EACH MONTH, THE KENT FA IS SHOWCASING THE WORK OF WOMEN WHO ARE HAVING A POSITIVE IMPACT ON FOOTBALL IN THE COUNTY.
This month, friend of Kent FA Faye Hackwell spoke to Janet Gloin about her experiences of coaching and playing football and the honour she was recently awarded.
“I want to give those girls the opportunities I never got to play football.”
For Janet Gloin, the young girls she coaches today through the Football Association’s Wildcats programme have a vastly different experience to the one she did growing up.
Her determination to open the game up to other women and girls was recently recognised in the King’s New Year’s Honours List, when she was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to football.
But, at times, it’s been a challenging journey for the Orpington Football Club coach and player, who first started kicking a ball around in her primary school playground at lunchtimes with a group of boys.
She wasn’t allowed to be on the school team because she was a girl and she sought out holiday clubs and other opportunities to take part in the game.
“Whenever I went to football, when I was going to holiday clubs and things, it was mixed football and I would usually be the only girl,” Janet recalls.
“I had to fight my way through that to be accepted.
“You remember those things, like when they picked teams and you were always the last one to be picked because you were a girl.
“And eventually they began to realise that I could play and I wasn’t the last pick and those milestones stick with you.
“I had to fight the whole time and I had to prove that I could play, whereas I hope now that the girls have the opportunities to just play.”
When Janet turned 16, she was old enough to begin playing senior women’s football and despite the daunting prospect of joining teams with older, more experienced players, she embraced the challenge.
While playing for the thirds team at Croydon Ladies, she got to play alongside Hope Powell, who went on to manage the England Women’s team for 15 years.
“She was in the Croydon first team and they were very, very good at the time, and the thirds used to train with them sometimes, depending on how many there were.
“I remember thinking ‘I feel completely out of my depth because my ability is not quite the same as theirs’ but I can still say to this day I’ve played with her.”
It was Janet’s coach at the team she played for on Saturday mornings at Bromley Football Club, Alan Seamons, who encouraged her to give coaching a try.
He supported her throughout her coaching journey and helped her to feel comfortable when she was often the only woman on her coaching courses.
Janet’s own playing career was temporarily hampered by a dislocated shoulder, but she has always enjoyed playing as well as coaching and currently captains Orpington Football Club Ladies First Team – a team she also managed until recently.
At Orpington, Janet is also head coach of the club’s Wildcats programme – a nationwide Football Association initiative that aims to encourage five to 11-year old girls to engage in football for fun.
“I really enjoy coaching young children and giving them their starting blocks and developing them in the game.
“That’s why I do the Wildcats, because I want to be able to give those girls the opportunities that I never got to play football.
“So a group of girls can all play together without worrying about anything else but just playing football and having fun.
“I would have loved that opportunity and I want to give them that opportunity.”
Coaching comes with its challenges though and, on occasions, Janet has felt her knowledge and experience have been undermined because of her gender, which is something she hopes will continue to decrease as the female game grows.
“Alan, who got me into coaching, had his own coaching business and, when I qualified, he took me on as a member of staff, so I would go out and coach – and I knew that he knew that I could do it.
“But there have been times when I've come up against parents and I’ve had to prove that I do actually know what I'm talking about.
“I've had sessions where I've been doing the session and they've just come over and taken over the session and you're like ‘you don't need to do that, I'm doing the session, if you’ve got issues then talk to me afterwards’.
“That dented my confidence for a little while, the fact that someone just thought that they could do it and you're fighting all the time to prove you do actually know what you're talking about.”
Janet is also a regular spectator at Hayes Lane, to support her local team Bromley, and she often discusses the game with fellow supporters sitting around her.
On one occasion, she recalls a male fan saying to her: “When I listened to your conversation, I realised you actually really know what you’re talking about” – a misperception she feels she sometimes has to battle against as a woman in football.
But Orpington has proved to be a very welcoming club for Janet and her best memory of her time playing there has been winning the South East Counties Women's Football League Division Two West title in 2017/18.
“They accept everybody there and they value everybody for the roles that they're doing, whatever it might be, and whether you're male or female it doesn’t matter.
“It's very much an inclusive club, which is probably why I've been there longer than any of the other places I’ve been, because it accepts everybody to be involved in whatever level that is.”
One of Janet’s highlights as a coach was her first tournament with a Wildcats team in Tonbridge.
“We took these eight little girls, who were our very first Wildcats, to this tournament and they were so excited.
“In the first game, they didn't have a clue what was going on but by the third game they played, they were beginning to get the idea of what they were supposed to do and how they were supposed to play.
“That was really rewarding to see them enjoying it, with big smiles on their faces, and having fun at that young age.”
It is the influence Janet has had on girls like those Wildcats that led to her being awarded her British Empire Medal – an honour she will receive later this year.
She was put forward by one of her Orpington teammates, who also included details of Janet’s voluntary work for Brownies and Beavers in the nomination.
She was “somewhat taken aback” to receive the news of her honour, and she then had to keep the news a secret until it was announced publicly on December 29.
“When it was released on the Friday night, I remember looking on the Government website and when I actually saw my name there, I was thinking ‘right, so this is actually happening and it's not just this little dream I've been in - I am actually going to be honoured’ and that was quite a moment.”
But it is the reward of witnessing young girls develop a love for football that keeps Janet going out in the wind, rain and mud every week to coach - rather than any accolade.
“You see the joy on those kids’ faces and you know you’re giving them the opportunity to play football, to have fun, be out in the fresh air and learn loads of new skills.
“Football can teach them so much through fun.”