Sport Sister Podcast - Season 2, Episode 8

Episode 8 – The Importance of People: Natalie Doyle.

Natalie Doyle smiling whilst leaning on the a football pitch surrounding

In the final episode of Season 2, Natalie Doyle looks back at the first 2 seasons of the Sport Sister Podcast and discusses her favourite clips that demonstrate the importance of people in providing sports opportunities for women and girls.

She looks at finding volunteers, the importance of female role models, and developing a female workforce throughout professional and community sport.

You may not get it right all the time, but keep going, keep persevering.

- Sarah Waite

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 this episode’s a little bit different because usually at this point I’d be introducing my amazing guests. But for the final episode of Season Two, we’re doing things a little bit differently. I’m going to take you back through various episodes of the first two seasons and get you thinking about the importance of people. And there’s been some fantastic examples that have been given by our guests throughout the last two seasons that I want to tell you all about.

First of all, I want to take you back to the first episode of Season Two, which was Leigh Willis, and he talked about how in his club, he gets the right people into the right volunteering positions.

Leigh Willis:

A simple thing is their membership forms. Hopefully, nowadays, most clubs have cottoned on that you don’t need to cut down loads and loads of trees to produce reams and rings of paperwork, that you can use online forms and stuff to create a membership form. But within that form, it’s certainly handy to have a column or a question asking what the parent does for a job. And we utilize that quite a bit when we’re targeting specific roles that we want or support that we need. We would look at that membership form and go, ah, yeah, we’ve got a list of 10 here that work in social media, or there’s 10 planners here, or there’s 10 this, and it’s really, really handy, and you can bounce one off against each other and get the best price. But you know, it’s a useful tool and something that’s simple and easy to do, but a lot of clubs aren’t at that stage yet, and it’s thinking about little things like that.

Natalie Doyle:

That’s great advice from Leigh there. It’s such an easy change that you can make to your existing membership forms just to try and gather that extra information and insight around your parents. It was also something that Sophie touched on in Episode Five of Season One, and she talked about how she’s utilized her network of parents and grandparents to try and get extra volunteers into her club with a really positive impact.

Sophie Bartup:

Yeah, and again, that’s a question I get asked quite a lot from colleagues or friends that also volunteer within the grassroots game. And they’ll often say to our football club, how do you recruit your volunteers? And I find that quite a difficult question to answer because the majority of our volunteers have been in our club environment in a different capacity, whether that be a parent or whether that be a grandparent. And they’ve come to the session to watch their child or to support their family member, and they’ve been impacted by the culture that we’ve been able to create. And we just recently hosted our end-of-season awards, and one of our Wildcats asked if she could say a few words, and it was brilliant because she said, we’re a family.

And I think that’s so important as well. So a lot of our volunteers have started as bringing their child and now they’re either a coach or a training coordinator that volunteer within our club. And what I’m really keen from my perspective as a club Chair is that I don’t put out an advert and say, right, we need a coach, or we need somebody to take the subs. I’ll say, look, does anybody want to get involved? And does anybody have time to give? And really give them the empowerment to go, actually, I do have some time and I’ve been so inspired by what you do, and I’m really, really, really good at organization. Okay, well, we’ve got a job for you. We’ve got an incredible volunteer whose role it is to do cupcakes every time it’s a Wildcat’s birthday, and it’s phenomenal.And again, taking it back to our awards, we had club hero awards for every active volunteer within our club, and she received one, she was astounded. And it was our way of showing your impact is as significant as somebody else’s because our girls get so excited when it’s somebody’s birthday. I mean, we’ve got that many now that it’s nearly every week. So it’s a lot, but <laugh> it’s just recognizing everybody’s commitment. And again, it’s not saying, right, we need this role. It’s actually saying, you’ve got some spare time, you’ve seen the impact this had on your child or your grandchild, how would you like to contribute to our club? And we almost find that that’s the way that we recruit. And we’ve got some fantastic people in some fantastic roles. And again, take it back to a parent who started as a training coordinator, doing a fantastic job, she’s now stepped across the line to coach, she’s doing the BT Playmaker now doing the level one.

So I guess sometimes it’s actually letting that natural process happen instead of thinking, right, I’m under pressure to find a coach, I’m under pressure to find this training. It’s actually sometimes just creating the environment first to allow people to find out what’s best for them and let them go at their own pace, really. And that’s something I find is really, really important. And again, it’s not just meeting the needs of the players, it’s meeting the needs of the workforce behind our club that put on these good sessions for young people.

