Celebrating International Women's Day

AS part of our celebration of International Women's Day we sat down with two important members of the Altrincham FC Community Sports team to discuss the positive impact football can have and what the game means to them.

Gail Simpson-Scott has been a Community Coach at Altrincham FC for nine years and played for Altrincham FC Women for a decade, making over 150 appearances for the club.

How did you become interested in football?

I watched football growing up, but I didn’t play as a child as there weren’t the same opportunities for girls to play football back then. There were very few, if any, girls teams locally and football wasn’t even an option at school or taught in PE, like it is now. I supported Manchester United and first became aware of Altrincham FC when Alty used to play United reserves pre season. I came and watched the likes of Beckham, Neville & Scholes play here at Moss Lane. I was lucky enough to go on to play on that same pitch for Altrincham FC Women on a few occasions over the years. 

When did you start playing organised football?

I’ve always been sporty and participated in quite a few different sports when younger including netball, hockey, badminton and swimming. I enjoy any sport, team or individual, that requires a combination of skill, physicality and tactical understanding. I enjoyed watching football and would have loved to play when younger, but as I mentioned previously there weren’t the same opportunities that young girls have now, so I would just play / kick a ball about out on the street with the boys. I played a bit of 5-a-side in my 20s, but I didn’t play 11-a-side until I was 29. I joined an FA's 'Just Play' session in 2012 which fed into what was Altrincham Ladies at the time, who were in their second season of existence. I ended up playing for Altrincham FC Women's first team for 10 years and retired at the end of last season. It was great to be part of the team for so long and I made great life long friends along the way. 

How did the opportunity to work in football come about?

I was already playing for Altrincham FC Women when the opportunity to undertake what was a Level 1 coaching certificate then, was offered to players. I took up that offer and then when I decided to change career (I was a social worker for sevem years) and retrain as a counsellor, whilst studying I started to work as a casual coach at Alty and my role has developed from there. I’ve now been here at AFC Community Sports for nine years as part of the coaching staff, delivering PE, football, disability and outreach sessions in schools and the community. I do this role alongside working as a counsellor for another charity and enjoy the balance of supporting adults and children with both their physical and mental health.

What's it like working in a football environment?

I love working for AFC Community Sports. It’s always felt like a supportive environment where my skills and expertise have been valued. Football has been a huge part of my life particularly over the last 10 years & I love being around all things football. Now that I am not playing football competitively, being part of a football environment at work is even more important to me as it continues to connect me with what is a great passion of mine. 

How has the coaching environment for girls and women changed over the years?

The standard of coaching that women and girls have access to these days continues to improve. I've noticed that young players stepping up into open age football are all technically very skilled having been coached from a younger age. Girls today can access sessions from a young age in line with their male counterparts and pathways for junior girls players are now very well established.

At Altrincham FC we have a designated Women's & Girls Development Officer which shows how football for girls and women has developed over the last few years and how more investment is providing even more accessibility and opportunities. For me it would be good to have even more female coaches involved in the women's game at both grassroots and elite level, offering that lived experience to female players coming through.

Lisa Wilton has worked at Altrincham FC for six years and is our Community Sports' Head of School Engagement.

What was your first exposure to football?

I think I was exposed to football from birth. Coming from a big Evertonian family in Liverpool football was life.

My first memory was around 1987 and I was five, my Dad and my Grandads were all season ticket holders at Everton. I remember them once sat around the TV in my Nan's living room watching a match, my Mum and my Nan were in the kitchen and so I was taken into the kitchen too but I escaped into the excitement of the living room and that was it!

What did you like about the game & what initially drew you to the sport?

For me football is about family and being an Evertonian is a huge part of my identity and culture. It was something that represented happiness; all my family coming together and the emotions that surround it - excitement, anticipation, nerves, anger, joy, the moment the ball hits the back of the net and I'm grabbed by my Dad or my Grandad and thrown into the air. As a kid I was drawn to that more than watching the game. I think the football was secondary to that but it gave me the foundation to truly love watching football as I grew up.

How did you get involved in the sport?

I’ve never played football outside of school because when I was a kid the opportunities for girls to play didn’t exist. So, I got involved through work; working as a sports coach and completing teacher training specialising in PE. This led me to work at Altrincham FC Community Sports. 

What's it like working for a football club?

It’s amazing! I couldn't ask for a better job. It’s an environment that I feel very comfortable in, football is my passion and I bring that into my work. It’s great to be able see everything that goes on behind the scenes and how it all comes together on a match day!

For more information about the vitally important work undertaken by Gail, Lisa and the rest of the Altrincham FC Community Sports team head for their website or check them out on X and Facebook.

Altrincham v Oxford City 12:15 Kick Off

Altrincham FC

Altrincham v Oxford City 12:15 Kick Off

£20.00 GBP