pam wilson

April's Women's Watch

Pam Wilson - Barming Colts

The Kent FA is shining a light on the voluntary work of women positively impacting on football in different roles across the county. This month, friend of Kent FA Faye Hackwell spoke to Pam Wilson about the rewards and challenges of coaching in youth football.

“You have to use your male allies to get things done because if you don’t, then it’s all on you and it’s a lot of hard work.”

Coming from an engineering background, Pam Wilson is aware of the importance of working in partnership with her male allies to achieve success and share workloads.

And on the sidelines of the football pitch, she is passionate about recruiting parents of both genders to support their children’s football journeys by volunteering at her club - Barming Colts, where she coaches the under-13s and plays for the ladies side.

“Sharing that workload is really key - having people support you for what you do and understand that you can’t do everything,” she stressed.

Some clubs struggle to encourage parents to step forward and commit to voluntary roles within their children’s teams, but Pam feels reaching out to them at the earliest opportunity when their child first joins helps.

“You have to start sewing the seeds by saying ‘if you want your child to be in the team, we need managers, we need coaches - do you want to get involved, get your DBS and come and help?’

“It’s about getting them to step up and feel they can help a lot of people, rather than stand back and think it’s not their job - we have to help them see that they’re welcome and their input is wanted.

“If you’re going to be there anyway as a parent, you may as well help out - and you get to stay a bit warmer if you’re running up and down the line.”

As a child, opportunities to play football were limited to casual kickabouts with friends for Pam.

“We didn’t have a real area to play on, so we used little scraps of ground and I used to keep ripping my tights so my mum used to get very annoyed with me because we went to grammar school and we had to wear tights.

“I didn’t play for a team, we were just a few girls who had a kick around.”

It wasn’t until she graduated from university, and a group where she worked in Lancashire wanted to play football, that she became part of a team and started playing friendly games.

“It was then I decided I wanted to get better at playing football because nobody had ever taught me, so that’s why I got into coaching - I put myself forward for a coaching course so I could learn properly.”

When she qualified, her boss at work needed coaches at his son’s club, so Pam and two others she had trained with began coaching an under-nines team, which was her first experience of coaching - a commitment she describes as “a bit of a shock to the system” as she didn’t have children herself at that point.

Her job then took her to Germany and Italy, where she continued playing different formats of the game, before she became a mum and eventually took up football again after moving back to the UK with her young family.

She began coaching her youngest son’s team when he was four years old at Barming Colts and has stayed with that age group up to their current under-13s category, while also playing for Barming Ladies as their oldest player at 57.

Pam finds coaching children to be incredibly rewarding.

“Seeing each individual go from strength to strength and what they’re achieving now compared to where they were - it’s just lovely and that’s the reward of it.”

But it comes with its challenges, including endeavouring to give each child a fair amount of game time, while still trying to get the best out of the squad and minimise disruption to the team through substitutions.

“They can get annoyed with you and that can be really hard, because the child is only 12 or 13 years old and they’re sitting on the bench when all they want to do is play.

“Sometimes I come away and I can be really upset all weekend because I didn’t give a kid enough game time and I really feel for them, as it’s meant to be about getting all of them to enjoy themselves.”

With Pam’s encouragement, four of the players’ dads are now fully-trained coaches and another is planning to join the coaching team soon, meaning there’s always back-up support and, between the parents, they can oversee the team flexibly.

“Because we have so many, you don’t have to be there every time.

“My husband died in November 2022 and you can imagine what an impact that has on your life, and the guys just kept things going so the team carried on.

“I think I missed a game or two and a training session or two and then I just got back into it.”

pam wilson

Training sessions benefit from having extra pairs of hands, especially when they involve younger children.

“Someone might be having a tantrum and just need a little bit of training to the side, away from the main group for a bit.

“The more people you have involved, the more you can do that and tailor the training session by changing the person that child is interacting with.”

Pam has experienced many rewarding moments over the years as a coach.

One memorable one involved witnessing an autistic player, who struggled with loud noises, being disturbed and put off playing himself by nearby cars noisily racing and backfiring during the game, but sticking around to support his teammates to a victory.

“He wanted to be there for the team to see how they got on, even though he didn’t want to play because he’d been shaken up.

“He stayed on the bench to watch and it just showed what football was doing for him, that he was going from strength to strength.”

And Pam believes her son has benefitted from his mother being the team’s coach as well.

“Since my husband died, my son has really struggled with anxiety and nausea. 

“He’s missed a lot of training or not always felt up to fully participating, so, as his coach, I can accommodate this and help ease him back in slowly. 

“He has the confidence that I know him and will protect him from having to do things he doesn't want to do.

“I’ve been able to get him to matches and allow him to just watch, or only play 10 minutes, or agree at the last minute that he doesn't have to come. 

“This is a very different side of coaching to the normal ‘being the coach to push your own kids and their ability’ and in some teams his lack of participation may have resulted in him being asked to leave the team.

“There was a great moment a few weeks ago when we only had 11 players for a friendly game and my son had to play the whole game because we had no subs. 

“We were 4-1 down at half-time and we ended up winning 6-5. 

“It was an amazing effort by the whole team and I was very proud that my son was able to play a significant part of the game - he enjoyed himself and the anxiety and nausea were forgotten.”

Engineering manager Pam’s employer, BAE Systems, sponsors the Kent FA Female Volunteer Forum, which brings local women in all volunteer roles in football together several times a year, to share ideas, network and take part in activities.

BAE Systems is a global defence, aerospace and security company operating in 40 countries, which has a large Electronic Systems site based in Rochester, and the company has also previously sponsored free weekly kickabout sessions in Kent, as a Community Investment Partner with Kent FA.

“Both football and engineering are traditionally seen as male-dominated areas, so it’s great that we are inspiring females into these areas. 

“Helping them grow and helping them stay in challenging roles is something both BAE Systems and Kent FA have in common.

“It can be a lonely place being in a minority and women in male-dominated environments often suffer from imposter syndrome, thinking they don't know enough and they aren’t good enough.

“So initiatives like the Kent FA Female Volunteer Forum help us recognise our value in football - we are not just there to wash the kit and support on the sidelines. 

“We too can have roles playing, refereeing, coaching, administering clubs, leagues and supporting the FA itself. 

“We can help change the culture and make a difference.

“Networks like the Female Volunteer Forum help us to discover allies, share our challenges and build confidence in the roles we play.”