Sport Sister Podcast - Season 3, Episode 1

Episode 1 – Young People in Sport: Natalie Curtis and Lydia Shale.

Natalie Curtis and Lydia Shale

Lydia Shale is a final year Sports Science and Physiology student at the University of Leeds. She is also a football coach for the university women’s teams, a local grassroots women’s team, and Leeds United Foundation. She has also previously spent two seasons on the FA National Youth Council. Natalie Curtis is Head of Academy at Women’s Championship side, London City Lionesses. She has also previously held roles at Sports Connect and Kent FA.

Lydia and Natalie join Natalie Doyle to discuss young people in sport – how to capture feedback from the young people you’re working with and how to involve them in decision making. They also discuss the differences between coaching boys and girls, how to show young people the opportunities for careers in sport, and some great tips to implement in both grassroots and elite environments.

“The people that are coming through sport now are going to be future leaders. They’re going to have jobs. They’re going to be part of the community. They’re going to take over sports clubs. If we don’t give them the ownership at the start, the confidence to go and tell people what they want or to voice their opinions or to speak up if something’s wrong, if we don’t instil that in them when they’re young, they’re never going to have that opportunity.”

- Natalie Curtis

Read this episode’s transcript

Natalie Doyle

Welcome to the Sports Sister podcast where we bring together professional experts with grassroots pioneers to discuss key topics for grassroots sport. I’m Natalie Doyle and today I’m joined by 2 brilliant female football coaches. Lydia Shale is a final-year sports science and physiology student at the University Of Leeds. She’s also a football coach for the university women’s teams, a local grassroots team and Leeds United Foundation. She has also previously spent 2 seasons on the FA National Youth Council. Natalie Curtis is head of academy at women’s championship side London City Lionesses. She has also previously held roles at Sports Connect and Kent FA. They’ve got lots of varied experience between them and I think you’re going to really enjoy this conversation. We go on to lots of different subjects around working with young people in sport, how you involve them in decision making, how this transfers between elite and grassroots environments, what makes a great coach and the differences as well between coaching girls and boys which I think you’re going to find a really interesting discussion. So let’s hear what they have to say.

Natalie and Lydia, thank you so much for joining me today. We’re going to be talking about the importance of the voice of young people in sport and I know you’ve both got some great experiences and advice to share with us on this subject. If I start with you first Lydia, let’s talk about why we’re even talking about this subject. Why is the voice of young people with sport so important to you?

Lydia Shale


I think growing up, being involved in lots of different sports I feel like it’s really important that it’s all relevant and it’s run in the intention of caring for young people. The decisions about young people should involve young people. Just because people are older doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily normal and so yeah, listening to young people just gives a more up-to-date, new, more relevant opinion on certain topics and my experience on the FA National Youth Council where the intention is to provide these opportunities for young people, a common theme that keeps coming back is that decisions are being made about young people with no young person in the room to have any interaction with it. So quite often, it just doesn’t feel very respectful in that sense.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, absolutely. For years we’ve been making decisions about what we think young people need and never actually asked them what it is that they want. So yeah, it is good that it’s finally becoming something on the agenda. How about for you Natalie? Why is it important to you?

Natalie Curtis

I just think that as much as I still envision myself as a sixteen/seventeen year old I’m really way past that now. So it’s that bit of the people that are coming through sport in particular now are going to be future leaders. They’re going to have jobs. They’re going to be parts of the community. They’re going to take over sports clubs. If we don’t give them the ownership at the start, the confidence to go and tell people what they want or to voice their opinions or to speak up if something’s wrong, we don’t instil that in them when they’re young, they’re never going to have that opportunity. And then as they get older, we’ll be really old and we’ll be standing there saying why aren’t you taking over from us and they just won’t know what it is that they want, what people need, and so for me, it’s super important that we listen to the voice of young people because ultimately they are going to be the next generation in sport. We talk about women’s football in particular and see the transformation that it’s made in 20 years, just sport in general has changed so rapidly over that time. And it’s going to continue to do so and as much as we like to think we can keep up with all the changes. We just can’t, so why not get more people to come and help us?

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, a hundred per cent, and you’ve both currently and previously had various different roles in sport. How do you try and integrate that voice of young people into the various roles that you do?

