'For me, being authentic and living by your values are key and that helps you to manage and coach more effectively...'
Photo Credit: Daily Cannon
Name, where are you based?
Rehanne Skinner, living in South Wales, place of work - St Georges Park
Current & past roles:
England Women’s National Team Assistant Head Coach
England Women’s National Head Coach (U18-U21’s)
Wales Women National Team Assistant Coach & U19 Head Coach
Lead Elite Development Coach (USA based)
Team GBR Women’s Football Assistant Coach
Arsenal Ladies FC Assistant Coach
Leicester City WFC Manager, Centre of Excellence & Academy Director,
LCFC Football in the Community Manager
England Women’s U15 Assistant Coach, Midlands Head Elite Performance Coach
UEFA Pro Licence
LMA Diploma in Football Management
FA Psychology Level 5
BA Honours Business Economics
How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?
I initially got into coaching alongside doing my degree in Leicester. I was sidelined with an ACL injury, but was keen to stay involved in the game during my rehab period so worked towards completing my coaching badges and I applied for an opportunity as a casual coach at Leicester City Football in the Community.
My first ever role with a team was a U9 boys team in Leicestershire as a volunteer. It was a fantastic lead-in and I caught the coaching bug quickly at 19! My pathway since then has involved a number of roles across the game due to the lack of full-time club coaching roles in the women’s game at that time. I worked in the USA for four months and later moved out there for almost three years having an incredible experience and learning from a different culture.
I had a fantastic grounding at Leicester City over 10 years, developing the women’s and girl’s pathway in the club and being heavily involved in starting the women’s team. My vision was for the women’s and girl’s teams at Leicester to be fully integrated into the men’s club and have an aligned pathway from 8yrs old to Seniors. I wanted the program to provide quality coaching and holistic support to develop players for club and country.
The target at senior level was to compete in the Women’s Premier League, which was the highest league at the time. At that time your roles ranged from administrator, finding sponsorship to Manager on the weekend and everything in between! It was a great learning experience for me as a young coach and gave me a focus that I was passionate about, when my knee didn’t fully recover to continue playing.
Photo Credit: She Kicks
I started my A Licence and the FA’s Psychology courses whilst at Leicester and was offered support via the FA’s Female Mentoring scheme delivered by Brent Hills. Brent was candid in his feedback and challenged us all which I really valued, he has been instrumental to a significant number of coaches in the female game and I was fortunate to get those opportunities. During one of those sessions, Hope Powell was observing and offered me the opportunity to work with England U15’s as an Assistant Coach in 2006, which was the start of my journey in international football.
In 2010 the Women’s pyramid was changing with the introduction of the FA Women’s Super League and despite our best efforts, we were unsuccessful with a bid for Leicester which was a big blow. Not long after this I was approached by the manager at Arsenal – Laura Harvey, to become her assistant. We had worked together at England U15’s, although our first outing together was a 4-0 loss to France!
Fortunately, our partnership at Arsenal proved more successful. We worked together over three seasons and we had a fantastic journey in both the WSL, Champions League and across the FA and Conti Cups. Working with world-class players in the highest league had been an aspiration for me and posed completely different challenges to those I had experienced previously. I have really enjoyed roles with senior players that have strong characters and experience in the game at Arsenal, Wales and England and this helped shape my coaching methods over time. These players drive you to be at your best and keep you on your toes which is as it should be.
Following my role at Arsenal and prior to moving to the USA I had the opportunity to go to the World Student Games in Kazan as the Assistant Coach, working with Kay Cossington who I had also worked with at England U15’s. The opportunity was incredibly exciting; it’s the second largest multi-sport event in the world behind the Olympics and I didn’t hesitate. We spent six months planning the event, identifying and recruiting players from Great Britain. We spent a month in Russia and I loved the experience of a major tournament.
Any Major achievements? Big name coaches faced?
