Romina Calatayud, Founder and CEO of Girls United, explains the club’s ethos and what has led to their decision to begin the Black Coaches Matter programme.
Girls United is an organisation that fights for a world with a level playing field, on and off the pitch – using football as a tool for the empowerment of individuals and to promote gender equality. We set up clubs and programmes in local communities creating safe spaces for football practices that go beyond the technical and tactical by using our Girls United Methodology, to develop confident leaders and role models. We provide players with the opportunity to succeed on and off the pitch by developing life skills that allow them to find their voices and pursue their ambitions in sport, education and in their careers.
Since we began in 2017, we have developed our club and coaching philosophy focusing on three pillars: Explore, Inspire, and Empower. On the pitch, this translates into what we call Coaching to Empower – allowing a coach to become a guide for players to fulfil their potential as individuals and as a team. For me personally, throughout the journey of setting up the organisation and working with girls and women in different countries, from different backgrounds, one of most exciting things about shifting the coaching methodology towards empowerment has been challenging traditional football environments, in order to reach those girls who haven’t previously felt welcome or represented.
These barriers could be due to negative stereotypes propagated by friends and family; not feeling comfortable or confident with your body; social pressure telling you what your interests should be or the lack of visibility to relatable role models – and these barriers increase for black females and females from ethnic minorities. So, when we understand these barriers and strive to create inclusive spaces that break them down, we can see individuals from all backgrounds thrive and become their inspiring, game-changing selves.
Highlighting the intersection between gender discrimination and racial discrimination is so important because we cannot truly address one without the other. It takes the same change of mindset and uprooting of entrenched social norms to move away from these realities towards a world where empathy and respect can prevail. The recent movements that open conversations around these issues, such as Black Lives Matter, have been important steps towards change. However, posting on social media is not enough. With our Black Coaches Matter campaign, we are hoping to go one step further. There are not enough black females coaching football and we want to open pathways for this to change. FARE's funding has allowed us as an organisation to share our inclusive environment with the wider community. When Abbey, our London Manager, came across the grant, she brought it to the team recognising that we had a unique opportunity to share our experiences and those of our coaches in order to support others, reflecting the core values of our organisation.
The first stage of the campaign has been aimed at starting a conversation and bringing in voices that can help highlight the issues and explore strategies to generate impact. We have spoken to Chloe Morgan, Crystal Palace goalkeeper and lawyer, who offered great insight on her experience in two industries that have traditionally lacked involvement of black females. We spoke to Eni Aluko via Instagram live on October 12th at 8pm, an inspiring woman who can offer a very unique perspective on the hidden barriers and challenges we must address in order to create a fairer society. On the 17th of October we delivered an Intro to Coaching workshop to provide black females with the tools they need to embark on their coaching journeys. Through this launch event, we hope to inspire a group of women to become agents of change and multiply their impact as coaches.
From this cohort, 5 coaches will be selected to join the Girls United coaching team for 6 weeks of paid work experience as assistant coaches and will receive support from the club manager throughout. We hope that with these different initiatives we can get the most out of the partnership with FARE and help generate real change in the pathway for black female coaches.