iCanCoach: Jess Douthwaite

Tell us about how and why you got involved in coaching?

Since I was young, I have always been around football with my dad and brother, our weekends always consisted of football. Me and my brother used to play wherever we could with whoever we could, and I think that’s what made me fall in love with the game. I was just having fun and making friends through playing. Unfortunately, when I grew older there wasn’t any opportunities to continue football and I sadly stopped until I was into my 20’s. It was then when I decided I wanted to get back into football but through coaching, whilst studying sports science I decided to coach part time alongside another job.

Whilst studying I had the opportunity to coach abroad in Finland in an Olympic training institute in Vierumäki. It was a real eye opener to see the differences in their culture and sport. After 3 years in grassroots slowly but surely people in the industry were asking me to work as a paid coach within schools which was such a good feeling. It was then when I realised, I’d love to do it as a full-time job which is when I started as a casual coach for the Leeds United Foundation and the girl’s academy which eventually progressed into a full time Female Development role.

It was here where I learnt a lot of my trade working in various programmes having to adapt to different audiences and the variety of people you meet certainly challenges you in multiple ways. Through working in multiple roles and attaining my UEFA B I put myself forward for a role within Doncaster Rovers Academy as a foundation age group coach. I successfully gained a role which was a huge achievement for me, it’s a great challenging environment to be in and I really enjoy it!

I now currently teach PE within primary schools and help mentor teachers through the day for the Leeds United Foundation which I find very rewarding. I also previously went into one of our partner schools as part of an aspiration’s day, it gave me a real sense of achievement to be in that position of being able to inspire others. My previous role at Leeds was the Women & Girls Development Officer, for the last two years I have helped provide opportunities for thousands of females in and around Leeds through various programmes. I feel very privileged to have been in that position to help others and we really made an impact in participation within female football.


What do you enjoy about coaching football?

I really enjoy helping players achieve their goals, it’s so rewarding when you have been a part of someone’s journey, I get a real buzz from it. It’s not always plain sailing being a coach, it can be very difficult at times and you do sometimes doubt or question yourself but it’s because it’s something you really care about and its part of the learning process.

It’s a passion of mine because I think sport is so interesting on so many levels and can provide lots of outlets for a lot of people, I’ve got a real hunger to keep on learning and that’s the beauty of it, you can never stop or never know everything.

The people you get to meet in and around the game are so inspirational and they make you want to be the best you can be.


What are your greatest achievements in coaching and why?

My greatest achievements so far would be attaining my UEFA B. When I started out coaching, I wasn’t aware of what levels you could achieve and to be one of few women within the West Riding to achieve it after working so hard over the years is a great feeling. I would also say that working within elite academy football. My latest achievement would be through my work and progression in the female sector, it has helped me build the confidence and knowledge to work within a boy’s academy, for me this is amazing, as not many females break through into the male game.


What is your best memory of coaching?

I have a few memories that I keep in my back pocket but it’s hard to pick one as there’s so many. I like to remember where I came from and the first season I had in grassroots was one to remember, we won the league but what topped it off was the group of girls I had were amazing. Their personalities were great and a lot of them play within academies now so that’s great to see. I remember my first season with the Leeds United Girls RTC U12s, myself and Steve Conboy helped the girls win the Garforth Boys League which was a proud moment for us both.

Lastly what really makes me happy is just meeting new people and the relationships you build with your players, and fellow coaches. Colleagues within the game that you meet through your journey are people that really keep you going and help you believe in yourself.


What are your goals in the sport?

I’d really like to continue progressing as much as possible. I think every coach has that hunger inside them to keep developing, I want to continue to learn not just through qualifications but out on the field. I’d love to achieve my FA Advance Youth award and my UEFA A in the future and maybe my dream one day would be to be involved with England.

I also have another love which is teaching and mentoring, I would like to join this together with my coaching and teach courses one day.


What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in football?

I would say breaking down barriers from the start. There have been times in my career I’ve had to have thick skin, I’ve suffered setbacks, but it has only motivated me to become stronger and be the best I can be. I think the main thing that has helped me throughout these things are the people who you surround yourself with. My family, friends and colleagues are very supportive and are only a phone call away which is vital to have if you are wanting to progress in this game.

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

Throughout my journey the people I’ve met on the way have definitely shaped me into who I am today. Julie Chipchase is one of those people I first met. I met Julie when I did my Level 2 and I was instantly in awe of her, I loved everything she did, I thought if I can achieve just half of the things she has in her career then I would of done a good job. We all know Julie and how she has a huge passion for supporting females within the game and it was Julie that helped me gain a job with the Leeds United Foundation where I worked closely with Gary Waddington. Gary has lots of experience within football and he was a great role model to work alongside, he was always pushing me to achieve bigger and better things, he also provided me with a lot of opportunities such as working within the Girls Regional Talent Centre and he always makes sure you know he’s available if your needing any advice!

Sally Needham is without doubt the most influential person within my journey. Sally has a contagious personality and her passion really does shine through and radiates onto others. The knowledge she possesses is world class and I couldn’t think of a better person to learn from. I’m so glad to have the privilege to be around her.


What advice would you give to people wishing to get involved in coaching football?

Make as many contacts as you can! Learn as much as you can, challenge yourself, push yourself don’t ever think you’re finished learning.

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