Lydia Shale

I think for me personally at the minute, I coach at the university, so I’m coaching my friends which is just a bit of a weird dynamic to try and work around. But I think going into it, I was a lot more kind of scared about that dynamic as will people respect what I’m doing and stuff, but I think when I’m coaching in that setup, people know that I’m there for a reason. We’re really good friends and stuff off the pitch and obviously on the pitch, I’m not a bully but I feel like that respect is there which just makes the job a lot easier because I’ve seen lots of settings and you go into, that respect isn’t always there. And as well with the committee for the football society, it’s all student-led, so I feel like in that sense, it is very much youth-focused and youth-run. And I think just in everyday life, it’s not necessarily about being like okay we’ve got this organisation, we’ve got this club, we need all the young people in, they’re going to make up the entire committee. It’s just about with the young people that you’re working with, just empowering them just to be like, know you can make a difference if you’re not happy with something, just giving them that little bit of a push and little bit of support to be like you’ve got a voice and your voice is just as important as everybody else’s.

Natalie Curtis

Absolutely, and in my current role, I’ve got a girl’s academy that sits underneath with 75 young people in it. Not all of them are going to go on to be professional footballers but 100 % of them are going to go off into society into work. So for them to voice their opinions, everyone comes from different backgrounds, different experiences, if we want to make an academy that’s fit for purpose and encompasses all those different backgrounds and beliefs then we have to listen to people who are different to us, as well as people who we think are the same, because no two people are the same. And it’s just one of those things that over the years and in various different roles, Lydia mentioned earlier about just because you’re older doesn’t mean you know best and I remember a colleague of mine was working with a youth council in Kent at a club and the question posed to the young people was if money was no object, what would you do with your club and the one thing they come back with was make sure the bibs are washed every week because they smell. And it’s that presumption that they would go for this big, far-fetched, grand elaborate scheme and actually all they wanted was clean bibs and until they asked the question nobody knew. And I think it’s that bit where if you don’t ask, you don’t get those opinions and therefore you can’t change it because, they can voice their opinions but they can’t necessarily be the decision makers and then it’s down to us to influence the decision makers on behalf of those young people until they’re in a position to put those decisions forward.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, that’s really interesting, isn’t it? The fact that you say to them if money was no object, what would you do and you think they’re going to come up with these big elaborate plans of things but actually it’s like you know what? We’d just enjoy it more if they didn’t smell so much to be honest, which doesn’t cost anything really like literally the cost of chucking them in the washing machine once a week. So that’s a perfect example as well of how we would make assumptions of what young people want and actually it’s something completely different. Lydia, you raised an interesting point as well about the fact that you’re coaching your friends at the moment. How do you find that? Obviously, it has its unique challenges and think me and Natalie were nodding along because we’ve probably been in similar positions in the past also where we’ve been in that situation. How do you find that as a unique challenge?

Lydia Shale

To be honest I feel like the thought of it was a lot more intimidating than the actual doing of it. So that’s my university team I’m coaching all my friends who we’ll hang around afterwards or go up the pub. So it’s just that weird kind of dynamic to try to balance it. But then my Sunday league team, I’m the youngest by about 5 years, so you’ve got some people in this team that are double my age and that again, that is a bit of a strange dynamic. So when I think about it I’m like, I don’t know, it’s quite intimidating and it does make me kind of doubt like all and all. Do I know the right stuff, am I best equipped for this role? But I’ve not had any issues and actually, when I’m coaching I don’t even really think about the age, it doesn’t matter, we’re all there for the same purpose which is to enjoy football. At the end of the day, that is what football is. People want to have fun. And yeah, and at no point does anybody doubt my own abilities as well. Which is obviously really nice as well. I feel that the respect works both ways. There’s no point me going into it going, okay I know what I’m doing, I’m fine, but then they don’t respect me just because I am younger. So yeah, I feel like a lot of it does come down to respect. And also just being able to back yourself as well. I wouldn’t have been asked to go to these clubs and coach if I wasn’t capable and even if I wasn’t, there’s always room for learning. You don’t need to go into it knowing everything.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, absolutely. Natalie you talked earlier about the importance of listening to people that are different to us and then obviously the fact that everybody is different to us in some way. How do we do that practically? It’s very easy to say yeah we need to make sure that we’re listening to people that are different to us. But how do we seek out those opinions and how do we make sure that we’re properly listening when people tell us things?

