New initiative for top coaches in elite women's football

18-month programme to develop and connect high-performance coaches in the elite women’s game.

Thursday 18 Feb 2021

We have today launched our Coaching Excellence Initiative, an 18-month programme created to develop and connect high-performance coaches working in the elite women’s game. 

14 coaches have been selected for the inaugural Coaching Excellence Initiative programme, providing them with a bespoke, high-quality coach development experience underpinned by regular one-to-one support from a dedicated team of mentors. The coaches will receive individual and collective learning opportunities at regular workshops and interventions to support their individual and collective needs, unique to the experiences faced in women’s football. 

Delivered annually via group gatherings in high performance environments, peer mentoring and individual support, the programme will advance the coaching and leadership ability of selected senior coaches working in the women’s elite game, including the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship and the England Women’s pathway.

The programme will become a mainstay of our commitment in our 2020-2024 ‘Inspiring Positive Change’ strategy, to provide coaches personalised and high-quality experiences. 14 to 18 coaches – 75 per cent of whom will be female – will be supported via the programme each season.  

The 14 coaches for the 2020-21 programme were selected following an application process, which included individual assessment and interviews with players, General Managers and technical staff at relevant clubs and national teams. The coaches are:

  • Carla Ward, Birmingham City WFC Manager
  • Charlotte Healy, Manchester United WSL Academy Manager
  • Gemma Davies, Aston Villa WFC Head Coach
  • Gemma Donnelly, Blackburn Rovers WFC Manager
  • Gemma Grainger, England WU17 Women’s National Head Coach
  • Joe Sheehan, Ipswich Town WSL Academy Head Coach & First Team Manager
  • Karen Hills, in between roles
  • Leanne Champ, Chelsea WFC Technical Coach
  • Lydia Bedford, England Women’s U18s Development Phase Head Coach
  • Melanie Reay, Sunderland AFC Ladies Head Coach
  • Riteesh Mishra, Charlton Athletic WFC Head Coach
  • Stephanie Libbey, Durham WFC First Team Coach
  • Tanya Oxtoby, Bristol City WFC Manager
  • Vicky Jepson, in between roles

The inaugural 18-month programme started in August 2020 and has so far seen the coaches receive formal learning opportunities through group events held online, as well as virtual small group meet-ups, peer to peer learning and sharing and one-to-one mentoring. 

Audrey Cooper, our head of women’s coach development, said: "The Coaching Excellence Initiative is central to our commitment to see the top coaches in the women’s game become the very best they can, providing them with the development and learning opportunities to achieve their potential and fulfil their ambitions. 

"Living well beyond the 18-month course, it will provide the coaches with a support network to share their experiences as they continue in their career. This programme will also support our broader ambition to normalise women in football coaching, shining a light each year on aspirational, relatable and credible female role models for future generations to be inspired by. 

"Whether you are female or male, it’s my belief that there’s never been a more exciting time to be a coach in the women’s game."

Tanya Oxtoby Coaching Excellence Initiative participant and manager at Bristol City, added: “I applied to The FA’s CEI programme to continue to develop myself as a manager, network with likeminded people within the women’s game and to challenge my way of thinking. 

"The programme has been extremely useful as its focused on skills and qualities which do not normally feature within technical coaching courses. It’s provided me with a network of support in very strange times and it’s changed the way I think about my way of working and how I can reach my own potential moving forward."

The Coaching Excellence Initiative follows a record number of female coaches taking their FA Level 4 (UEFA A Licence) and the announcement of our Elite Coach Placement Programme which sees Rachel Yankey, Fara Williams and Coreen Brown begin season-long coaching placements with England's Women’s development teams.

By FA Staff