- Gemma Lewis was recently appointed coach of New Zealand's U-20 women
- She worked with the senior team during the Women’s World Cup
- Lewis is a mentee in the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme
The setting is Montevideo, Uruguay, and New Zealand have just defied the odds to beat Canada to a bronze medal at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2018.
It’s a historic moment for women’s football in the country and highlights some tremendous work within the coaching setup of the team.
Leon Birnie led the side to its third-place finish, and amongst his coaching staff was Wales native Gemma Lewis, who was recently appointed head coach of the Football Ferns’ U-20 women's side.
“I’ve worked with New Zealand Football as a coach for nearly two years, and that has seen me assist both the U-17s and U-20s, so I am really excited by this opportunity," Lewis told FIFA.com. “It’s been a five-year process where I went through my football courses and then my role with New Zealand football, getting as much experience as I could, before putting myself in a position where I can obtain a role like this.”
Lewis started out as a development officer in Auckland, working with clubs and coaches in the area, before taking her licenses. Voluntary work with New Zealand Football followed, which led to her roles within the national setup and her pathway to her new position.
Her recent experience at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ will no doubt also be invaluable when working with her young players, having been a member of the technical staff behind the scenes during the Ferns’ stint in France.
Lewis was able to utilise new analysis and communication tools introduced by FIFA for the World Cup that allowed her to communicate with the coaching staff during matches, and even take advantage of iPads that allowed for footage to be clipped while matches were taking place.
“I was definitely less hands-on from a coaching perspective, but more looking at the opposition and putting together footage and themes from what we were seeing and where we felt we could capitalise,” she said.
“Within the games I would be up with the analysts and would be sending messages down to the bench and look at whether the plan we had in place was working."
That experience in France, and working alongside head coach Tom Sermanni, a veteran of four World Cups, will have equipped Lewis with valuable knowledge that she can apply to a new role.
But Sermanni is not the only coach that she is working with, as Lewis is currently part of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme that pairs young coaches with some of the most recognised names in the game.
She has been paired with Japan head coach Asako Takakura in the programme, and despite being involved in the game for a number of years, Takakura is the first female coach that Lewis has worked with.
“She’s an incredible coach to work with," Lewis said. "It has been a really good learning space for me to see her in her environment. I went to Japan in March for five days, where she showed me around the Japan Football Association academy.
“It was great to be immersed in what she does and have conversations about how Japan works, because it is so different from New Zealand – there are definitely things we can take from them.”
Takakura may well be the first female coach that Lewis has worked with, but she has plenty of others who are aspirational figures, with four of the last five Women's World Cups won by female coaches – most recently USA's Jill Ellis.
“I think female coaching is getting stronger and stronger, because there’s more investment in it throughout the regions," said Lewis. "The FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme definitely helps and is being adopted in organisations throughout football.
“Investment isn’t just in players now, and you are starting to see the benefits and successes that come as a result of that, which is really great to see.”