There are a few situations that stand out to me as major achievements which aren’t necessarily just trophy related. For example, seeing a player come through the system at Leicester and play for England at varying age groups including seniors was always something that I felt was a huge achievement for them, their family and the program and people who had supported that development.
During my time at Leicester, we achieved four successive promotions which gained us entry into the Women’s premier league structure which was key to the future direction of the club. I think our achievements at Arsenal are something I am proud to have contributed to which included two FA WSL titles, an FA Cup & a Runners up, two Conti Cups and two Champions League Semi Finals. This was a fantastic team of professional athletes who either already had major accolades under their belts, or were relatively young and have since gone on to have incredible careers.
Photo Credit: Arsenal Pics
On a domestic level, the strongest opposition slightly varied but at the time Everton under Mo Marley, Bristol under Mark Sampson and later Liverpool under Matt Beard pushed us in the domestic league. Since then through international games, I think the toughest game I’ve been involved in at senior level was versus Sarina Wiegman’s Netherlands whilst with Wales. This was their last warm up games before winning the Euro’s in 2017 and they were fantastic to watch - unfortunately for us at that time!
Big named players coached?
I have been incredibly fortunate to work with a number of world-class players on both a domestic & international level. At Arsenal, the squad quality at that time was so high and experienced with players like Kelly Smith, Alex Scott, Kim Little, Rachel Yankey, Faye White and coming through at that time were players like Ellen White, Steph Houghton, Jordan Nobbs. I enjoyed working with the players at Wales too, like Sophie Ingle & Jess Fishlock who has been successful in every country she has played in which is more than most. In my current role I am working with England’s best, which is a privilege to do so and I hope to be working again with some of those players from other nations in the build up to the Olympics.
Over the years I have completed a number of voluntary roles. To support my development I worked with some grassroots teams. When completing my A Licence I delivered sessions with U19 boys college teams and supported a men’s team in the league below the national league. Essentially, everything attached to the women’s team at Leicester was also voluntary as was my role with Team GBR in the World Student Games, which was the same for all staff. The volunteering is key to get additional time on the grass and to keep gaining the experiences needed to progress.
Have you had to make any adaptations in terms of your coaching and management style moving from club coaching, to national team environments?
As a coach you are always looking to evolve your management style to become as effective as possible in whichever environment you are in. For me, being authentic and living by your values are key and that helps you to manage and coach more effectively. One size doesn’t fit all - you need flexibility and may need you to go into your toolbox to manage particular players in a certain way to get the best out of each individual. Responding to individual needs is an important skill, particularly at international level when you have players coming in from a number of different environments, philosophies and cultures and you have limited time to work with them so building relationships is vital.
Photo Credit: Daily Cannon
What was it like winning Gold in the ‘World University Student Games’? How did the staff and you manage day to day operations?
This tournament feels like it was yesterday but it was back in 2013! Obviously, it goes without saying that for anyone, winning a gold medal is a massive highlight in your career and I remember so many events in the final against Mexico clearly. The standout events for me in this tournament related to the togetherness we felt as a staff and player group and the way the performances and belief grew with every game. I wouldn’t have dared say it at the time, but I felt really confident throughout the tournament which I think came primarily from the fact that our shared purpose was clear, everyone bought into it and worked hard to achieve it. The team of staff involved were dedicated and as mentioned, all there as volunteers which outlines the commitment and passion to the team.
As staff we agreed on a culture we wanted to create, to enable players to enjoy the experience and hopefully that would translate onto the pitch and into performances. Kay Cossington and I went from an England U23 camp which formed just over half of our squad, into a week’s prep in Moscow, then into tournament in Kazan. It was around six weeks on the road. This played a big part in how we managed the day to day so there was a good balance of physical work on the pitch and in the gym, game planning prep and review, downtime and recovery, but also opportunities to experience the games itself, things like the closing ceremony & other sports.
