Nicole Farley readily admits that the industry is “terribly cruel,” but that doesn’t do much to reduce her ambition to reach the top.
York Red Bulls in the United States — Farley’s goal is to earn his professional licence.
“Training with a first-team manager, somewhere on that grass,” he told CNN Sport. “It can be a male or female professional game […] The highest I can go.”
Farley is currently based at Premier League side West Ham having arrived last year as the club’s first female coach.
She says her coaching career to date has been fueled by resilience, self-confidence and a willingness to step outside her comfort zone — qualities that are all the more necessary when you’re a woman working in a male-dominated environment.
According to a report published by European football’s governing body UEFA in 2017, 4,778 women in England hold one of the four UEFA coaching qualifications compared to 76,825 men, while seven women hold pro licenses – UEFA’s highest coaching qualification – compared to 383 men.
“As a female coach, it’s tough,” Farley said. “There are always obstacles.”
Talking about some of the day-to-day challenges she faces as a women’s soccer coach, Farley added: “Sometimes it’s almost like a lack of respect for the role or what you can bring.
“For example, maybe I have this idea and person B has that idea, but we take person B and it’s like: Well, I’ve said that idea before, but you haven’t really acknowledged it.”
There were also times when he reflected on how his career progress seemed slower compared to some of his peers.
“You think: Well, I’ve come this far, I’ve excelled here, but there’s this brick wall and I can’t seem to go any further,” Farley said.
“While you look at other people and you say: Oh, they’re starting behind me, they look great […] This can be frustrating and difficult. But still show yourself to be a tough person.”
Farley applied for his role at West Ham through the Premier League’s Coach Inclusion & Diversity Scheme (CIDS), which aims to promote inclusion, equality and diversity across coaching in professional football.
He is now in the midst of a 23-month deployment with the club, coaching schoolchildren and professional teams across a wide range of age groups at West Ham’s academy.
According to the Premier League, the goal of coaches at CIDS is to achieve sustainable coaching positions where they can become “successful and visible role models” for future generations.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy, it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is,” Farley says, “but we know that historically, these barriers existed.
a 50-year ban.”
Farley was referring to the period between 1921 and 1971 when the English Football Association banned women from playing on English Football League pitches.
She added, however, that there had been “growth and investment” in the women’s game in England, and called being West Ham’s first female coach “neat and cool.”
“It shows that these clubs are willing and West Ham have actually come from a place with an open mind to offer that variety,” Farley said.
“In the end, the more diverse we are, it can only get better because everyone is so different.”
It has been introduced at a time when fewer than one in 10 academy coaches at professional clubs come from a Black, Asian or Mixed Heritage background, according to the Professional Footballers’ Association, a figure that has dropped to one in 20 at senior level.
Farley said he did not want to be seen as a “check box”, but wanted to use the opportunity with West Ham to develop himself further as a coach.
“I call myself in the flowerpot,” Farley said. “I am a plant and I grow, but if someone puts me in a box, I can only show you so much. If you take the box off, if you let the sun in, if you let the opportunity arise, well, guess what? I can grow. and give more more.”
Before coaching, he had dreams of becoming a player. But two consecutive injuries while he played for Reading abruptly ended those hopes as he sought training instead.
I didn’t know at the time if I could. Like [Fran Kirby of Chelsea and England, for example, where you can have this long-term career.”
Training, however, proves that he can still have a “positive impact” on other players.
He credits the environment at West Ham as a place where you can “be yourself,” and indeed, it is a positive time to be associated with the club.
As well as pushing for a place in the Premier League’s top six come the end of the season, on Thursday, the men’s first team face Lyon in the Europa League quarter-finals – the first European quarter-final in 41 years.