Mum is on the ball

MUM of two Sarah Atkinson is encouraging more women to follow in her footsteps and become qualified football coaches.

Stuart Watson

MUM of two Sarah Atkinson is encouraging more women to follow in her footsteps and become qualified football coaches.

The 26 year-old was in no way interested in football last year but, realising that she was destined for years on the sidelines watching her two young children play she decided to respond to an advert offering free places on coaching courses for mothers.

The scheme, run by McDonalds, was called 'Mums On The Ball' and offered 160 free places on a five part coaching course for mums across the UK.

Atkinson, who duly passed the course as the only female out of 23 participants at Needham Market, said: “I see all these mums on the sidelines and think why can't they be coaches as well?

“I think women can offer a different approach. A lot of men can be very competitive with the children, where I think many women's first priority is to make sure they are having fun and building their confidence. We can be a bit more nurturing.

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“I know, as a mum, that I would be comforted by the thought that another mum is there at football training to look after them.”

Atkinson, who is currently studying for a sports science degree at University Campus Suffolk, first stumbled across the coaching course by sheer accident. She explained: “I remember one day seeing Peter Crouch's mum on the telly talking about this Mums On The Ball scheme.

“I thought about it and realised that it was likely that I would be watching my two sons play football for the next ten years or so anyway so ended up registering on the website straight away.

“After that I thought nothing of it until I got an e-mail back a few weeks later saying I had been selected for a place.”

Atkinson admitted that, although the Suffolk FA run course wasn't quite what she expected, she had a great time and was keen to dispel any negative thoughts other women might have about doing the same.

She said: “My knowledge of football was zero before the course. I didn't have a clue what the offside rule was and certainly didn't own a pair of football boots.

“I did think that it would be an all female course I was on but when I turned up in all my brand new pink football gear looking very girly I was surrounded by men!

“At that point I looked around and realised that all of them played football and began to think that I was well out of my depth, but I have got to say that it wasn't the testosterone fuelled environment I had feared and everyone was lovely.

“In no way was I ever singled out or made to feel embarrassed and I was never made to do anything that made me feel uncomfortable.”

Atkinson, who is now FA Level One qualified, now plans to put her new skills into practice by helping the current manager of Martlesham Heath Youth FC over the coming season.

As part of its community football coaching programme, McDonald's has helped create over 11,500 qualified grassroots coaches in partnership with the UK's national football associations over the last five years.

For more information on the McDonald's coaching programme, or to find out more on Mums On The Ball, visit the Be Active section at www.mcdonalds.co.uk, or call: 0845 2591085.

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