'In football, being a minority within a majority group, it challenges you to persist, fail and try again and again, learn, grow and most importantly, going through adversity teaches you resilience....'
Name, age, where are you based?
Manisha Tailor MBE, 39 years old, London, United Kingdom.
Current and past Roles:
The Rachel Yankey Football Programme – primary schools coach
Gibbons Wreckers – voluntary coach U7-U9
FC Leytonstone – voluntary coach U16
Let Me Play Ltd – football coach U9-U14
Middlesex Girls Centre of Excellence – coach U9 & centre manager overseeing U9-U17)
The FA – Equality Education Tutor
Director Swaggarlicious Ltd
Show Racism the Red Card – Education worker
QPR Academy, Lead Foundation Phase
Governing Body Commitments:
FA Mental Health Steering Group
FA Asian Women in Football Steering Group
How did you get into coaching and football education, including the work you do centered around mental health and tackling racism?
I have always had a passion for football, inspired by my twin brother. However, I grew up in a time where there was a real lack of opportunities for girls to play football and certainly in the early 80s, there was much taboo for girls of Indian heritage to play a sport that was perceived for boys.
My passion for teaching and working with young people led me more towards the coaching pathway, after spending much time volunteering within community football working with a real demographic mix of children.
My family circumstance in 2011 both triggered and enabled me to find the next chapter in my career where I began to immerse myself in all aspect of the game from admin, coaching, talent ID to classroom based education.
At 18 years old I had become a young carer, along with my family, for my twin brother who suffered a mental breakdown due to extreme trauma. His condition is extremely unique where he only speaks to the voices that he hears and does not verbally communicate with anyone otherwise. You have to adapt, as a person and as a family, develop resilience and find different ways of helping him.
The first hand live experience of caring for someone who was once sectioned, kidnapped by his bullies and had attempted suicide several times, certainly reshaped how I thought, felt and behaved. It made me reflect as a primary school teacher on the lack of resources on discussing mental health with young children, which later led me to creating ‘Child in Mind’, a teaching resource for youth professionals, assisting them on creating open dialogue through detailed session plans and supported stories, poems and role-play.
It is vital that young people have the opportunity to ask questions, develop trusted relationships and develop a toolbox of strategies to help them through challenging circumstances. This in turn will lead to improved well being, with children feeling better through freedom of expression and understanding that that seeking solutions is part of their process of self-growth.
My background is in early childhood education and I believe that the continuum of growth is part of the child’s cycle of learning from developing knowledge, to having the capacity to think critically and reason. 'Child in Mind' is like my heart in a book, something that I believe in and live in every day with my brother.
Growing up with the love of football, when my brother became unwell, I soon realised the lack of football activity for adults with mental health conditions. This led to my involvement with Wingate and Finchley FC, which is my local non-league club. Through a start up fund from 'Fans For Diversity' and support from Middlesex FA, we began monthly football sessions for adults and their care workers, providing a safe space to socialise, make friends and have fun.
Working with the care workers was an important part of this work, particularly in providing education around how to interact and engage with those that they care for through sport. Wingate provided all those who attended the project free access to home games, which was fantastic as for some, it was the first time they had been to a stadium to watch a live football match. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, we have had to stop the programme, however it is something that we wish to continue in the future with support.
The work around mental health is important to me and an area I will continue to advocate.
In football, being a minority within a majority group, it challenges you to persist, fail and try again and again, learn, grow and most importantly, going through adversity teaches you resilience. I connected with 'Show Racism the Red Card' and The FA as the education provided me with a vehicle to impart knowledge, understanding, lessons and empathy.
I think representation is important and everyone should be treated with fairness in opportunity. At times, when you are one of few, you need the courage to use your voice and inspire others to do the same. One voice can have the power to leave everlasting change and one voice can be the force of encouragement that others may need.
It is important that this piece of work continues in the form of education and is supported by professionals who have following and influence. We know that in our ever changing world, things have evolved, however, there is still a long way to go before we see drastic change in redressing the balance across sectors.
Any Major achievements or anything you would like to highlight
Creating 'Child in Mind' and developing adult training has been an emotional journey and one that I feel most proud of, because it epitomises the sacrifice and level of commitment made to help my brother, which in turn will help other families.
Additionally, becoming Centre Manager of Middlesex Girls CoE in 2015 and full-time at QPR in my capacity as Foundation Phase Lead in 2018, were milestones in my football career. When you face adversity and understand that you need to have a level of determination, persistance and be resilient, you will do everything you can to get better and be better.
I understood very well that my role within the majority, could pave the way for others. But at the same time, I also understood it would be a difficult road and one that I relish the challenge of. At QPR I am fortunate to work for a club that will choose the best person for the job and one thats see’s beyond any protected characteristic.
At QPR, I have a mentor in Chris Ramsey who is honest and will challenge you as a coach to help you be the best that you can be. I have a keen interest in the strategy and operations through my former role as a Deputy Head, and I'm equally learning a lot from my Academy Director, Alex Carroll.
You need people to support your journey, advocates for your development and I have this at QPR. Loyalty is important and being the only female of Indian heritage to be in my role, I know it requires decision-makers who are visionaries. This motivates me to want to do more and be the best that I can be.
I have been fortunate to develop through the Premier League ECAS programme which is an Elite Coach Apprenticeship Scheme as well as passing my Advanced Youth Award earlier this year. Both development programmes have challenged my thinking and provided much reflection for me as a person and practice.
How have you developed a good balance between coaching ‘the person and the player’ during your time working with Middlesex FA and in your current role coaching in QPR’s youth academy, and what would you say are priority indicators for coaches to work towards?
My time in teaching and my experiences at Middlesex and now at QPR, have certainly influenced my philosophy, with it being centered around child development. I believe, in order to help each player maximise their potential we need to nurture holistic development. There is much talk of the psycho social model, which I think underpins how we coach, focusing on the needs of the individual player.
The young players who enter the professional game, come to us with a dream. As coaches we can influence their journey in developing them as people and as footballers. But in order for us to do this, we need to understand them as young people or children first. If we understand what they need and how they learn, we can be in a better position to help them. This also requires us as coaches to be adaptable and be open to learning ourselves, listen to those with experience and knowledge. We have a responsibility to help them develop and our ego should be in the development of our potential future stars.
How’s the future looking, what’s next?
I endeavour to continue the work through Swaggarlicious which includes projects on mental health and diversity, and hope to reach as many young people and youth professionals as possible through 'Child in Mind'.
I am committed to continuous learning and development within my role at QPR and look forward to having my coaching journey supported by the A Licence, which I begin this year. I am keen to gain a greater insight into the role of an academy manager, with that being a long-term aspiration and will continue to learn from those at the club and be patient with the process.