Natalie Curtis

I think that one of the most important things about what you just said is actively listening. Nothing’s ever just for a tokenism or just for people to be ‘oh yeah, yeah, they listen to us’. It’s to actually then act on it. So for me over the years it’s just finding different ways of doing it. So when I worked at Kent FA we ran Goals for Girls for events, we had Eighth Wonder where we worked particularly with young females and it was figuring out what they like and what they don’t like, and being put in a huge room and asking them to come and stand up in front of their peers is not something that the girls particularly liked, but what they didn’t mind doing was sitting in small groups, writing notes down on post-its, and not having to stick their name next to it. And so as we’ve gone through the years it’s just how I how I adapt that. So currently at London City, we’ve got a pulse survey that’s open. It’s completely anonymous. The only thing they need to do is put the age group that they’re currently playing in. We’ve got a series of questions on it and then they’ve got some opportunities of open box to voice their opinions and it’s about what’s going well, what isn’t going well, if you could change one thing what would it be, how safe do you feel, have you had any safeguarding concerns, how do you feel about the future? And it’s just actually once they come in and you know the survey closes is then actioning in on that.


Putting it into a report, me sitting in front of a board and being like this is what our young people need and being an advocate for it and really stepping up for them. But then most importantly, having opportunities within their team. So each group’s got its own senior leadership team. They’re there as part to drive standards within training and matches but they’re also there because they’re happy to come and speak to coaches and staff about any issues or concerns that are coming up. So I think it’s just about having numerous different ways to actually listen and take time that isn’t stood on the side of the pitch when they’re meant to be training because they’re always going to have one eye on the fact that they should be training and you’re just dragging them out to have a chat and to them that might not be the most important or most specific time. It’s trying to do things on their terms. So sometimes it is that bit of we can pinpoint high-stress areas across the years so for a lot of ours it’s coming up to exam season. So they’re stressed and they’re worried and they’re concerned so it’s getting in early, come back after January, right, what might we need to do? Tell us what you’re going to need and then we can help support them. I think the little bit of element is yeah, trying to do lots of different things to give each person the opportunity. If they choose to great, if they don’t then that’s equally fine. They might just not want to at that time but them knowing that there is someone there who will listen is the most important thing for me so we try and have that across the club. It’s not you know you must go to your coach or you must go to player care, this is the staff group, we’re all here. These are the leaders of your team. They are always there. Try and find somebody who will work for you.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, that’s really important isn’t it that whole idea of recognizing that people are individuals and they want to provide their feedback in different ways and making sure that you’re providing all of those different options for people to input. But also then showing action as a result of the things that they’ve told you. I think that was really interesting, what you said around pinpointing high-stress times. So if there’s certain times of the season where they might be feeling a bit more under pressure or they might have other things going on and I suppose that kind of links to again, understanding individuals and understanding their lives outside of football. How important is that when it comes to talking to young people and getting their opinions?

Natalie Curtis

Yeah, I mean for me, we made it very clear, kind of everywhere I’ve worked I’ve always made it clear that I’m a person first footballer second. So I’m gonna get to know you as a person, what makes you tick, because, if I understand that then I can make you a better footballer. Over the years I’ve had conversations with elite girls teams and you say to them, what do you want to be when you grow up? And there was a point where none of them said a professional footballer. They all wanted to be doctors, lawyers, vets, teachers, and all of a sudden it opens your eyes that they’re playing in an elite environment but actually their aspirations are nowhere near that. Now, it’s obviously different. We speak to our younger players, our under-12s they all want to be professional footballers and they see a valid pathway in that which is great but it is about getting to know them and what makes them work and what makes them tick. A lot of, in particular, obviously girls is my background but a lot of them are academic. They have aspirations of you know, completing economics A-levels and they’ve got to balance that whilst also trying to do 16 hours of football training a week, plus games and all the nutrition that goes with that plus trying to have a life plus learning to drive and it’s all those areas where you’re looking at going, when they come in, they’re like can I have a quiet space to do some economics revision? You know, they’re trying to desperately cram it in and us using that as a trigger to go is everything okay? Do you need some help balancing? Because I think us as the adults in the situation can go, you’re trying to do too much, let’s ease back on a certain area to allow you to have more time to focus on that for this block of time and that just takes the pressure off them rather than them coming to us and saying I’m struggling, is how we try and pinpoint when those issues may arise and try and be preventative of that, rather than reactive to it.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, absolutely and I think, like you say they will have other careers and other aspirations that they’re pursuing at the same time as football, and also we know that sport can be brilliant in developing other skills that they’ll use later in life even when it’s not particularly within sport. What have you seen in terms of when you’re working with young people, how do you see those skills develop as a result from Sport? So what other skills do you see that they develop outside the sort of technical and physical health, but the skills that they’ll use later in life?

