Learning from a titan of women’s football management

3 Feb 2019
  • Former Canada star Rhian Wilkinson has been learning from mentor Hope Powell

  • Visit part of FIFA's Coach Mentorship Programme

  • First-hand experience and invaluable insight into coaching a top-flight English club

Brighton & Hove Albion Women head coach Hope Powell passes on instructions to her charges from the sidelines during a cup game at Crawley’s Broadfield Stadium. A titan of women’s football management who coached England for 15 years, Powell is not solely passing on guidance to her side on this particular afternoon, however.

Close by and observing intently is another well-known figure of the women’s game: Rhian Wilkinson, capped a staggering 181 times for Canada. Wilkinson is one of the participants of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme, a project designed to support young female coaches by enabling them to acquire new knowledge, skills and experience that they can then harness in their careers. Her mentor is the vastly experienced Powell.

"Being paired with someone like Hope Powell is fantastic for me," said Wilkinson during her visit to Brighton. "I played against her teams when I was a player and I’ve followed her career closely. I’ve been observing how a professional club is run. I’ve played professionally but I’ve never been a part of anything like this, so being with Hope and seeing what her work routine is like and seeing the build-up to a game has been exciting."


  • 66 international caps with England and played at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 1995

  • Coached the Lionesses from 1998-2013 and guided them to the 2007 and 2011 Women's World Cups

  • Appointed manager of Brighton & Hove Albion Women in July 2017

During her visit to Brighton, Wilkinson has received an invaluable insight into the workings of an English Women’s Super League club from a head coach’s perspective – from working closely with the players to liaising with backroom staff such as club analysts, physios and psychologists.

"I think for young coaches to get the opportunity to see the environment in which their mentor works can only prove valuable – I wish I had the opportunity when I was younger," said Powell. "Rhian’s seen how we formulate our meetings, how we plan our day, what we’re going to do in terms of practice and how that pans out on the pitch.

"She’s been with the players, the staff and has seen first-hand the importance of being adaptable and what the priorities are going into a game."


MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY - DECEMBER 01: Head coach Rhian Wilkinson of Canada looks on before the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Uruguay 2018 3rd place match between New Zealand and Canada at Estadio Charrua on December 1, 2018 in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Photo by Buda Mendes - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Wilkinson was a member of Brighton’s matchday team as they faced Manchester United in the Women’s FA Cup – “giving her a chance to observe gameday on the inside”, according to Powell – and was present for everything from the warm-up to the post-match team talk.

"When starting out in coaching, to have someone to go to when you’re feeling stuck or need to talk to someone is so important," said Wilkinson. "I hope that as soon I get my feet on the ground and I’m in a position to contribute that I’ll be able to do the same thing for others."

Communication between mentor and mentee will continue after Wilkinson’s stint on England’s south coast, the Canadian having returned to North America and set to assist Canada at the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019.

"We’ve been in regular touch during this process," said Powell. "And as I’ve said to anyone I’ve mentored: I’m here to help, so never hesitate to pick up the phone if you need to."