Chorley mother is match fit and ready to score against sexism

Meet mother of two, teacher and football coach Karen Hughes from Chorley who is on a mission to boot sexism right in the face.
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Karen, 52, from Rivington View, who is married to Simon 'Sie, 51, and is mum to 11-year-old twins Milo and Tia, coaches her son's football team and is keen to be a role model for mums who are determined to make a difference and break down barriers.

Having faced many challenges in the 12 months being a coach including stereotypical behaviours from parents and others, Karen wants to share her story in the hope of eradicating this type of mindset.

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Karen who teaches at Padiham Green Church of England Primary School in Burnley, said: "Our football club is Freestyle Urban Soccer U12's team of which I am the manager.

Teacher and mother of two Karen Hughes from Chorley who teaches her son Milo's football team is keen to eradicate sexism in the fieldTeacher and mother of two Karen Hughes from Chorley who teaches her son Milo's football team is keen to eradicate sexism in the field
Teacher and mother of two Karen Hughes from Chorley who teaches her son Milo's football team is keen to eradicate sexism in the field

"I coach from age four to 13 and we have 150 children both girls and boys. Girls tend to be in the younger age brackets from between four to 10."

Why did Karen decide to go into football coaching?

"I started out as a parent volunteer after watching and listening to the disgruntled parents on the sidelines and at training,” she said

"I felt I could make a difference for both the parents and the children and at first this was the case.

Team spirit at its finestTeam spirit at its finest
Team spirit at its finest
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"However, parents moved the goalposts and it soon became evident that no matter how hard I tried I was fighting a losing battle. I was never going to please them all.

"I set out to make the sidelines and the pitch a kinder place. To break down the communication barriers between coaches and parents, including them in training sessions.

"On the pitch I just wanted all children to be recognised and enjoy what they were doing - teaching them the discipline of the game, respect towards others no matter their diversity or gender, being self-confident to ask and answer questions, build resilience and also physical and mental well-being."

She added: "I take into account every strength or asset an individual child has and use these strengths to put them in the best position so they are included in the game. It's like a jigsaw - to get the full picture you need to have all the pieces in the right place.

Football coach Karen giving her team a pep talkFootball coach Karen giving her team a pep talk
Football coach Karen giving her team a pep talk
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"It takes time too. Unlike a parent on the sideline they watch their own child - they will always have their own views on where their child should play but they don't consider the other 12/13 individuals."

Karen who is equipped with an array of qualifications including safeguarding, first aid and diversity modules, gained her practical experience by volunteering every Saturday and coaching the foundation stage age four to six group, later progressing to additional groups from under eight to under 13s.

How does she juggle two jobs alongside being a mother?

Karen said: "Without Simon it would be so much harder to do this and we have 50/50 relationship with our children and we are always wanting them to have as much experience as possible.

Hard at workHard at work
Hard at work

"I also have some great friends within the team parents who have been honest, who have been their for me and supported me throughout the past year.

"They have been absolutely amazing."

What has she achieved in the past 12 months?

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Karen has been nominated for volunteer of the year award for Grassroots Football and was also asked to give a talk at a workshop during Inspirational Women's Week.

"I have achieved so much,” she said. “When I reflect back I have gained self confidence, strength, a greater understanding and self belief.

"My team last season made incredible progress, winning and drawing games which was a massive success as some players were new to the game of football."

Karen and MiloKaren and Milo
Karen and Milo
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"I have been part of and still am part of the FA mentorship programme whereby I have had such positive feedback that it's taken me a while to actually believe its me.

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"I have been part of a new FA foundation football pilot working alongside some iconic people from the FA.

"These people alongside the club coaches, my fabulous parents of the team now and Paul have given me so much support to take control and finally lead my team.

"This past season has only made me stronger and more determined. I would love to go on and complete my UEFA C Licence so I can continue to grow and pass on the experiences and learning to my team.

"Having this whole experience to be able to share my journey has been very overwhelming and I feel very humbled to have been able to do this.

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"Like any coach male or female, all we ask for is respect, understanding and support."

What did her son make of her being his new football manager?

"Milo was great when I took over the team. All he wanted to do was play football and have someone that understood him and his friends.

"He was diagnosed last year with profound dyslexia and dyscalculia which affects his processing of information so too many instructions at once is overload.

"He needs simple statements and time to process his understanding of what's being asked etc, visual acuity i.e. depth perception so we use green or green/blue balls in training for him. "It took a couple of months for him to get used to the idea but now he feels really comfortable. "There were other players who also had learning challenges and some were going through difficulties at school such as bullying and the team and club provides that outlet to talk about what is happening.

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"As a coach I also offered guidance and a listening ear to parents as to where they may be able to get additional support/help."

Why does she think there are a lack of female football coaches?

"I think that there are many reasons why there are not many female coaches - balancing family life, work, lack of understanding that to coach you don't need to play the game, you need to understand children.

"Each season the games are different and you learn alongside the players you have at that time.

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Yes, it was very different last season because of the stigma and the unkindness and disrespect I experienced. Some of these people were my friends but it didn't stop them from being rude and disrespectful about me.

"They see decisions being made and sometimes those decisions weren't mine! If their wife was being spoken to in this manner on or off the pitch I am sure they would not tolerate either."

How did she feel seeing the England Lionesses winning the Euros?

It was an awesome tournament and I watched every game played by the Lionesses - learned a great deal too.

"It was great to see how their determination, teamwork and enjoyment shone through. I certainly felt inspired.

"These are certainly some of the traits I would like my team to have, alongside self belief and respect."

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