International Women’s Day

I want to say something profound but I have nothing.

So I’ll say thank you.

Thank you to all the women who’ve paved the way and made it easier for women like me to work.

Thank you to the women who continually show by example that we can go beyond the boundaries.

Thank you to all the women who fight and rise up indignantly against gender inequality and violence towards women; who uphold the right to education for women and girls around the world.

Thank you to my mother for modelling the fact that a woman can….

Thank you to the every day women that surround me and challenge me to be all that I ever hope and dream.

And thank you to my daughter for inspiring me, every day, to be a better woman.

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Redefining Wonder Woman Series 8: Female Football Coach

It seems befitting that I should bring to you the story of Natasha Adamakinwa, a female football coach. I wish I could say I planned this to coincide with FIFA Women’s World Cup but it really was fortuitous. I interviewed her a couple of months ago and now seemed to be a good time to publish her story. I hope you enjoy her extraordinary story.

RWW: Tell me a little bit about your early years and education. 
NA: I was born on the 21st of May 1987 in London, England to a Nigerian father and Zambian mother. I grew up in Camden Town, North West London, where I attended St Michaels CoE Primary School and St Marylebone Secondary School for Girls in Baker Street, Central London. I went on to Acland Burghley Sixth Form School to study A Levels in Psychology, Sociology, Media Studies and Business Studies.

Thereafter, I completed a degree in Psychology with Health Studies at the University of East London. Post graduation, I worked for a year coaching sports in primary and secondary schools before being offered a scholarship to study and play football in America at Ohio Valley University. I accepted the offer and took the opportunity to study another degree in Sports Management for two years before returning to the UK.

RWW: What do you do now?
NA: I currently work as a graduate learning support assistant at a secondary and sixth form school in Enfield and I am looking to complete my Physical Education teaching status next year. As well as playing football, I am also a qualified FA UEFA B football coach.

RWW: How long have you been coaching football?
NA: I have been coaching for 13 years now. For the first 3 years I coached without any qualifications, and taught myself. When I was 17, I undertook my level one coaching badge and I obtained my certificate in January 2005. I progressed to the level two coaching badge, which I got in August 2007. (I did my level 2 with Marlon King, the professional football player, who currently plays for Middlesborough FC) and on both occasions I was the only female on the course. I got funded and chosen by the London Borough of Camden to do my badges. A group of us were chosen because of our achievements in coaching in the borough. I completed my level 3 (UEFA B) last year and have been able to get some sponsorship through Black and Asian community COACH bursary to do my Youth Modules 1 and 2. As the years go on, I will be looking to carry on getting my badges; my Youth Module 3; level 4 ‘UEFA A’ licence and Pro licence so that I am able to coach at the highest level of both mens and womens game.

RWW: That’s amazing! What’s your earliest recollection of playing football?
NA: It must be playing football with my cousins at the age of six or seven. I used to spend holidays with the, and they always involved me in football games. We used to mix teams and simple play games.  I started playing football as a sport, at the age of eight. Football has always been my main passion as I grew up. I always played, but never joined a proper team until I was 17 years old.

RWW: I read in you bio that you played for Tottenham. How did that come about?
NA: My first official football club was Hendon women’s football team. I stayed with this club for 3 years and later went for a trial with some friends for Tottenham.  I played for Tottenham Hotspurs ladies and alternated between teams, playing for the first as well as reserves team squad. I was also the top scorer for the reserves and 3rd place for the first team. I stayed there for 2 years and then joined Mauritius Sports Association (MSA) and AFC Wimbledon. I also had the opportunity to play whilst I was in the States for at Ohio Valley University Football team. After coming back from the states I had the opportunity to represent my county and play at the national Wembley 5’s 5aside finals and captain it as well.

RWW: What fuels your interest?
NA: The excitement and buzz of scoring and winning and being surrounded by people that also love the game as much as you do.

RWW: What is the most common misconception about women and football?
NA: The main misconceptions about women and football are that women can’t and shouldn’t play football and the assumption that all women who play football are gay. Neither of these are accurate but you still often hear people saying them.

