Name, age, where are you based?
Hannah Duncan, 31, Surrey UK
Current and past Roles:
I currently coach Crawley Wasps U14s and will take them as U16s next season. I’ve been with this group since they formed at U11. Before that, I was with the previous U11 group at Crawley Wasps and have also previously coached an U18 squad at the club to, as they prepared to move to senior football in the FA Women’s National Reserve league. I also coach Prep Schools Lions Girls U13, a representative team who were due to compete in the Gothia Cup this year before it got cancelled. I took Prep Schools U11 girls team to the tournament in 2019.
UEFA B and FA Youth Award.
You gained your level 1 qualification at seventeen as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. How did that come about?
As part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, you had to earn a qualification and complete a certain number of volunteering hours. So, as someone who had always played football since a very young age and was already playing senior women’s football, getting involved in coaching seemed the obvious solution. I started coaching at an after school club at my local leisure centre – just helping the lead coach – and then myself and a team-mate did our Level 1s together with Surrey FA.
Do you have any major achievements or highlights?
Probably not really yet! It’s still quite early in my coaching journey but I think keeping the same core group of girls from u11 to u14 has been great, seeing them develop as players and people, and all still absolutely love their football, no matter their ability levels or what their footballing ambitions are. We have a mix, yet they all turn up every week with massive smiles, so really that’s all that matters and I definitely consider that an achievement. Taking a group of players to the Gothia Cup was also a fantastic experience, so that would definitely have to be a highlight too.
In addition to coaching, you have also been operating in the journalism space too. What is it that motivates you to do that??
My degree is in journalism and I’ve worked in journalism/PR for the past 10 years. When I was offered the opportunity to take on the editor role of a new digital magazine called Women’s Soccer Coaching at the end of last year, it seemed like the perfect fit. Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed and so to be able to combine it with coaching and broadening my own knowledge, ideas and understanding, is ideal.
You gained your UEFA B and Youth Award around the same time in 2019. What were some of the biggest differences between the methodologies? Was it hard to manage? What were some of the biggest takeaways from the courses?
The FA Youth Award was part of the UEFA B course, having merged I think the previous year. So I’d actually already completed the FA Youth Award modules 1, 2 and 3 before starting my UEFA B, but got the qualification signed off as part and parcel of the B licence. It’s a real shame the Youth Modules are no longer offered as standalone courses because the content was really valuable and I know a lot of coaches who say they are the best courses they’ve been on. Now, they are embedded within the Level 2 and UEFA B (I believe!), so for level 1 coaches who want that bit of extra knowledge for coaching young players, it’s not as easily accessible now. But certainly the ideas and detail dedicated to youth players was really valuable for me. Making the Ball Roll by Ray Power actually includes a lot of the information from the Youth Modules, so I’d encourage anyone interested to pick up a copy.
While coaching and writing, you still play at a good level. Do you believe playing benefits your coaching and vice versa?
I actually now play for Whyteleafe Women but yes certainly I think being able to combine the two is valuable for me. I’m fortunate to have a couple of high level coaches at Whyteleafe, one is currently doing the UEFA A licence and both he and another are doing Masters in Performance Coaching, while two further coaches will be working towards their UEFA B licenses soon. So to be able to learn from them, from the perspective of a player, is really helpful for my coaching and equally, when I’m playing I find I’m now able to think about the sessions that are put on from a coaching point of view, understanding why certain conditions are on a game or why a particular pitch shape has been used. Plus, I can pinch loads of great session ideas to adapt for my players!
Do you have any preferences for coaching in regards to age or level?
Probably in the long-term, when I’ve stopped playing, I’d like to work with older players at the highest level possible. But I love working with my U14s girls now and it’s been a pleasure seeing them develop from U11 to where they are now. I have a really good relationship with all of them and they’re a great age where you can have a good chat and laugh with them too.
What do you find the most rewarding aspect of coaching?
Seeing players develop not just as footballers but as people too. That’s probably not something I ever really considered when I first started coaching but it’s such a huge aspect now. Also just seeing the girls having fun, wanting to learn and improve, and seeing their own achievements – whether that’s at football, at school, within another sport etc – is really rewarding.
What are your ambitions for working within football?
I’d love to work in football full-time at some stage, progress to the UEFA A license and just see how far I can go really. While playing still remains my main focus, I feel I’ve started coaching fairly young and so I can hopefully go further in coaching than I’ve managed as a player.
What effect is the prevalence of modern technology having on sports media and the way stories are consumed?
Everything just has to be so instant now. Social media means anyone can share anything, things are instant and all short snippets, so in a sense that has to be taken into account in coaching too. Kids are used to snapchat and tiktok, so keeping things short and snappy is important to hold their attentions I think. All of this can possibly be seen as a negative, but equally I’ve found so much value in using Twitter to network with other coaches, share and find ideas, open up discussions etc. There’s definitely a place for it if we use it in the right way.