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West Ham United: She’s faced ‘hurdles’ as women’s football manager but Nicole Farley wants to take her career to the ‘highest possible’


A football coach who has worked with youth teams and academies on both sides of the Atlantic – Chelsea, Arsenal and Reading in England and LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls in the USA – Farley’s goal is to obtain a professional license.

Farley is currently based at West Ham, in the Premier League, having arrived last year as the club’s first manager.

She says her coaching career to date has been driven by resilience, self-confidence and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone – qualities that are all the more necessary when you are a woman working in a male-dominated environment.

According to a report by European football’s governing body UEFA, in 2017 4,778 women in England held one of UEFA’s four coaching qualifications compared to 76,825 men, while seven women held one. professional license – UEFA’s highest coaching qualification – against 383 men.

“As a coach, it’s tough,” Farley said. “There are always barriers.

Speaking about some of the daily challenges she faced as a women’s football coach, Farley adds: “Sometimes it’s almost like a lack of respect for the role or what you can bring.

“For example, I might have this idea and person B has this idea, but we take person B and it’s like, well, I’ve said this idea before, but you don’t. haven’t really recognized.”

There are also times when she reflects on how her career progression has seemed slower than some of her peers.

“You think, Well, I’m going so far, I’m excelling here, but there’s this brick wall and I can’t seem to get any further,” Farley says.

“As you look at someone else and say, Oh, they started from behind me, they look great […] It can be frustrating and difficult. But keep presenting yourself as resilient.”

Farley applied for his role at West Ham through the Premier League’s Coach Inclusion & Diversity Scheme (CIDS), which aims to improve inclusion, equality and diversity in professional football coaching.

She is now in the midst of a 23-month spell with the club, coaching school and professional teams across all West Ham academy age groups.

According to the Premier League, the aim of CIDS coaches is to achieve a sustainable coaching position in which they can be “successful and visible role models” for future generations.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you’re male, it doesn’t matter if you’re female, it doesn’t matter what color you are,” says Farley, “but we know that historically those barriers exist.

“Even if you look at the ban on women’s football and tell that, of course women’s football is going to be behind, they’re 50 years behind because there’s a 50-year ban.”

Farley refers to the period between 1921 and 1971 when the English Football Association banned women from playing on English Football League grounds.

She adds, however, that there has been noticeable “growth and investment” in women’s football in the UK, and calls being the first ever female manager at West Ham “clean and cool”.

“It shows that these clubs are ready and West Ham are actually coming from an open mindset in offering that variety,” says Farley.

“At the end of the day, the more diverse we are, it can only get better because everyone is so different.”

Last year the Premier League launched the Coach Index, an online directory for coaches from underrepresented backgrounds to find club vacancies.

It was introduced at a time when less than one in 10 academy coaches at professional clubs are of black, Asian or mixed background, according to the Professional Footballers’ Association, a figure that drops to one in 20 at senior.

Farley says she doesn’t want to be seen as a “tick box”, but instead wants to take the opportunity with West Ham to develop further as a manager.

“I think of myself as being in a flowerpot,” says Farley. “I am a plant and I grow, but if someone puts me in a box, I can only show a lot. If you take that box out, if you let the sun in, if you let the opportunity come , well, guess what? I can grow and give so much more.”

Before coaching, she aspired to become a player. But two injuries in quick succession while playing for Reading put an abrupt end to those hopes as she turned to training instead.

“You’re heartbroken,” Farley said, adding, “It wasn’t the same access [to medical care] at the time for the women’s game, so you’re just getting by. I didn’t know back then if I could be like [Chelsea and England’s] Fran Kirby, for example, where you can have that long-term career.”

The coaching proved, however, that she could still have a “positive impact” on other players. “I believe it’s my calling to inspire, through my career, through my journey,” says Farley.

She credits the environment at West Ham as one where you can “be yourself”, and indeed it is a positive time to be associated with the club.

As well as pushing for a place in the Premier League’s top six at the end of the season, the men’s first team will face Lyon in the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday – their first European quarter-final in 41 years.

And while West Ham aim to reach new heights on the pitch, the ever-ambitious Farley hopes his time as a manager with the club can follow a similar upward trajectory.

“I’m 100% competitive, I like to win in everything I do,” says Farley. “I always want to try to do my best. I like to succeed.”

But whatever happens in her coaching career, her love of the game will always endure.

“The beauty of football, to strip it all down, is that you could be anybody from any real estate environment; you could be a wealthy person […] you could be the person who grew up in the building,” Farley says.

“No matter what, football brings you together.”

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