Natalie Curtis is a true #FemaleFlashlight. Besides working at the Kent FA as a Football Development Officer, Natalie is currently undertaking the final stages of assessment for her UEFA A License and coaches some of the county’s most elite players at the Gillingham FC Girls Centre of Excellence. She even manages to find the time to play, at the team she founded who are now part of FA Charter Standard Club, Faversham Strikeforce.
Natalie spoke to the Eighth Wonder Programme and described her journey into football, and when she realised her true passion was to inspire young females to get involved in sport in a variety of ways.
“From the moment my little brother said ‘I bet you cannot stop me from scoring’ I knew that football would be my passion. I wanted to play at the highest level I possibly could, which turned into trying to inspire the next generation of players to do the same thing, so I became a coach. I attended a female only Level 1 coaching course run by Kent FA in 2005 and I was immediately hooked!”
Gaining her coaching qualification gave Natalie the ability to help out at her local club and observe the coaches in a position which she aspired to be in.
“Once I had my qualification I assisted at Saturday morning fun sessions and was a ‘cone picker’ for most of the summers trying to watch and learn off the other coaches. I was lucky enough to have a ladies club on my doorstep when I was growing up so had access to football however I realised this wasn’t the case everywhere.”
“With a couple of friends we set up the first girls only football club in Faversham and my volunteering really started from there. It was such a steep learning curve – I soon found out that running a club was more than just coaching. To help make the club a success I voluntarily ran sessions with local schools as well as setting up a summer football session to gain further numbers for the league season. I supported the County FA with different initiatives and events including the Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day. This introduced me to Liz Symons at Kent FA.”
Natalie’s dedication to her volunteering enabled her to network with people in the football industry who inspired her, much like she inspires the younger generation of female leaders.
“Volunteering in football meant that I was able to access different opportunities that were made available. It also meant through the connections you make by volunteering that you know who to ask or where to find the right information. In my coaching capacity I was interviewed for a job with Gillingham FC Girls Centre of Excellence and I have now been there for six seasons progressing from U9’s assistant through to my current role of U14’s Head Coach. “
Working in different areas of the game allows young people to experience the world of football off the playing field, and the Eighth Wonder programme offers the support to get involved within the different roles.
“I also have the fantastic job of being a Football Development Officer at the Kent FA. The obvious role of my job is to develop football in Kent. Without the many hours spent volunteering by either coaching, administrating, writing press release and funding bids, attending club and league meetings as well developing my ability to present to others I would not have been in a position to be successful in my interview.”
“The Eighth Wonder programme has pulled together a team of people that truly want to help and support the next generation of leaders in football. As a female sometimes we believe that we are not quite ready for the next step and with Eighth Wonder you will have someone that will understand you and have experience with what you are going through to point you in the right direction.”
Natalie’s experience has given her the confidence to jump at every opportunity that arises, and she encourages the next generation of young women to do the same by getting involved at the Eighth Wonder event on Friday 28th October at Kent FA.
“Sign up – you literally have nothing to lose but so much to gain. Grab an opportunity and see where it may take you. We are here to answer any questions before signing up so please get in touch.”
“This programme is not just about opening the doors for opportunities but ensuring everyone who accesses the programme has the right tools to be successful in going through that door. Kent FA is committed to providing the best opportunities for anyone who wishes to access football in Kent and this project is a great stepping stone for young women in the game.”