International Women’s Day 2021

Choose to Challenge: A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let's all choose to challenge

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Choose to Challenge: A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge.”

We are marking this day by talking to two of our apprentice tutors from Lifetime Training – Brogan, from our Leicester programme and Layla from our Essex one – about their experiences in the sector and how the work they do can help challenge the status quo.

Can you tell us a little bit about your history in the sector?

Layla: I grew up in a sport industry where football was a ‘male’ sport. Being a footballer myself, travelling all over the country whilst playing in a National League with minimal was a tough one to take. I wanted equality. And although we aren’t there yet – it is fantastic to see women making a career in football themselves, whereas when I was younger, it’s something we could only dream of as the opportunities weren’t there.

Brogan: I have been involved in sport and physical activity from the age of 14 as a volunteer, and so I know how difficult it can be to find jobs, and be given opportunities. I have enjoyed coaching, as a volunteer, a multi-sports coach, teaching in schools, and coaching football America –  that joy of seeing people happy and smiling when exercising is something I am passionate about. So a combination of both empowerment, teaching, and coaching seemed like the perfect next step for me. I didn’t have many female role models around me, and so I decided to step up myself by becoming a tutor with Coach Core – female role models inspire others that they can achieve what they put their minds to, and the view of women in sport is changing. I’m passionate about being a role model to others, so they can become role models to others, it’s a domino effect, and will change diversify the sport sector! At first it was a challenge to build relationships with apprentices and colleagues, particularly being a female in a male dominant sector. However, through my learning experiences and development I have learnt to believe in myself, my ideas, my suggestions and my choices. Regardless of my gender, I have a voice, and I have a say.

Can you tell us about any role models you have worked with?

Brogan: I work with a group of female apprentices, who each in their own right are role models. One woman in particular, has chosen to change her career at a later stage in her life, whilst also being a mother to her son. To see her develop and grow in confidence with her new chosen career sector is empowering.

Layla: Sophie, who is working at ProSport Solutions (formally South Essex Gymnastics), who moved to England independently from Cyprus to continue her gymnastics and kickstart her career. Sophie is now training to be a tutor on ProSports training scheme, and has grown from strength to strength since starting with us. I will never forget Sophie sat down with me one day during a visit and said “how do I get a job like you?” In response I told her to continue what she was doing (being a hard-working, career driven individual), and she landed exactly where she wants to be 2 years later.

Given the demographics of those working in the coaching world don’t match that of the UK population (30% of the coach development workforce are female, compared to 68% male), how do you choose to challenge the status quo?

Brogan: It is important to provide new and exciting opportunities to women who would like to be involved in the sport sector, but are struggling with that first step. Without these apprenticeship roles, there would be less opportunities, especially for young women who do not want to go to college, or university, but still aspire to be the best they can be. Apprenticeships are so important for that!
This allows people from all backgrounds an opportunity to reach their potential, without having any barriers. I believe every female has the right to choose their career, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or sexuality. By diversifying teams and boards within sport we create role models for all, and opportunities for all. As well as this diverse teams bring diverse ideas, solutions and outcomes, making sport more enjoyable for all.

Layla: I see myself as a positive female role model – which I hope in turn inspires other young women to follow in my footsteps and create a career that encourages others to take a positive step to knock down any discriminatory boundaries and be the inspiring female in sport that they want to be.

What support do young women across the UK, who traditionally may experience barriers, discrimination, and lack of opportunities, need?

Brogan: Support in taking that first step, and knowing where that first step could lead. I believe more awareness needs to be made around the opportunities within the sport sector for females, as well as what it takes to get there. With more role models, misconceptions or lack of awareness can be broken.

Layla: A positive role model, a sense of believing that it is possible to be respected and successful in the sport industry, and to be strong-willed in your goals and what you aspire to be. Social media often reflects a negative light on those who decide to step into a male dominated industry which can be very off-putting (think of the ex-female footballers who have commentated on or co-hosted male football games, and look at the abuse they get on Twitter for getting involved in a ‘men’s game’). Have a strong head and look past it.


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