Lydia Shale

I think it’s just like there’s so many transferable skills that I don’t think people realize are associated with sport like it wouldn’t necessarily be the main thing you think of, but there’s lots of leadership skills that shine through. Even people who would say that they’re not naturally a leader and I think it is about creating a safe space, a safe environment so that if this group of people are given a task, they feel comfortable to push themselves out of their comfort zone and not at a point where they’re in the stake that they’re in the panic zone. They’re stretching themselves and they’re really pushing themselves to just experiment. Obviously especially younger people like teenagers, no one knows really what each week’s going to hold never mind the rest of their life. So there’s no point going in being like okay I’m going to be doing this, this and this. Let them experiment and as long as you’ve created that safe environment for them to know that if they make a mistake then that’s fine and it’s also switching that mindset, so you’ve made a mistake, okay, let’s not be like let’s not focus on that mistake just think okay, what are we going to get from this? What are we going to do next time? and having that time for reflection. I think it’s about creating that environment and also just having that space to kind of present to them reliable role models, like you were saying before just like even just being, okay I think you’ve got too much on your plate right now, this is what we’re going to do, writing it out and stuff like that can be so impactful, and I think it’s really important not to minimise those conversations.

Natalie Curtis

As Lydia said, that opportunity for transferable skills across different things. You know they go ‘oh I’m not a very good at this’ and actually it’s like you can give them numerous examples within football where you’re like ‘well you are very good at that. This is just how you need to tweak it’. Children that are finding it really difficult to focus at school, well football you never have any issues in focusing, so what is it that you do at football that can be transferred back into school or into college, university, those kinds of things. And I think sometimes for us as football coaches we see them just a couple of hours a week and we may be the environment where they come and they’re really positively impacted and it’s how we can let them leave our hour that we have with them with as many skills and tools as possible to take back into their other life and I think it goes the same with careers like they come into everything and go oh I go to football to be a football player and before you know it, it’s like well actually now you got really good understanding of rules and leadership, have you thought about being a referee, and all of a sudden that often opens up a job opportunity for them, career pathways to go through. Football’s getting so big now and sport is so big that there’s so many roles that are more than just a player. Media, marketing, fundraising and that’s kind of where the Eighth Wonder bit was born from, was getting people in who worked in other areas in football that wasn’t just playing, to showcase other opportunities because you learn so many different skills that are off the pitch within sport. And if you love turning up on a really cold Tuesday night in the rain and you like playing, then you’re going to absolutely love your career in sport being surrounded by it.

Lydia Shale

I think the whole point about role models like you were saying, just kind of creating an environment and knowing other positions that are out there. Like I used to play football and I got an injury when I was 14 which meant I wasn’t able to walk again and I was talking to my coach and he’d been my coach for years at this point and he really shaped me as a player at that point. And I had a couple of years where I couldn’t get involved in football whatsoever and I was kind of at a bit of a loss where I was like I know I want to be involved, football is my happy place but I don’t know how to get onto that and so he empowered me to just give coaching a go and then when I’ve come to Uni as well, I’ve been supported by like the old club captain, she was like well okay, we’ve got this coaching scholarship. We’re going to put you forward for that. So then I did my last year, my first year properly coaching. I was doing it on a scholarship so I was being supported by the uni and just from that 1 year alone like I’ve not had those feelings of involvement in football since I was 14 and like I was so invested in it and it has changed my life.