Natalie Doyle:

That’s a really important point that Sophie makes there, around making sure we’re meeting the needs of the workforce behind our club. And I think it’s also important that we think about how we’re meeting our own needs. And in our episode around Women in Leadership which is Episode Eight of Season One, if you haven’t listened to it already, Sarah Waite, talked really nicely around the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people who will lift you up and support you, and how she has developed that network. And I think she brings that to life really nicely.

Sarah Waite:

For me, my one piece of advice would be don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it because you can. And probably the people that will tell you that you can’t do it or you’re doing it wrong, that’s probably the better one, that you’re not doing it right, will generally, unfortunately, be males. Because you’re just faced with more males in the grassroots game than you are females. And so my advice would be to any female is don’t take that, don’t accept it as right, that their views are right. You may not get it right all the time, but keep going, keep persevering. There are a network of females in grassroots that you can potentially tap into.

For me, I have an unofficial network. I know all of my fellow females that are at similar levels to me in grassroots, and we just connect, you know, Sarah can I ask you for advice or I ask them for their advice because they can relate to my challenges, and that’s the critical thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have some fantastic male individuals that support me fully. But sometimes I don’t go to them with certain issues because they can’t relate to my issue. And I think that that’s the thing, so yeah, my advice would be don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or you’re doing it wrong because you’re not.

Natalie Doyle:

A really good point there, I think from Sarah around the importance of surrounding yourself with women who understand the challenges that you’re facing and can relate to those as well. We had a really good exchange in Episode Three of Season Two between Bethan and Ella-Rose, and they talked about the importance of female coaches and the conversations that female coaches are able to have that maybe male coaches couldn’t have, and also the importance of developing that female workforce in various roles, both paid and voluntary, and they raised some really interesting points. This is probably one of my favourite exchanges from the episode.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

I’ve been in my role for about eight months now, so just as the Lionesses in that pivotal moment in history, as the Lionesses brought it home last summer, it’s been incredible helping the girls know that their place is on the pitch with us, especially from our standpoint, inner-city girls who potentially don’t have that access to football as they would in other places. So being in the place that we are at, at Bloomsbury, having a 75-strong Girls Academy ranging from under seven to under sixteens and it’s constantly growing, is just so incredible. And the way that we’re creating that environment for our girls is through having lead coaches who are women. We do have a few men in the girl’s side, but having female coaches, female role models for them to look up to, knowing ultimately that their coaches understand them, understand what they’re going through can help them bring period products to sessions.

We’ve had some sports bar fittings with Nike helping them from that Chloe Kelly moment knowing the importance of the sports bra, what it can do for them and make them feel more confident on the pitch. So ultimately what we are doing is creating that environment by having these role models and having this on and off the pitch help, so that they know that their place is on the pitch, that everyone belongs playing football with us. And yeah, like I said, no one’s priced out of playing which is something that I’m so proud to say that we do at Bloomsbury, so that every single girl is playing if they want to be.

Bethan Woolley:

Yeah, I think from us, we’re in such a key moment of development and growth in Wales. The growth that we are seeing currently, is far bigger and wider than it has ever been before. We’ve got more girls playing at the younger age groups and continuing through, so we’ve introduced the under nineteens now as well as leagues in both North and South Wales, to continue that pathway. We are always continually developing our female coaching workforce as well, and ensuring that every girl has an opportunity as Ella-Rose said no matter whether that’s in school, out of school, whether they want to do that recreationally, whether they want to compete. It is just around ensuring that there’s environments for everybody in all different aspects of the game as well.

So volunteering, and not just necessarily having to be on the pitch or coaching. There’s so many other roles in football, and that’s what we are trying to get across to our teenage audience at the moment. You know, there’s marketing, there’s journalism, there’s physios, there’s sport scientists and analysis. But yeah, so through our Be Football mentoring program that we’ve just introduced at the FAW as well, is for young females that are looking for a career in football. And we are just offering support in terms of the different roles, how they could potentially get involved and allowing them that experience to partner up with some fantastic female role models across the country as well, to really elevate the women’s game and show young girls, that it’s not just about playing football. 

There’s so many opportunities out there for women and girls across the whole football landscape. I’m just trying to reiterate that all the way through, really all the way down to primary school, to allow them the understanding of, football is a key development tool no matter what. Whether you just turn up to a couple of sessions, you’re going to get so many life skills out of that as well that can help with your development moving forward.

Natalie Doyle:

Role models are important, and I’m now going to take you all the way back to the first-ever episode of the Sports Sister Podcast. So Season One, Episode One, I talked to Rachel Pavlou and Tina Hamilton about the importance of role models. And the first question I asked them was what they thought a positive role model looked like. And I just really love both of their responses to this question.

