Following the sad news of Julie Chipchase’s passing, The FA’s Bex Garlick gathers the thoughts of those who worked closely with her and reflects on the career of a true pioneer.
“When you create a difference in someone’s life, you not only impact their life, you impact everyone influenced by them throughout their entire lifetime. No act is ever too small. One by one, this is how to make an ocean rise” (Ripples, by Danielle Doby).
The outpour of messages and social media posts that followed the tragic passing of Julie Chipchase on Tuesday 4 May 2021, perfectly summarised the ripple effect that this wonderful individual had throughout her career.
Caring, kind and compassionate are just some of the words used to describe the person that ‘Chippy’ was, and this is before anyone even gets started on her football credentials and capabilities.
During her 13-year stint as a coach developer for The FA, she grasped the opportunity to pass on the wisdom she had collated as both a player and a coach. Coupled with her warming and reassuring presence, she has been described as simply; “the whole package”.
Julie’s ability to inspire, passion for the finer details and willingness to help others encompasses her lasting legacy that has been acknowledged by previous and current FA colleagues.
Fellow FA regional coach development officer, Lawrence Lok, described her as “a true pioneer, trailblazer and ahead of her time”.
While Chippy’s outstanding contribution to women’s football has rightly been recognised, her ability to inspire others spans so much wider. Countless people have shared how Julie played a significant role in their journey as they pursued a career in the game.
The fact that many of these have progressed on to work for The Football Association as coaches and coach developers tells a fitting story of her ability to not just lead by example, but to also encourage and empower those in her company to “be brave” and play their own part in driving the game forward.
Her humbleness would never allow her to acknowledge it, but she really was the giant of whom so many of us were standing on the shoulders of.
“In the nicest way, she terrified me, a true giant of the game. I was lucky enough that she took me under her wing, where mentorship soon turned to friendship. Her impact on me is unmeasurable, and my story is one of many” - Emma Coates, FA national specialist coach.
“Don’t forget the technical detail”
In a presentation delivered as part of her role tutoring on the UEFA A Licence, ‘Chippy’ spoke of her time at her beloved Doncaster Belles and the importance of “evolution, not revolution”.
While her open-minded nature and willingness to continually learn enabled her to embrace new concepts, she was also a fierce defender of the traditional principles of football and coaching.
Geoff Pike, who worked alongside Julie during their time as FA regional coach development managers, described her understanding of the game as “exceptional”. It was with this that she became a constant source of knowledge and experience for many. Incredibly but not surprisingly, she was still somehow able to communicate this with such simplicity and precision; while forever reminding us not to forget the technical detail!
“Chippy was my England U17’s coach, and I remember at the time thinking what a role model she was. She then delivered my UEFA B in 2007, and again I just remember thinking, ‘wow, if only one day I had your knowledge’. We had so many chats around (what she referred to as) the ‘forgotten corner’, and the detail that she was so passionate about” - Sam Griffiths, FA regional coach development officer.
Helping people get better
While often described as being a private person, everyone understood the value she placed on family. It will come as no surprise then that the words many of us would associate with ‘family’ are the same ones used to describe ‘Chippy’. Support, trust, respect, selflessness, and care have all been reiterated this week by those who knew her best.
Tony McCallum, former FA national coach development manager, described how Julie’s mission was a simple one; “to help make people better”. Through her personal qualities and willingness to invest time in people, she was able to connect with others and build their trust.
When you spoke to her, she listened, making you feel understood and that your input mattered. In the true spirit of one of her favourite sayings, “silence is your weapon”, she would carefully choose the right moment to impart her view and wisdom. There were also times where she chose not to say anything at all. Instead, a simple smile, wink and thumbs up provided all the approval and reassurance that was needed.
“Chippy impacted the world of football and those within it. It was her life. But for me, I will always remember our talks, her support when I needed it the most, the funny stories, the good times and her life lessons. A fantastic mentor, encourager and source of knowledge, but also a best friend” - Sally Needham, former FA county coach developer.
This tribute only begins to scratch the surface of how valued ‘Chippy’ was as both a person and as a professional.
She placed a huge importance on people ‘earning their stripes’, and she certainly lived by example where this was concerned. She also wasn’t one to take herself too seriously. Her sense of humour was up there with the best.
With that, we must all remember amidst our sadness that she would want us to look back with smiles and laughter at the countless memories we have. Casting ripples through the football world, Julie Chipchase certainly made a difference to the lives of those she worked closest with.
Her values, qualities, and character live on in so many of us, and with that, we carry the responsibility to continue to make the ocean rise in her memory. Our teammate and friend - never forgotten, forever cherished.
“Chippy, thanks for all you did to make the game you loved a better game for all” - Les Howie, former FA head of grassroots delivery.