And for the rest of my life, like coaching is gonna be a part of it, whereas if you asked me when I was 14 about coaching I would’ve been like not a chance, that’s not happening. Like I’m happy to lead if I need to but I’m also happy to sit back. I was quite quiet. Very introverted off the pitch. So the the thought of coaching never would have crossed my mind. But, being supported in that environment and also now I see with my coaching styles, I reflect a lot of what my coach did, even when I was 14 so, it was seven years ago so obviously it’s been a while but I think it is it just really important for stuff like that like. People don’t realize just the little things that you do. They will reflect and they will be guiding people for longer than what you anticipate.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, that’s so true I mean that’s a great example as well about how you were empowered by your coach and you’ve talked a lot Lydia about empowering people, making them feel comfortable, providing a safe environment and I think that makes such a difference certainly when it comes to engaging with young people.

Lydia Shale

Yeah, massively. I think what people tend to focus on if they’re going into something new is, I don’t know this, I don’t know that, I’ve not had this experience. I don’t think it really matters. I think if you’ve got that passion to learn or like that adaptability just to think on your feet or that support network around you, I really think that you could be thrown into any situation and you’ll be okay. And I just think it’s important to remember that people are often trying. No one goes into a job straight as the CEO. Like everything’s a journey and it’s just about remembering you don’t need to go into something knowing everything. If you’ve got that willingness to learn and the ability to take feedback for example, like you’re more likely to progress in whatever field you decide to go on. Which is why it’s so important that the people you surround yourself with are really empowering and they’re supportive and also they give you that honest feedback you don’t want to be going through thinking I’m really good at this and then get humbled because then that’s not going to help anything. So yeah I just like I think before anything else is just empowerment and just making someone believe you can do this and your voice needs to be heard and it should be heard.

Natalie Curtis

Yeah, I can’t echo that enough Lydia, like over the years, working with people, and I still to this day say some of the best coaches I’ve ever seen are mums and teachers who know nothing about football but they know how to behaviour manage, they know how to engage with young people. They know how to create structure and they know how to step things and it’s just that bit where it’s like they go ‘Oh I don’t know what to do because I’ve never played football’ and it’s like but do you know what a kid having fun looks like? ‘yeah I’ve been a mum for 16/17 years’. Well, fine go and be a mum to another 15 kids running around and that’s all you need, and I think that as you say that bit of empowerment is it doesn’t matter if you’re 13 or 30 or 53, it’s that bit of everyone’s got something to give and all we need to do is create an environment where it’s okay for them to make mistakes. We want that with our players and we want to create environments where they’re making mistakes all the time, and sometimes we need to make sure that our coaches and our staff understand that that’s exactly what we’re here for. We’re all on a project. We’re all on a journey. We’re here to make mistakes because it’s the only way we’re going to learn and we’re never going to be the finished article. So any feedback, and for me that’s part of having an open-door policy and I never want it to get to a point where people don’t feel that they can contact me and speak to me because the only way we’ll make it better is by everyone giving their feedback. Just sometimes I ask for it at an appropriate time and place, which is all we can do, is take it on and then take it further.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, it’s the importance of that effective communication again isn’t it when you talk about parents and teachers being great coaches, it’s because they know how to communicate with young people and they know how to encourage them to open up and talk to you. So communication is probably the most important skill when it comes to being a coach or working with young people in general, outside all of the technical knowledge that you need as well.

So we’ve talked quite a lot about the benefits for the young people that you’re working with but also there are huge benefits of involving young people in decision-making for the organisations themselves or for clubs. What sort of benefits have you seen for clubs and organisations when it comes to them really talking and listening to the young people they have that they’re working with?

Natalie Curtis

I think one for me and it’s not even my club but, Brighton speaking to all their young players and the girls being like we don’t want to wear white shorts, and then someone in a power position going to Nike I believe and go, we need to change our kit, because that’s one of the biggest areas. And it’s just something that has huge transformative effects for those young women, just because somebody asks them the question and then sends out statements and they feel valued and then they’re more willing to then step forward and share their opinions on other things because someone changed something that they asked for, for the positive. So definitely something as big as that but just to change the colour of shorts.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, that’s a great example. How about you Lydia?

Lydia Shale

I just think it’s really important, how you, especially for coaches as well, how are you going to alter the way that you like communicate with your team or your players or your group of people that you’re working with. So if I communicated to my team exactly how I used to want to be talked to when I was a player, I’d come straight off the pitch and be like what have I done wrong? What can I improve on? And I was always looking for those what you would perceive as negative points because I wanted to work on that and that was just the mindset that was in but I know that if I was to talk to my friends that way, I don’t think they would be coming back. So I feel that it’s knowing your group and obviously especially like if you’re looking at women and girls football as well. Like obviously teenagers are a really vital part. Like that is when we see the biggest drop-off and it’s not necessarily in that age about trying to get new people in, it’s about retaining the people that you’ve got and it’s really important just to be able to know your team, know your players so you can individualize that feedback. The last thing you want to do is make a comment to them that is going to stick with them for the rest of their life, might even drop them out of football, like is it really worth?

