Our latest Industry Insider is an addition to our special series with Women in Football as we sit down with Katie Wells, Wigan Athletic Community Trust’s Women’s Recreational Football Officer!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Katie Wells and I am currently working as the Women’s Recreational football Officer at Wigan Athletic Community Trust as part of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Legacy project across Wigan and Leigh.
I have worked within a community club environment and across the voluntary and community sector for the last 10 years, managing, developing and delivering a number of sport, football and community-based projects. I have worked with all age groups and with individuals from a multitude of diverse backgrounds with the aim of increasing participation in physical activity and improving health and well-being.
Outside of work, I am an advocate of health and fitness and have volunteered lots of my time over the years supporting others to become and remain physically active.
What do you do in your current role?
The project aims to use the excitement of Euro 2022 to further increase participation in women’s recreational football during and beyond the tournament and has been successful in creating new opportunities, including walking football, soccercise and female disability football sessions.
Working collaboratively with local organisations and volunteers has been critical to the success of the project so far. It was really important to me at the start of the project to ensure that the opportunities created through the legacy were sustainable and continued long after my role comes to an end.
The concept of recreational football is one that resonates with me, as we aim to engage the missed generation of women who were not able to take part in the sport for a variety of reasons. I remember being 10 years old and struggling to find a girls’ team to play for- luckily, I did have an opportunity to play in the end, but had to stop playing competitively at the age of 20 due to injury. If rec football had been an option for me back then, I’m convinced that I would have returned to the sport much sooner!
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
Now that the tournament has come to an end, I am spending most of my time signposting participants into sessions. The volume of emails and phone calls that we have experienced since July has been incredible with many women wanting to play or coach football.
I think building the foundations of the legacy work prior to the tournament has been helpful. I spent a lot of time in the first phase of the role trying to encourage people to attend sessions and now people are coming to me to find out how they can be involved. Having sessions already established has ensured that we can get more women playing right away whilst momentum is so high.
I aim to spend the coming months working in areas across Wigan and Leigh that are yet to get involved with the legacy work and supporting grassroots clubs to develop women’s recreational sessions is high on the agenda.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I’ve always loved sport! From the moment I could walk my parents tell me that I ran everywhere and that they spent the first five years of my life telling me to “SLOW DOWN!” This developed into a love of PE at primary school and being the captain of many of the sports teams that I played for in secondary school.
Once I found a love of football, there was no going back. I’d play five-a-side on a Friday night, go to the game with my Mum, Grandad and Sister on a Saturday to watch Bolton Wanderers and then play for Bolton Wanderers Ladies on a Sunday.
It was actually my Grandad that spotted an advert in the local paper for an apprentice position at a Community Trust. I completed an NVQ in Activity Leadership, the FA Level 2 in Coaching Football and worked on the charity’s numerous projects. Within my first year of working within football I got the chance to coach on the Premier Skills programme in Mexico City and Dubai.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
My number one focus at work is to improve health and well-being, enhance life chances and create stronger and safer communities. There are some tough days, weeks and months, but the moments where participants express their gratitude for something that you often take for granted are the most humbling moments and are definitely the reasons why I continue to work in football.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
I went through a redundancy process and unfortunately did not get one of the roles that I had applied for. The scariest thing about it for me was the change that I was about to experience. A new job, new people, different commute to work- all of the above terrified me. Even after I had successfully secured a job only a week later, I continued to fear change and gave myself such a hard time in thinking that I hadn’t been good enough. I was encouraged to read a book titled ‘Who Moved my Cheese’ and it was life-changing!
I have spent the last four years embracing change and really pushing myself out of my comfort zone (running a marathon, taking on a degree alongside full-time employment) safe in the knowledge that it’s ok to fail sometimes because what I deemed as ‘failure’ spurred me on to be a much better person!
What excites you most about UEFA Women’s EURO 2022?
The tournament has given women and girls’ football a real platform for us to shout about the work that we do. To see so many people inspired by the Lionesses this Summer has been incredibly special to watch and sharing the experience with family, friends and fellow Recreational Football Officers is something that I will never forget.
The thing that excites me most however, is knowing that the 10-year-olds who are just like I was at that age can now see themselves represented on an international stage and knowing that a career as a professional footballer is now a viable option for them. I cannot wait to hear more girls shout as boldly as their male counterparts about how they are going to be a footballer when they grow up.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
The change that I want to see is happening. Women have a place in football.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
I love the outdoors and spend most of my time either running, walking, or sitting in the garden with a good book. It’s important to me to have boundaries with work and personal life, but this is something that I have definitely had to teach myself over the years!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Working in football as a female is hard. We have come so far in the time that I have been in the industry, but the best piece of advice that I could give to someone would be to always back yourself. There may be times when your voice isn’t heard, but there’s a reason why you stand in the position that you do and you deserve to be there!
How to keep up to date with what Katie Wells is doing…
Keep up to date with women’s recreational football developments in Wigan and Leigh: @laticscommunity
Thanks for reading our chat with Katie Wells! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.