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READ | Jess delighted to be on-board with Academy as club’s first female coach

30 August 2022

Club News

READ | Jess delighted to be on-board with Academy as club’s first female coach

30 August 2022

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Rotherham United are delighted to have welcomed a new addition into the club’s Academy setup with the arrival of Jess Douthwaite, who becomes a trailblazer within her own right as the first female coach to have coached within the youth setup.

Following an incredible summer for women’s football here in Rotherham which saw AESSEAL New York Stadium successfully host no fewer than four major international fixtures as part of the 2022 EUROs, the Millers are continuing to display their commitment to opening doors to people of all backgrounds wishing to get involved in the sport.

Jess, who has previously coached at Doncaster Rovers and has 10 years of experience in the game, joins Richard Hairyes’ team as part of the U9s coaching staff alongside Tom Blake to help manage just one of a number of groups that the Academy staff are incredibly excited about.

Jess Douthwaite 2.jpg

The Wakefield-based Academy coach admits that she has been overwhelmed by the welcome she has received since joining Hairyes’ staff, but conceded that the club’s reputation in the local area for its inclusivity and forward-thinking had already inspired her to make the hop across South Yorkshire prior to her arrival.

"When a club welcomes you like Rotherham have with open arms it is a nice feeling because unfortunately, there are still barriers across the game for people to overcome,” Jess revealed.

"Previously, I was really lucky to work at Doncaster Rovers but when this opportunity came up, I was incredibly excited because I know how big the club are in terms of their inclusivity and making sure that everyone feels valued.

"It is exciting not just for the kids but for the staff to change perceptions and challenge what people consider to be the 'norms' within the game. I'm really pleased to be here.

"Everyone has been so welcoming and it felt like a family rather than a group of staff from the minute I walked through the door. There are no egos at all.

"Whilst it is great to be breaking down barriers and hoping to try and inspire other women to get into coaching, here I'm just looked at as another coach, which means a lot."

Jess Douthwaite, Academy Coach

Jess has made the switch seamlessly too, bringing fresh ideas and a wealth of experience to the Academy staff in the infancy of her tenure in-post here at Rotherham United and she continued to explain that being viewed as exactly that has been incredibly useful in making her settle in with her new colleagues.

"You don't want to have your role judged on your gender and that is definitely not the case here. I'm looked at as another professional who is coaching within the Academy. It means that there are two sides to the coin because whilst it is flying the flag for women in professional sport, in reality, after coaching for 10 years I just want to be looked at as a member of staff and I am here.

"You need a club that is very open-minded to get those opportunities and Rotherham have certainly been that. There is still a long way to go in the coaching journey for females but to have a club that is on-board with that attitudes and aren't scared of change is a massive help.

"I have worked in other clubs in the community and I've seen the work that the Millers have done and whilst it isn't a big town, it is very big on providing opportunities from all backgrounds."

Jess Douthwaite, Academy Coach

"I think Rotherham have always really championed the women's game and although I might be looked at as a bit of a trailblazer in coaching, I think Rotherham as a club have been one of the leading lights in terms of not being scared of welcoming new ideas, where others may have been.

"As Alex Scott said over the summer, some of the bigger clubs haven't always given the impression that they can embrace that change, when actually there's a change in mindset needed in society which Rotherham have not only recognised but also acted upon to allow progression in women's sport.”

As a club we make no secret of the fact that we are incredibly proud of the players who have successfully made the transition from youth to senior setup, with the likes of Ben Wiles, Joshua Kayode and Jake Hull currently flying the flag for home-grown talent.

Jess Douthwaite 1.jpg

That has not been lost of new Academy coach Jess, who says that the club’s reputation for offering opportunities to youngsters preceded it and was something she was keen to be a part of moving forwards in inspiring the next generation of talent.

"I feel really excited. Firstly for the group of players and secondly for the environment that we're working in,” she beamed.

“There's a lot of trust between all of the coaches. I think that is a big thing for a coach like myself because you don't always get that autonomy or freedom, but here you feel supported in the environment and you are celebrated for your uniqueness.

"The club has done really well in terms of trying to develop that home grown talent which I think is vital. Although I'm working among some of the youngest age groups in the Foundation Phase, they're also some of the most important."

Jess Douthwaite, Academy Coach

"It is great even if you've only had a year with a player to see them go on to progress through the ranks. To play even a small part in someone's journey is a nice feeling and if I can do that here - where the progression pathway is really clear - then it would be amazing and it is an opportunity that I am massively grateful for.

"Rotherham might not be the biggest club of them all, but they are known for good reasons and it is a great feeling to now be associated with that.”

Jess concluded by speaking of her own ambitions within the game which she is keen not to put a ceiling on, whilst also doing so with a maturity and calculated tone which will ensure that she enjoys wherever the journey takes her.

"I'd like to eventually progress through the ranks at the club and the ultimate aim has to one day be involved with the first team in some capacity because not many women have managed to do that,” she revealed.

“If I can change the 'norms' and help to establish more diverse groups of staff elsewhere in professional sport then that would be amazing. For me, it is all about getting people into roles that are the best fits for the jobs."

Jess Douthwaite, Academy Coach

“I'm not in any rush to jump through the ranks and I'm going to make sure that I enjoy the journey whilst improving as a coach along the way. When you speak to any coach, they want to progress but it is all about how you measure progression and for me at this moment in time working in the Foundation Phase is a great opportunity which will help me to work towards my A Licence in the future."

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