Tina Hamilton:

You know what, a role model to me, I call them touchable idols, is somebody who, they don’t necessarily have to be, on the screen, a big sports star. It could just be somebody at grassroots. It’s got to be somebody who’s honest, who’s open, who’s approachable. Somebody who’s maybe still achieving because I don’t think anybody’s the finished article. And what’s really great for me at grassroots, we’ve got three-year-old girls right up to walking footballers at 70 odd. And we had our under six’s playing football for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and as they turned up playing five aside, we had our under 16 girls playing on the 11 aside, and one of them stops and said, Tina, why have they got the same clothes on as me? So that’s the mind of a child. But to me, that’s a role model for that child starting then. So to me it it’s somebody you look up to, to aspire to be and who can embrace and motivate and create what I like to call thirsty horses. You know, you can lead that horse to water, you can’t make it drink, but if you can create these thirsty horses, then you know, your jobs a good un.

Natalie Doyle:

Definitely. I think those local role models are so important, aren’t they? The big aspirational role models are fantastic, and that really gives people an idea of maybe where their journey could go, but I think it’s so important to have those role models who are a bit more relatable. How about you, Rachel? What do you think?

Rachel Pavlou:

Yeah, you just mentioned the word that I would use first. Relatable. Also they have the lived experiences of the girls. So those young girls look up to them and say, yeah, they understand me. They’ve had the same experiences as me which I think is really important. And I agree with everything that Tina has said, and I’d probably add two other words. That they’re really passionate about what they do. And they’re humble. I think that’s really important. I really like role models who just go about their business really well, and don’t make a big scene about it all, but you just know that they’re good people and they’re trying the best in the circumstances that they’re in. And that, for me is a great role model. But Nat, yeah, local role models are just key for me.

Natalie Doyle:

Local role models, relatable role models. It’s so true. They’re so important. And in Episode Six of Season Two, Atia Nazmin built on this really well, I thought. And she shared her experiences around being a woman from an ethnic minority background in sport, and how she tries to be a positive role model to the women that she’s working with.

Atia Nazmin:

I’m from an ethnic minority background. And for me personally growing up, I always watched every sport, but it was predominantly male-orientated. There was nothing for me to watch. I mean, tennis was something that I watched where women took part. But in the ethnic minorities, it’s been a bit of a taboo subject in my community where when I used to play football, my neighbour used to look out through the window and then come to my parents and say, oh, she shouldn’t be doing that. That’s not ladylike, and I’ve always been the rebellious type in that if somebody says to me, you can’t do this, based on because I’m a girl or because I’m Muslim, or because of my faith or my sexual background, I feel like I have to prove them wrong.

So throughout my childhood, I was breaking barriers where I was playing, I played locally for a football team, and the first time I scored was the first time they’ve ever scored. It was predominantly older ladies and they used to lose 21-0, 14-0, and the one time that I scored it was like we had won the World Cup, and that was a take-home story that I then took back to school, and it was read out in notices. And I feel like the reason why now I’ve got involved with sport is one, I was passionate, one, I was told women couldn’t take part. And I thought, no, I want to change that dynamic. So people seeing me doing sport and especially people from the ethnic minority seeing me doing sport has kind of paved the way for them.

So I do various sports. I do netball, football, rounders, swimming, for ladies and girls in my community. And prior to Covid, we used to have around 200-250 ladies that I was working with on a weekly basis that included a young boy’s football team as well. Post covid, it’s kind of changed the dynamics. I think people have gone back into their comfort zones and it’s about time that I got them out of their comfort zones, but for them, it’s always been if somebody’s leading it and if they can relate to you. So if they can relate to my passion or relate to the fact that I wear a hijab a head scarf, if she can do it, we can as well.

Natalie Doyle:

What a great line to finish on. If she can do it, we can as well. And it’s so true. I’ve really enjoyed that. It’s been great to have the chance to go back and listen to some earlier episodes. And it just shows that people are so important. They’re central to everything that we do. They make things happen. And having the right people in the right positions, be that in a voluntary or professional capacity is so important. And providing those role models for girls and women to aspire to, to have those conversations with, to create the networks that women need to develop professionally or in a volunteer capacity through their sporting roles is so important.

Thank you so much as always, for listening, that is the end of Season Two of the Sports Sister podcast. We’re going to take a little break and we will be back later on in the year with Season Three. 

If there are any particular guests that you want us to speak to, or if there’s any particular topics that you want us to discuss, please let me know. We’re always open to ideas from people, so get in touch and we will be back later in the year with Season Three.

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