Changing the Game in Female Coach Development

Changing the Game in Female Coach Development

“I believe equality in football will take a similar path to sub 4-minute mile. What was a mammoth task once achieved by Roger Bannister rippled a belief it was possible.”

“Once the 4-minute barrier had been broken for the first time, it was followed by a flood of runners achieving the same benchmark.

“We hope to set a similar example here in NSFA with the What’s Best For Her Strategy.”

Eilidh Mackay, NSFA Head of Female Football

Creating a legacy and changing the game doesn’t happen from ad-hoc initiatives but rather a bold courageous vision. Northern Suburbs Football Association (NSFA) has just that with the What’s Best For Her Strategy. We are creating an inclusive and empowering culture that supports females at all levels of the game. We plan to transform the game by having the highest number of female participants.

Coaches are an integral part of that vision, being one of 5 key pillars. What’s Best For Her initiatives support coaches of the female game as well as attracting, retaining and developing female coaches. Our current goal is to achieve 25% female coach representation by the end of 2023.


We run a number of attraction-based initiatives to encourage females into coaching roles.


NSFA have committed to providing coaching scholarships over a number of years. Since 2017 NSFA have hosted 118 coaches across 5 AFC/FA C-Licence courses, of those involved 22 were female (19% representation).

In addition, we have provided 18 local coaches with a C-Licence Scholarships, 6 of which were female (33% representation).

Another attraction initiative is Community grassroots coaching certificates, which are FREE of charge for local NSFA coaches. NSFA have the simple belief coach education is an investment, not a cost.

Better coaches = Better Players = Players continuing to play and enjoy the game!

Reflecting and reviewing are critical skills to ensure we continue to service the football community. It is important to identify and remove barriers for female coaches.

One solution was the Youth Coach Development Program which is skill training certificate targeted at 15 to 22 year old. In the first 2 years of the initiative, we ran 6 YCDP servicing 123 coaches, 45 of which were female that is 37% female coach representation.

Introduced for the 2022 season, the blocked approach addresses barriers that were stopping coaches getting their qualifications:

  • Limited work-life balance
  • Time
  • Duplication of content
  • Lack of support or confidence
  • This year we have had 100 coaches
CourseTotal CoachesFemale Coaches (%)
Block 110019 (19%)
Block 25011 (22%)
Block 3 (ST and GT)5210 (19%)
All Coach Education Engagements (Includes Workshops/Expos)44584 (18%)

To further support the growth of new female coaches, NSFA has invested in upskilling members within our community to become Coach Developers. We are striving to have a female coach presenter on all our courses and workshops to provide a positive example and encourage more females to enter the coaching ranks. Currently three of our eleven coach developers are female (27% representation).


In football we can make the common mistake of solely focusing on attraction initiatives. How many times have we heard if we just get more females, the game will be different? Our research identified there was no issue in attracting females to football, the problem was retention. A key aspect of retention is providing an inclusive and empowering culture within our clubs to ensure females feel valued and supported.

Creating a culture that achieves genuine equality needs to come from the top down. Leaders’ actions must replicate the words of changing the game. NSFA aims to provide a positive example for all of our 30 member clubs to follow.

XLR8 is the player development arm of NSFA and is an organisation that prides itself on coach development. This season we have 44 coaches, 13 of which are female 29.5%. Eilidh Mackay Head of Female Football is one of three senior management (33%) and we have one female development officer out of four (25%). This highlights leadership, and a clear vision can create a culture which supports and develops female coaches.

Eilidh Mackay, NSFA’s Head of Female Football, has taken the same approach within Northern Tigers. In her role of Girls SAP Technical Director, she has worked with an all-female coaching team. She believes it is essential to create a safe environment where coaches can learn the craft of coaching by being vulnerable and having a growth mindset. So far two GSAP coaches have moved into the club’s NPL Youth program, highlighting the success of retaining and developing female coaches.

For NSFA clubs, the Female Football Coordinator and Club Coach Coordinator play a key role in the support and retention of female coaches. They are the leaders that create an inclusive and empowering culture within their club.


To further encourage the retention of coaches within the game, we need to provide development opportunities to allow coaches to further grow their skills.

The NSFA’s Accelerated Female Coach Mentoring Program provides individual support and mentoring to develop female leaders for the region. Each female leader has their own goals and aspirations which may be coach developer, representative level coaching, head development league coach.

“Investing in these leaders supports their individual goals while achieving the greater What’s Best For Her vision for the region,” says Eilidh Mackay.

In addition our Flexible Female Coach Mentoring Program allows coaches to be involved to varying levels based on their own personal commitments and motivations.

Another support initiative in place to support coach development is match day mentoring. NSFA Coach Development Manager Jake Stephenson is leading our team of coach developers to support coaches on the ground. There has been over 100 coach mentoring engagements so far this season across a variety of competitions.

Looking Forward

We are proud of what we have been able to build by having a bold courageous vision. Have we achieved our vision? Not yet, however we are building an ecosystem that has sustainable initiatives that support real change. We will reach 25% female coach representation. We will have female coach developers involved in all community coaching courses. We will have female Premier League coaches. We will have female technical directors and development league head coaches.

The What’s Best For Her Vision will show that football can attract female coaches, support the retention of coaches, and inspire female leaders in our game for years to come.

Ultimately, we aim to instil belief just like Roger Bannister – what seems impossible is actually very possible!

For more information about What’s Best For Her and female coaching opportunities within NSFA, contact Eilidh Mackay –

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