“I’ve always loved football but I never played it thinking that it could be a career…”

In March 2019, Imogen, 24, completed her FA L1 football coaching qualification with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation. Alongside studying clinical exercise at the University of Salford, she plays football in a local women’s team and coaches under 7s as a volunteer in Altrincham.

Throughout school, Imogen moved around between Wythenshawe and Scotland and struggled to know what direction to go in. “I didn’t like school,” she says. “I didn’t get any A Levels and I had no idea what I wanted to do so I worked for a while delivering pizzas and thought about becoming a bus or taxi driver. Eventually, I decided to give university a go and luckily I got into Salford through clearing.”

Imogen found out about the FA L1 through a friend on her football team and decided to give it a go. “I’ve always loved football but I never played it thinking that it could be a career. I played to make friends, have a laugh, and get the health benefits, but then my little cousin was in one of the teams and my auntie said to me, ‘Why not give coaching a go?’ I’d never done it before – you just fall into these things.”

Throughout the four-week course, Imogen learned coaching techniques, first aid, safeguarding and delivered her own coaching activity with the group. “It was a real eye-opener,” she says. “I’ve played football all my life but never really questioned why coaches tell you to do certain things. The trainer, Lucy, was really engaging and I’ve gained loads of ideas take ideas into my own work. I definitely got a lot more confident every session, too. The four weeks went so quickly and I was really sad when it finished!”

Since completing the course, Imogen has gained paid work with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation and has been supporting Lifecentre’s holiday club sessions at Marlborough Road Academy, a primary school in Salford. “I’m now qualified to coach football so we’re coming into the school over the Easter holidays to run some games with the kids. Lifecentre are making sure that they have some food and a bit of exercise and fun over the holidays.”

“I didn’t expect to enjoy coaching kids… but it’s nice knowing that coming to football could be the highlight of their week.”

“I didn’t expect to enjoy coaching kids as much as I have,” she says. “Football brings people together from a variety of different backgrounds and you don’t need loads of resources to do it – just people and a ball. Seeing kids get so much happiness out of it, while learning and socialising, is great. We don’t know what these kids’ backgrounds are but it’s nice knowing that coming to football could be the highlight of their week.”

Imogen had planned on becoming a personal trainer after university, but says that the FA L1 course has got her thinking about her future. “My future plans have actually changed. I’ve always done football but I never thought of it as a career option – now I’m researching organisations that go around schools coaching children. I’d still like to be a personal trainer, but if I could make a career out of football as well, that would be fantastic.

“I’m so glad that I did the FA L1 – it’s opened up so many doors.”

“Football is something that you can take anywhere and, having moved around a bit, the first thing I would always do is join a team to make friends. Now, if I moved, I’d become a coach as well. If you love football and you love helping others, then it’s definitely something that other people should consider.”