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Kirsty McFarlane - Developing In The UK & Abroad

21 year old Kirsty McFarlane is a Community Coach with Clyde F.C in Scotland. As a Sports graduate from Glasgow College and current Sports student at Stirling University, Kirsty has already tested herself in environments abroad within Greece and the USA. Her previous Head Coach role with Falkirk Community Trust, gives a balanced mixture of experience both home and away. As our first female coach to be featured in a BFCN article, we also get an insight into a female coach, of an U16 boys team.

Name: Kirsty McFarlane

Club: Clyde F.C, Scotland

Role: Community Coach


  • Bachelor of Arts Honours in Sport Studies, University of Stirling (Pending)

  • Bachelor of Arts in Sport Studies, University of Stirling

  • HND in Sport Coaching with Development of Sport, City of Glasgow College

  • C Licence, SFA

  • Level 1 (1.1,1.2,1.3), Children’s Pathway, SFA

Did you set out to become a football coach?

The initial dream was to become a Physical Education teacher however, during my years of studying and working within the football industry, it has opened the door for exciting opportunities and experiences. Enjoying my past work has now guided me down this new path.

Your role at Clyde FC Community School of Football, what’s it like?

With the U16 Boys, there is a wide range of abilities within the team which provides a good balance overall - each player has their own identity. The boys train twice a week on a Monday and a Wednesday, with a game on a Saturday. We are part of a 'community school of football' which has teams from as young as U8’s to U16’s, with our main focus being development through the age groups. Our aim is to help the children to be the best footballers they can be, but developing them by making the activities as fun as possible. Anything extra than this is a bonus for the coaches, the children and the club.

What’s been the best thing for your personal development:

Joining the club (Clyde F.C) has probably been the best thing for me. Prior to joining the club I had never worked ‘specifically’ in the football industry and hadn’t coached children older than 12 years old. By joining an U15’s football team (at the time) it was a big jump in the deep end , but a jump I’m happy I made. I have learned a lot and continue to do so, mainly being constantly challenged as a coach. This is certainly helping me become a better one (coach).

What have you found to be a hardship or testing?

One of the most testing things was trying to figure out the best approach to coach the boys. Giving the closeness in ages, I sometimes felt they saw me as ‘one of them’ and at times it was difficult to command their attention. After learning to improve my coaching approach, I started to gain more respect from the boys and it’s enabled me to be more productive and effective.

One of the hardest things about being a coach for me in football, is being a female. The world is changing and females are becoming more accepted and involved in the game, but there’s still some work to be done. Some people still see football as a male dominant sport and that it should remain that way. It’s probably been one of the toughest barriers to break down but once you get through the first, the others crumble as you continue on your journey.

On that note, do you feel there are enough equal opportunities for female coaches in the UK and what positive and/or negative experiences have encountered as a female coach?

There are equal opportunities for women in football, all females would be considered for jobs they apply for just like men. The only way a female wouldn’t get a job is if they weren’t suitable for the role. Opportunities are made available just as they are for our male counterparts. As for extra support for female coaches in the game, The SFA and UEFA have been working on developing female only courses. I believe this will help the females who maybe feel a bit intimidated among 'male majority' courses.

As a female coach I’ve not had any bad experiences as such, but I have faced some negative attitudes towards myself for my position in a boy’s team. To be honest, I just brush it off and laugh because it’s the best thing to do. When you love what you do, people’s words won’t ruin momentum to keep doing what you love. I think if anything, it motivates you to get better and prove the doubters wrong.

Has your time abroad given you any experiences which the UK may not of offered?

Whilst working abroad, the language barriers helped develop me as a coach. Because I had to work with children from countries across the world, their was many languages floating around and one language didn’t always fit all. Not always being able to explain what you need doing by words, it pushes a coach to be more expressive and detailed with body language and demonstrations. It certainly helped me to think about my coaching approach in different situations, regardless if the players speak English or not.

What do you feel, could help open more opportunities for development in the UK. What would be a reason for a coach to move abroad?

More National Governing Body (NGB) support for grassroots football, would also support increased coached development as a by-product. As grassroots is where football mostly start for many players and coaches, it would seem sensible to focus on giving grassroots coaches more development opportunities. In turn, grassroots coaches could then provide an even better quality of education.

I think there’s a more varied choice of opportunities abroad for football coaches who may struggle finding good ones in the UK. A majority of positions abroad require a level 2 qualification which most coaches acquire early on in their journey. However, a lot of opportunities in the United Kingdom require a level 3/UEFA B qualification which aren’t always immediately affordable. One of the main reasons for this, is that a coach needs a higher coaching licence to have a chance to earn more money. With the course costs in the UK being more expensive than in other countries, it can be difficult to get to where you need to go.Although the associations are supporting coaches in the form of courses and learning opportunities, I feel sometimes making money (for them) comes before developing the coach.

Do you have an inspiration?

I believe in grabbing opportunities with both hands and running with it. It might seem daunting at first but trust me, once you’re there and experiencing it, you will be grateful you went for it. What keeps me inspired is seeing children happy and pleased with themselves when they do something right or score a goal. It makes it all worthwhile to see that one content child, and that’s what keeps me going.

The Future

Next for me is to finish my Honours degree at University, spend my summer in Corfu coaching football to children and then hopefully continue to travel the world coaching football. I personally would like to work outside of the United Kingdom as I feel the opportunities are better and the experiences can be ‘once in a lifetime’. The only thing immediately holding me back is my commitment to university. If I wasn’t at university I would most likely be abroad coaching somewhere right now!

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