In the finale of our UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 series with Women in Football we sit down with Hannah Humphreys, Women’s Recreational Football Officer for the Hampshire FA!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Hannah Humphreys, and I work as the Women’s Recreational Football Officer at Hampshire FA. Previous to this, I studied Football Coaching and Performance at the University of Chichester, as I have a keen interest in coaching within the women’s game.
What do you do in your current role?
My current role involves leading the development of women’s recreational football within Southampton, as part of the EURO 2022 Legacy Programme. This involves supporting existing recreational sessions, planning and delivering new sessions within Southampton, and organizing recreational competitions. There is also a focus on upskilling participants as coaches/ referees to support the wider development of the female game.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
My week normally starts by checking session attendance on the FA Events Platform, which then allows me to assess which sessions may need more promotional support during the week to drive participation. I’ll then send some emails round to participants to remind them off the sessions they’ve booked on to, and any additional information that has come up for them to be aware of. I’ll then check in with the coaches of these sessions to make sure they are happy with what they’re delivering, and that they are aware of how many participants to expect.
I usually have a number of emails during the week from new participants interested in signing up to a recreational session, so I spend some time signposting them to either recreational sessions I have set up as part of Hampshire FA, or ones run by external clubs. This ensures I am frequently touching base with our recreational providers across the County, and maintaining relationships throughout the season. This often involves visiting a number of sessions across the County (and sometimes joining in!) to ensure that I can speak to session leads/ participants in person to build rapport and learn about their motivations for participation.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I’ve known from a very young age I wanted to work in sport. I grew up playing football, and followed the player pathway almost to a tee (grassroots football, Essex FA Player Development Centre, Essex Regional Talent Centre, College Football Academy Programme). Throughout each stage I had some amazing female role models who showcased the roles available to me in the game. Lauren Phillips (now Southampton FC Women’s Head Coach) was my coach at the Essex PDC, and (through some gentle encouragement from my Dad to ask the question!) allowed me to do some assistant coaching with her on the FA Skills Programme. A couple of years later I was then invited back to coach the U15s at the PDC (which was huge for me at the time!). Emma Burden (Essex FA Women and Girls Officer) was another key person in my journey. Emma noticed my willingness to get involved aside from just playing, and invited me along to support Essex FA events across the County (another shout out to my Dad for driving me to and from all of them!). Sharon Brownlie (FA Regional Talent Club Manager) was my coach at college, and encouraged me to push myself to be better not just on the pitch but away from it too. Her leadership engrained the ‘student athlete’ lifestyle into me, and expressed the importance of study/ education alongside playing.
Whilst studying at Uni, I also got involved within a number of voluntary roles which massively supported my development, including being an FA National Youth Council member, a Team Leader for the Youth Sport Trust, a Mentor on the FA Women’s Football Apprenticeship Programme, a University Ambassador and a participant on the BUCs Female Leadership Programme. Through all of these, I recognized that I had a passion for not just coaching, but developing the game too. So after Uni I applied for a role with Hampshire FA, and thankfully was successful!
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Building meaningful relationships. Sometimes initial projects don’t work, but if I’ve built a good foundation with a club/ organisation then that is a win for me. Therefore, I spend a lot of time communicating with people to ensure I am up to date on their situation, so that when opportunities to collaborate arise it is easier to do so.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
As I mentioned previously, there have been occasions where projects I’ve delivered haven’t quite got off the ground (due to lack of engagement/ participation). Thankfully, with the uniqueness of my role, I am actively encouraged to try new things regardless of if they become successful (although I work as hard as I can to ensure that they are!).
One example I can give is when setting up Soccercise sessions. As someone who comes from a football background, the hardest thing for me to do in my current role is to put myself in the shoes of someone who has little interest in playing (because football is AMAZING right?). So, at the start of my role, when promoting sessions, I put little consideration into the types of images used during promo, where promo was put, and what type of people I was targeting this towards. Fair to say a significant amount of learning was made during this time! Upon a lot of reflection, and chats with other recreational officers, I gathered some great ideas of how to make my promo more effective, and how to engage women who may not have played before.
What excited you most about UEFA Women’s EURO 2022?
1. Our team was absolutely phenomenal and it was so exciting to see them win it, especially on home soil!
2. How important the tournament was in inspiring others to play. I really hope that women and girls who watched the tournament get involved with opportunities local to them, allowing us to continue to grow the game!
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
The perception people may have of it. As I’ve learnt, football to many women can be quite daunting/ intimidating due to the main format that’s widely televised being competitive 11v11 fixtures. However, there are so many different opportunities to get involved, and a range of formats to do so. I’d love for these elements to get more publicity (e.g Soccercise, Walking Football etc).
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
I would love to say I have an easy way to switch off… but my life seems to revolve around football! Aside from my day job, I am the Head Coach of a Women’s National League Team, Moneyfields Women FC. Funnily enough I bumped into Lauren at Southampton FC Women a few times last season which seems crazy to think how far my coaching journey has taken me! I also deliver 1-1s during the week for young players looking to progress within the game, so football really does take up all my free time!
However, when I do have some time away from football, I love spending time with my friends exploring different places. In recent years that’s had to be different places within the UK (which is still great!), but I’m hoping to get abroad soon and see some new sights!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Try to experience as many roles within the industry as possible, even if that is in voluntary capacities. Within my role I am constantly communicating with players, coaches, referees, clubs, leagues, safeguarding officers, discipline officers, finance teams, event organisers etc. The more areas of the game you can get a grasp of, the more people you can influence within your role. Being aware of the wider football landscape has allowed me to gain the role I am in now, and as this continues to grow I am able to create further opportunities for others within the game.
How to follow Hannah Humphreys…
Thanks for reading our chat with Hannah Humphreys! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.