I’m reading a book at the minute and it’s a case study of this, I think it was a male coach. He coached a male rugby team and like he’d give it 2 minutes a day and would be like okay, each week, be like you’ve made the team or you haven’t made the team, and then the players would be like okay boss, thank you, and then they’d walk out and that would be the end of it. And then the coach moved to a women’s team and those 2 minutes that he set aside to give that thing off you met the team you haven’t met the team, turned into 10 minutes and like obviously like most of the women would be like, well why? What can I work on? What haven’t I done great? And then he had to struggle, he had to completely revamp his entire communication because the way that he went into it, where there is a kind of tunnel vision of being everyone to same, everyone’s going to react the same, ended up shooting him in the foot. So yeah, it’s just about knowing your teams, and there’s no point thinking, okay, we’re gonna go in with this blanket over being like everyone reacts the same because they don’t and it’s really important to remember that.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, that highlights a really interesting point as well doesn’t it around the difference between coaching men and women, and you’ll both be fully aware of some of those differences, but I feel like it’d be good to just take a couple of minutes to think about that. How is your approach different when it comes to coaching women or girls as opposed to what it might be if it was men or boys?

Natalie Curtis

Well for me, it’s if you’re working with women and girls prepare for the why and allow time for the why because they won’t cross that white line until they know all the ways they won’t fail. And you have to give them all of that information. Where my experience of coaching boys is just give them the ball. Let them go for it because they’ll try and show you what they know and like we talk about it’s changing in terms of access to sport and and things like that, but my experience is boys are absolutely consumed by football from the minute they wake up, to the minute they go to bed. They play it all through the playground, Fifa, all of that. So there’s probably, as a grassroots coach, they’re probably doing more hours in football than you are, so their knowledge is going to be very very good. It’s not the same with girls. We’ve got a lot of other stuff that we’re interested in. We don’t get so focused on just one thing, so yeah, that be prepared for the why and try to be patient with it because it’s worth it in the end.

Lydia Shale

I agree. I feel like from my own personal experience, I mainly coach women and girls now, I think I just like the thought of potentially being that role model because there’s not many female coaches and obviously I was really lucky with the coach that I had but when I look back on like when I used to play, I could probably count one hand the number of female coaches I ever encountered. So in my head, the thought of coaching was never really on the cards as like not necessarily like I couldn’t do it, I Just never really thought about it. Whereas now, I’d hope that people look at me coach and the young girls look and like, I want to do that. And then like we’re seeing at the University at the minute, like we just set up social women’s football sessions and like I’m not coaching these so I will find other people, all my peers, to give them a go because it’s more laid back, it’s more social at the end of the day. There’s no pressure but it’s just really important to facilitate those conversations and just kind of create those opportunities for people to give it a go. I never thought I’d be able to coach ever and I like to think I’m doing a good job. So like yeah, it’s just about that isn’t it at the end of the day.

Natalie Doyle

Absolutely. And yeah, like you say, providing opportunities for people to also get a chance to try it out in a safe environment is so important. Lydia, obviously we got into that discussion based on the book that you’re reading at the moment. Do you know what the book’s called? Because I feel like people listening are going to want to know what the book is.

Lydia Shale

Yeah, so it’s The Female Body Bible by the Well HQ, it was just a case study, so I’m on my dissertation this year and I’m doing about the benefits of tracking the menstrual cycle to maximize perceived human performance for rugby and football players. It’s a bit of a mouthful, so I’ve been very into my female health research this year and it’s opened up so many doors. I went to the women and football conference last year and I went to the workshop with Dr Emma Ross and just from then I was like this is it. This is what I’m going to be doing. Yeah, it’s a really good book. I’ve recommended it to everybody I’ve spoken to about it. But yeah I think it’s just female health is a massive topic at the minute and I’d like to think that that’s an area that I could go into and I’m really, really passionate about. I could probably chat about it all day.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, it’s a great book. I’ve got it on my shelf actually as well and obviously The Well HQ are doing some fantastic work in women’s sports, so I’ll link to them and also to the book in the show notes for anybody who is listening who might be interested in checking it out who hasn’t already.

