Leeds United Women: Why girls’ coaching is geared up to be fun

After our County Cup game against Bradford Park Avenue was cancelled because of fog, I thought I’d take the opportunity to give my bedroom a well-overdue tidy.

By Catherine Hamill
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 2:43 pm
Leeds United Women's captain Catherine Hamill has been busy away from first-team football, coaching girls through the Leeds United Foundation set-up. Picture: courtesy Leeds United.
Leeds United Women's captain Catherine Hamill has been busy away from first-team football, coaching girls through the Leeds United Foundation set-up. Picture: courtesy Leeds United.

It’s tough, having a clear-up. One minute you’re making progress, the next minute you’re sitting on your bed getting caught up in the music you’re listening to. It’s easy to get distracted, too, finding things you forgot you had.

My drawers are still full of football stuff I’ve kept since I was young. I’ve probably got shirts from every season I’ve played.

I never wear them but it’s hard to throw them away. I’d never bin any of my trophies and medals, though, as those are great memories.

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I love helping young girls get into football through coaching with the Leeds United Foundation.

On Fridays, I coach the shadow squads, a group of 11-year-olds and a group of 14-year-olds. The sessions are skills-based - they’re all about trying to get confident on the ball.

It takes some thought, as drills might not work out in the way that you hope depending on how many girls turn up to train. It’s more of a challenge in winter, too, as you don’t want too many players standing around getting cold while others are working with the ball.

In our last session before Christmas, they managed to convince me to play Five Lives - they’ve been asking for weeks - and I brought some chocolate along for them all, so it was a bit of fun.

On Saturday, I coach the Minis, who are aged five and six. Those sessions are more focused on games and getting the girls enjoying their football.

It was proper festive in our last session; we had girls who’d been decorating their hair trailing tinsel around the pitch. One of our minis wears bright pink football socks every week, and Ellie and I had promised her for ages that we coaches would wear some ourselves before Christmas.

It was really lovely - she gave some socks as a Christmas present so we put them on for the session. I didn’t realise how daft I looked until I looked in the mirror when I got home, saw myself in my navy trousers and knee-high luminous socks!

Every week is fun, but we made the extra effort on Saturday. Everyone was chatting about what presents they would get and we played a Christmas-themed bulldog with special Grinch poses. They love it. It’s easy to feel excited around them; they have so much enthusiasm.

I never really went to camps or anything myself when I was younger; I’ve always taken it quite seriously when playing. But, as a coach, I’d like to think I’m quite fun for the girls, making sure they can try anything without feeling they’re making wrong decisions - especially at such a young age! I probably do that because I overthink as a player a lot myself.

For example, I already have in my head returning to football after Christmas.

Over the festive period, we just try to keep things ticking over - it’s all fine, so long as you don’t spend the whole break drinking and eating chocolate!

I don’t like having too much time off, as it means you have more to rebuild when you return. You can gain fitness quickly, but lose it even quicker.

I know at Christmas you’re supposed to enjoy yourself but what will it be like in the new year?

I’ll be panicking, thinking I’ve not done this in so long, I’ve lost all fitness, I can’t run, I can’t walk… When I’m 50, I’ll probably look back and wonder why I took it so seriously - how much harm can a week off really do ...?