought were just out of touch!


What is your best memory of Coaching?

There are far too many. As I mention above the players celebrating with my after scoring our first goal in WSL 1 under my tenure was an incredible feeling. I don’t particularly remember moments in coaching but the bond I had with coaching team at Doncaster Belles is something that will stay with me forever.

Achieving my badges UEFA B and A was a very proud moment. I had always given myself the target of getting my UEFA A and never really looked beyond it when I was younger so to have achieved that at 26 made me very proud!


What are your future goals in the sport?

My career has moved at such as pace my current goals involve me slowing down and becoming the best International Professional Development Phase coach in the world. I have always had my eyes on what next since I was very young and now I just what to get really good at what I am doing!


What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in the game?

In my opinion I’ve never really faced any real challenges.  I have worked for some amazing people who have helped me with my coaching badges. Being a bit of a tomboy and going to work with my dad regularly I was used to a male dominated environment so I was comfortable working in that type of environment. The hard thing in my view is sustaining a ‘normal’ work-life balance. There have been sacrifices I have made, missed family occasions, social event with friends, holidays so that I never missed an opportunity.  My husband works in football so our routine is anything from normal and we both have to be incredibly understanding of our routines and commitments but to be mindful we don’t get lost in  football. Work life balance is probably my biggest obstacle and something I am really starting to appreciate.


Who’s had the biggest influence in your Coaching career and why?

Easy. Three people Hands down, professionally Julie Chip chase and Gary Waddington, and personally, my granddad.

I met Gary when he coached me when I played at Leeds United COE. He gave me opportunity after opportunity when I worked for Leeds United. He elevated my career at an early age, from giving me a community coaching role at 16 and a COE role at 17, The opportunities I had gave me the taste for coaching.

The first time I met Julie, she terrified my, in the nicest way!! I was a Level 2 coach delivering a gives session with the U6s at Leeds United Summer school. She was delivering a UEFA B on the pitch next to me and at one point she had the whole course watching what I was doing. The first time I formally met her she was my tutor on my UEFA B, paths had crossed before but this was probably were the relationship was cemented. From there I started volunteering at Doncaster Belles and she mentored me through the club, going from volunteer mentee, assistant coach to Head Coach! I had so much respect for what she had done in her career and was a probably my only female coaching role model.

I consider both Gary and Julie friends; they both came to my wedding and are people I wouldn’t hesitate to call in a crisis! I owe then a great deal for taking a risk on a young ambitious coach, I’ll never forget what they did for me.

On a personal note my granddad is by biggest fan, and like all fans I am never good enough as he still reminds me to get the players passing in triangles! He used to take me back and forth from session to session allowing me to pursue my dreams!


What advice would you give to young people wishing to get involved in Coaching?

Go for it – the most challenging and fulfilling thing you’ll do!

Work Hard. Keep Perspective. Be Authentic. Have fun. Surround yourself with good people because you wont and don’t know everything – and that’s okay!


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