Right! I’m going to start getting us to wrap up the conversation a little bit, because I’m aware that we’ve only got a limited amount of time. I suppose the final point that I just want to ask you both is around if we do have any organisations or clubs who are listening to this who are thinking about that they would like to involve the voice of young people in sport a little bit more, into what they’re doing, what would be your sort of top tips or advice for them?

Lydia Shale

I’d really recommend following the FA National Youth Council on social media. So I’m sure we can pass it on, the links to the social media after this. So I was lucky enough to be on that team for 2 years and it’s basically, they’ve got a whole load of resources available that will talk you through, we’ve got links of all the County FA’s to hopefully set up youth councils and kind of that gold standard practice of how to integrate the voice into your club or organisation. And the work they do is just fantastic like. The effect and the reach that they’ve had is so good and it’s just gone on the up. So yeah, I couldn’t recommend that enough actually.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, that’s a really good recommendation as well. I will link to that in the notes for this episode because that’s also a great example of listening to people who are different to you. Like the makeup of the group is got so many different people from different backgrounds bringing them together to have really important discussions that are impacting the game. So I’ll make sure that I share all those links to anybody who is listening. How about you Natalie?

Natalie Curtis

I think it’s even something as simple as a suggestions box. Just having something open like if you’re at a club who’s got a clubhouse just having one permanently at the front door as they come in or you know a coach having it in the bag next to the first aid kit. It’s just something as simple as that in terms of knowing that they can pop any idea in and that someone’s going to listen to it and take it on board. And you know there’ll be a lot of things that you can’t do and I appreciate obviously as grassroots volunteers our time is very precious but there’ll be certain things in there that will be easy wins that will make all the difference to those young people that you’re working with and then once you get the buy-in then as you say, like Lydia was saying, that’s your next round of volunteers coming through, that’s your next young leaders and before you know it, you’ve got people in every age group who are willing to build a youth council at the club and to share their time and develop these areas. But I think, for me, it doesn’t really matter what it is that you do do as long as you’re following through with it and actually listening to it and it’s not just a Oh yeah, we’ve got a suggestions box but nobody’s opened it for 2 years and now it doesn’t really mean anything to us because we’re no longer under 8 or we’re not 13 anymore and that one thing we were we were looking at is talking to one of the grassroots clubs that I work with and it’s like how do we make our facility more female friendly? And it’s like, put sanitary boxes in the toilets and free sanitary products and they’re like oh and it’s just like well something as simple as that can make a huge difference to those people that are coming and it’s just about, yeah, actually actively listening when you do ask the question. Whether you build that into your sessions or you know is a cold winter’s day, let’s talk about something else instead in the warm.

Natalie Doyle

Yeah, so that’s a really key bit around this because the suggestions box is a great idea because you just don’t know when you’re suddenly going to be inspired. The bibs example that you gave earlier, when they come into the clubhouse after they’ve been training that’s when they think to themselves ‘God Yeah, these bibs really do stink’ they quickly write it down and drop it in the suggestions box, but also about making sure that you’re checking it so It’s not about just how you set it up, but what do you do after that to make sure that it actually is still being opened and checked and actioned by the suggestions that are being made is a really important bit.

I also just want to pick up another bit which you mentioned there around female-friendly facilities which is really good advice, and we do have a blog post on that area as well, so if anybody wants to read up a little bit more about advice on getting your facilities to be a bit more female friendly with things like sanitary bins and various other tips, then I will also link to that in the show notes as well because it is something that we have a blog post on which might be of interest to people.

It’s been brilliant. Thank you so much both of you for joining me. We’ve covered so many different topics which have been really fascinating and some really great experiences from you both. So thank you very much for giving up your time.

Lydia Shale

Thank you very much for having us.

Natalie Curtis

Yeah, thanks for having us and I can only wish that Lydia lived in Kent right now because I’d probably have a full-time job for her in coaching if she wanted it because you’re right, female coaches are very rare very rare and we need to do something more to inspire them. That’s for sure.

Lydia Shale

One hundred per cent.

Natalie Doyle

Definitely. Thank you both.

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