RWW: What prejudices, if any, have you faced?
NA: Being black and a woman are both challenges that I overcome every day. Being the only female manager/coach in the league, I have dealt with coaches making sexist comments or having chauvinistic attitudes towards me and looking down on my abilities as a coach. I haven’t experienced any prejudice because of the colour of my skin. However I have faced difficulty in job opportunities, having the sense or feeling that I did not get a job because of unfair judgement or bias.

RWW: You aren’t only a woman but a woman of colour. Do you feel like you have opened doors for younger women like you?
NA:
Definitely! I feel like I am a role model not only to black women but black boys. In the sense that I manage and coach a boys team and give people courage to pursue their dreams despite any potential barriers they may face.

RWW: Do you feel any pressure as a result of that?
NA:
Yes because I feel I have to keep on going and prove them wrong. Loads of coaches are watching and I sometimes feel like I have to achieve twice as much to get the same recognition as other coaches.

RWW: How did you go from playing to coaching?
NA: With playing, especially at a higher level, I hated the pressure placed on me to score the winning goal, particularly in cup finals. Whereas in coaching, I enjoy the success I get from getting results and seeing rapid changes in players. My passion and motivation for coaching football has always been a desire of mine. I like how coaching has a positive impact on a player’s learning and development and helps to shape their futures by inspiring them to achieve. I have always found helping players both highly fulfilling and satisfying, especially when it has a direct impact on boosting their confidence and motivating them to achieve their goals and fulfil their potential. No pun intended.

RWW: So what team do you coach?
NA: I coach and manage a boys football team known as Isledon Wolves FC. I joined the club in 2006, when I was 19 years old. I was the only young female coach at the club. I became the first young woman at the age of 21 to win the League B Cup and Community Cups in my second season with them. The boys I coach now are under 14s and are top of the table. In addition to that, I am an Assistant Coach for under 17s for Millwall Lionesses Centre of Excellence.

RWW: How do the boys take to you being a female coach?
NA:
Surprisingly I haven’t faced many challenges as a female coach. Coaching boys is something I’ve always done and so it has not really been a problem. Sometimes I have had one or two problems with attitudes as they get older, which is natural, but I am able to sort these out quickly.

RWW: Which do you prefer, coaching or playing?
NA:
I prefer coaching, it is more rewarding. It is fulfilling to observe a player overcome barriers to learning and make significant progress towards their dreams and aspirations. I also enjoy turning a losing team into a winning team. I hated it as a striker – the pressure. Everyone looking and expecting you score the winning goal. The pressure took the fun out of it for me at times and the pre season fitness. 🙂 I still play for fun. I would like to return to playing soon but I don’t think I would want to play at a high level again.

RWW: Who are the footballers you admire?
NA: I admire a handful of footballers, mainly players that have a passion, drive, and determination: Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, and Lionel Messi.

RWW: What’s you proudest moment?
NA: Being the first woman and youngest football coach to win the league in my county. As well as managing three boys teams and becoming league champions with all teams.

My achievements to date:

As Head Boys Football Coach are:

  • 2008/09 Under 13- League B Champions and Community cup winners
  • 2008/09 and 2013/14- Club Head Coach of the Year Award
  • 2013/14 Under 13- League B Champions, League A Runners up, Division 4 Champions, League Cup runners up and Community cup winner
  • 2014/15 Under 14- League A Champions (find out 17th April), Division 2 Champions, and 2 Community Cup winners

As Football Player:

  • 2005/06 Manager’s Player of the Year

RWW: What’s your dream?
NA:
To be the first female coach in the premier League/Championship and or to become a head football coach at the highest possible level. ( you heard it on RWW first folks 😉 )

RWW: Who inspires you?
NA:
Maya Angelou inspired me with her ‘I can make it ‘attitude because she spoke so much about confidence and being a woman – being confident in yourself and confident in your heritage. She did not just write and speak her wisdom and words, but it is about how she lived her life that inspired me the most. She was a fighter for equal opportunities, tolerance and peace.

