Group shot of four of the coach development trip ahead of the Norway v France game

A coach development experience like no other

Three attendees share their experiences from the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup


Week one of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup provided an incredible backdrop for a new type of FA coach development initiative. 

For five days, 13 of England’s most exciting female coaches in the top three tiers of women’s professional football travelled across France as part of The FA’s first ever Women’s Club Coach Development visit at a Women’s World Cup. 

The idea was to provide a unique opportunity to observe the highest level of competition, develop a new kind of coaching network, share ideas, and reflect on how they can return to their role a more self aware, confident, skilled coach. 

We felt this event was important for club coaches in England as it was a chance to observe the highest level of competition and critically review three top senior international matches. We also wanted to create an environment where coaches in the women’s top flight could network and integrate, develop new skills and enhance their self awareness to build capability in the future.

- Audrey Cooper, Head of Women’s Coach Development

While on the trip, they took in three World Cup fixtures - England v Scotland, Canada v Cameroon, and France v Norway - to hone their analytical skills, discuss trends, and review the performance and tactics of each nation.  

To find out more about how it went, the impact it had on those who made the trip, and to discuss the value these types of events have for women’s coaches, we spoke to three of the attendees - Karen Hills, Carla Ward and Tanya Oxtoby. 


Here, they share their reflections on their experiences and what they’ve each taken from it now they’re back with their clubs. 

carla ward

Carla Ward - First Team Manager, Sheffield United Women’s FC 

It was unbelievable. When people have asked me how it went, my instant response is that I’ve learned so much about myself.

It was so useful to be able to delve into ourselves as people and explore how that reflects with our coaching. I took an awful lot from it and there’s stuff I’ve used already back in my role.

For example I can react quite quickly on emotion and that’s something I always have done. It can be a good thing but it can also be a bad thing.

With future situations where that might happen, I need to not react in emotion I need to take it in, listen and then react. I have done that a lot since I’ve come back.

Another highlight was being around other female coaches in the game. The networking side of it was massive.

I’ve spoken to probably six or seven of the girls since I’ve been back and I have got some great ideas about pre-season - I even managed to get a player on loan, which is great!

Putting on this trip is a real message of intent from The FA. That they want to back females and improve females.

I can’t express how much of an impact it’s had and if we continue to run events like this we’re going to develop more female coaches. And that can only be good for club and country.

karen hills

Karen Hills - First Team Manager, Tottenham Hotspur Ladies

This was a big statement from The FA to say they’re completely supportive and want female coaches to be successful, and they’re ready to support and help them. That’s a loyal and powerful statement to make. 

I’ve been in football a long, long time and to have an opportunity to get to do something like this was fantastic. 
I was a little apprehensive knowing there were a lot of coaches that, although my path had crossed with them, I’ve not always had the time to get to know them as people. 
But the way it was set out allowed us to really get to know each other and I felt the group was really strong in being open and honest. We were comfortable and confident in being able to express and open up to each other. 
It can be quite a lonely place to be a female manager in big organisations, but to have that network and connection with other females working in the same environment really empowered and inspired me. 
I am confident I can pick up the phone to any of them if I need someone to speak to or ask a question and they’d be open and honest and be able to share and listen. That was massively important. 
From a trip point of view, the content was great. Really good discussion and lots of practical work. And I thought the tasks we were set at the games were excellent and really showed me the elements I feel I need to be better at. 
Sitting next to someone discussing what you see in the game you recognise everyone sees things slightly differently. The principles might be the same, but there’s different elements you see and don’t see. 
And being in Nice was incredible. The environment, the games, it was huge. 

tanya oxtoby

Tanya Oxtoby - First Team Manager, Bristol City Women’s FC 

It was an honour to be invited. To be in the position we’re in and working full time in the women’s game is a dream come true, so when you get offered experiences like this where you can share ideas and learn off other people and to be held in that esteem is fantastic.

It was something I wanted to grab with both hands, and I really enjoyed my time there.

The last game was my highlight. We went to watch France v Norway and that atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in women’s football. That was mind blowing.

And the workshops and practical sessions were great. They were all relevant, challenging, and thought-provoking.

There was a lot on mentoring, which was relevant to my role. Upskilling isn’t something we always get time to do in our environment, so it was really nice to have that opportunity to reflect and prepare for the season ahead.

I thought it was a fantastic experience. And unique. It’s probably the first time The FA’s run this type of female-only event, which is refreshing given it can be male-dominated on courses and CPD events.

And now the women’s game is starting to get a lot of investment and people are getting more interested in it, for The FA to give back to coaches who’ve done so much for the game and give them opportunity to reflect and develop their own skill sets to go back into their environments and take the game to the next level is massive.

I know everyone in that room felt really valued and special to be on that trip. And what’s more, we’ve now got a network of coaches working in the female game that collectively feel we can pick the phone up and support each other and help each other.  

GALLERY: Some highlights from the trip