We shared a building with the rest of the GB athletes, so having opportunities to interact with each other, learn about other sports and their demands and to be able to support some of them around our own schedule added to the experience. The strongest nations we played such as Japan, Brazil and Mexico all had a similar number of international players in their team which made it a real test. The score at half time in the final was 2-2, Mexico had come back twice but we had prepared for a number of scenarios and were calm and focused at halftime, I felt we physically and mentally wore them down in the second half.
Chan Yuen Ting won the Hong Kong League title with Eastern FC men’s team, which then led to her becoming the first female coach ever, to manage a men’s team in a top-flight intercontinental competition. In your opinion, will there be a time when we start to see more female coaches plying their trade within men’s professional teams?
Personally, I don’t feel there should be any boundaries to whether people coach in the male or female game, it needs to be the right person for the job. There are other examples of women in the men’s game in other capacities across the world and I think as more women develop in the game, cultural shifts and attitudes towards it will likely change.
Photo Credit: The FA
What’s been your most memorable moment as a coach so far?
I think winning the world student games is obviously a highlight but so was winning the treble with Arsenal. I remember the season was a bit of an odd one due to the set up of the FA WSL being a summer league and we actually played the FA Cup Final first in 2011, with the league and Conti Cup not being completed until later that year. It was my first experience in an FA Cup final and I had my nephew at the game with me who was 12 at the time. He was really excited at the end and a bit starstruck by the players so was a bit shy, but it was a great moment to be able to share with him too & he has gone on to be a coach himself now so he caught the bug!
What do you enjoy most about your role and what are the toughest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The main things I enjoy are supporting the development of players to help them achieve their best, developing tactics and strategies to beat opponents and bringing a team together that can produce quality performances on the pitch. I think there is always something that can be refined at any level and working with players to get the very best out of them in pressure situations is really rewarding. I think this can be challenging as every player is different so it can take time to understand them and get that connection, but for me it is a number one priority to build that relationship and understanding.
I also really enjoy the in-game environment, needing to be quick to identify the good and the bad and testing myself to make key decisions in the moment. The opportunity to coach for my country has always been something I was passionate about and is something that my family and I are proud of.
Football management can be a 24/7 role and whilst it often brings incredible highs, managing balance and wellbeing in your life is incredibly important to be able to sustain the demands of the game. Maintaining that balance can be tough when striving to be successful but as a leader your energy is critical to success of the team
What’s been the best for your development so far in your career and what do you do to keep yourself upskilled?
I have had some great opportunities to work with and learn from some incredible coaches who have also been generous with their time. I think exposing yourself to different coaching styles, sports and environments helps you to see things in different ways and test your own approach. In all instances it’s important to reflect on the learning and take out of it what you think works for you, not all of it will be relevant but every experience helps you refocus your own thinking.
I plan my CPD by looking at areas I want to learn more about that I feel will help me to be more effective on & off the grass, identify where I can gain that support and a timeframe. It could be a variety of topics from leadership, performance psychology, culture development to tactical planning and analysing other nations/systems/players. Over the last two years I have focused on increasing my management skills further through the LMA Football Diploma in Management and completing my UEFA Pro Licence last June. These last two courses have been excellent and challenged me in a different way.
What advice would you give to coaches who are looking to coach within national team setups of the game, with regards to their own personal and professional development?
Firstly I would say it’s useful to understand the difference between club & country coaching. The challenges are different, a few examples are that you are setting a culture with players coming from a number of different club cultures, you have less time available to work with the players and the speed of game turn arounds in tournament are not really replicated in a club season schedule.
So as a coach & leader it is key to consider your own values & philosophy to be clear about how you implement a high performance environment, enabling you to maximise the time and the learning both on and off the pitch. Try to gain opportunities to understand and implement your own leadership style, manage large numbers of staff and test yourself coaching elite players as often as possible.
What’s next for you, any thoughts on the future?
At this moment in time, I am really enjoying the role I have with the Lionesses and will then be looking forward to the Olympics next year, hoping it manages to go ahead in the current climate. I think every coach has aspirations and for me, continuing to work at the highest level of the game to continue promoting the development of the women’s game is really important.