Thank you Natasha

You can follow Natasha on Twitter @Twin_tash or LinkedIn: Natasha Ademakinwa. To learn more about her visit http://natasha-ademakinwa.wix.com/portfolio.

Double Standards

I’ve watched, with fascination, how Solange Knowles’ wedding has been splattered over popular women’s magazine and blog. And I cannot help but think what if Jay-Z was a woman and Solange was a man. What if the male-Solange was the one in that elevator hitting a woman. The world would not forgive him especially if he dared to get married to another woman soon after. He would lose all his sponsorship if he was famous; he certainly would not be entertained by any magazine except the lowest of the lowest tabloid. He would most definitely not be hailed as a fashion icon – no designer would touch that hot potato. And he would have to pay for it for the rest of his life.

I don’t know about you but the modern day feminism doesn’t really seem to be about equality but eating our cake and having it. We can’t on one hand vilify men who show aggression towards women and then let women get away with it. Where exactly is the equality in that? Oh I forgot, equality is only for women.

It’s official. Men Get PMS!

Google says the equivalent of PMS, in men, is Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS) discovered by Scottish doctor. I think based on my experience, I’ll have to agree it must be true.

My previous jobs, excluding accountancy, were with not-for-profit organisations that were 90% filled with women and believe me, there were times where you craved for the balance of testosterone. I’m currently working in an IT environment that is 99% male dominated and my goodness it’s not any better.

Firstly, I have to say it’s not all men just like not all women are pre-menstrual ridden but golly I’ve had some experiences that I wasn’t expecting to encounter with men. Literal tantrums like babies throwing their toys out of the pram and I find myself genuinely asking, is it PMS? Or as I’ve just discovered, IMS? Let’s duck for cover.

I have always been an advocate of human behaviour not gender specific behaviour but come one! After watching the display of the boys on the Apprentice, I’m beginning to suspect that there is an agenda to portray men as more alpha male than IMS bound on TV.

So I asked someone if he was available for a job and I got a four paragraphed email to an answer that was simply yes or no.
1) Why didn’t you send an email before this email to tell me I was on the project. Errrr this IS the email.
2) I can do it but I don’t want to.
3) If I have to do it, it’ll be when I say, how I say and where I say.
4) Isn’t there someone else that can do it?

It was basically a lesson in let’s find four different ways to say I don’t want to do it whilst coming across intelligent, knowledgeable and in control of the situation. He failed on all counts and still had to do the work.

It brought out the mummy in me. I felt like saying, “did you get a booboo? Let mummy kiss it better”. *rolls eyes* My husband always jokes that if men could have baby, they’d have them in the morning and be back at work by noon. After my experience in a male dominated environment, I very much doubt that.

It’s good to know that at least on this issue we have established equality in the workplace. Golly!

“Mummy, Why Aren’t There Any Girls in The Tour de France?”

My five year old daughter asked me after we came home from watching the Tour de France. I had always taken it for granted that it was a man’s sport and never questioned why. As I’m ignorant about most sports I said, “you know what? I don’t know. Let’s ask daddy”. My all-sports-knowing husband informed me that there were other less known and (of course) less publicised races for women which I relayed to my daughter. To which her response was, “oh” (à la Charlie and Lola). And then she said emphatically, “that’s not fair!” To which I responded, “I agree”.

What she saw was exclusion. Not the fact that men and women don’t compete against one another. That concept would be difficult to explain to her anyway as her sole ambition now is to run faster than her brother who believes he can run faster than Usain Bolt. Did I mention he is two years older than her? To her, there are no limits, no he or her roles. As far as she is concerned there should be no barriers to entry for women, So I said, “well maybe you can be the first female to ride in the Tour de France”.

As a sports-ignoramus, I do not know what the ramifications of what I said are. I really don’t. I see it as simple as if we have marathons which include two races for men and women respectively, why can’t there be two races for men and women in Le Tour de France? I don’t know. You tell me.

All I know is my daughter said, “maybe I will” in response to being the first female rider. From a child who still uses stabilisers, that’s a big dream. I love it! These are the moments dreams are made of, even ridiculous dreams.