Women’s Leadership Programme: My Experience So Far

Women’s Football club captain Ellie Richards talks about her experiences on the new ‘Women’s Leadership Programme’; a joint venture between BUCS and The FA.

The application process

In April this year I received an email with an opportunity that I knew I shouldn’t pass up. BUCS and The FA are delivering a Women’s Leadership Programme, using females in higher education to develop leaders in football. The course aims to develop us so we can have as much of an impact within the game as possible, as well as developing our professional network and employability.

To apply for the programme, there was first a big hurdle to overcome. You had to complete a video application instead of your standard application form. For me this was very difficult to do because no one likes seeing themselves on camera and having to listen to your voice over and over while editing is not the most enjoyable experience. I went to film my video at Weetwood with some friends and I just froze and couldn’t get any words out. I tried again at home as I knew this would be worth putting myself out of my comfort zone for and I’m glad I did.

Bushtucker trials?…

Our first residential was before term started in September at the University of Nottingham; we spent the first hour or so just getting to know the other participants and the people who would be leading the course, as well as what we could expect from the weekend. Then, it was straight into our first task which was a ‘bushtucker trial’ of sorts. The aim was to see how far we would push ourselves out of our comfort zone by challenging us to make up a tuck bag from different items on the table. I ended up with some seaweed, a couple of mealworms, some barbecue crickets and some jelly tots. It was definitely not the way I was expecting to start the weekend!

After that, various other tasks were given to us including building a bridge, reflection jenga and reading various job descriptions. The first of our networking dinners was in the evening. The leaders of the course encouraged us to get used to networking, as most of us have never had to do it before. After a very early start to get to Nottingham, it was definitely a struggle to stay awake at this point!

someone delivering a presentation to a group of people

Word of the day – Feedback

The second day involved improving quality feedback giving. We had to watch each other’s application videos so we could feedback on each of them. Feedback is a big part of everything we are doing on the course as it is one of the best ways to identify your strengths and weaknesses. It also really helps you to improve and grow as a person. We could give feedback to anyone at anytime by writing on pieces of paper that were stuck up around the room with people’s names on. I have definitely found that useful because you get to think about things that otherwise you may not have.

In between our residentials, we are given tasks to complete as well as books to read. This is to help us continue our growth and prepare for the next residential. So far we have had ‘Start with Why’; ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ and ‘Radical Candor’. I am excited to see what else they come up with for us! A lot of our tasks involve how we can take the ideas and theories we learn about back to our university and implement them into our club and committee.

The second residential

The second residential was at St George’s Park, the home of the FA, which was an incredible place to visit. They set us a ‘The Apprentice’ style task for this residential. The task was to maintain the momentum of the Women’s World Cup and the impact it had on different age groups. The winning prize was tickets to the England women’s game at Wembley, so a lot was at stake! A budget was given to us and we had all day to work on the task before presenting at 9am the next morning. Upon reflection, we realised that more planning and better time management was needed to be more successful.

I have been given the opportunity to be part of a video series documenting my progress throughout the course. I haven’t been properly interviewed on camera before so it feels quite surreal. It will be really good to look back on this and see how far I have come.

The candidates on the women's leadership programme

The future

I have definitely learnt a lot about myself and my skills, strengths and weaknesses on the programme. They push us in many different ways and encourage us to get out of our comfort zones on the residentials. It has given me a purpose and sense of direction for my career that I haven’t had in many years.