- Freya Louis has turned her passion into a job
- In August she was named the first female coach of the Football Fun Factory
- Her aim is to continue developing the women’s game
Time and time again, we have to make important decisions in our lives. Some are difficult to make because they can bring about lasting change, while others are easy because we see them as big opportunities. When Freya Louis was faced with the decision of whether to become the Football Fun Factory’s first female coach, she did not have to spend long thinking about it.
"I think it was my social media presence and my role at Needham Market Football Club and the Needham Market Academy that caught the founders’ attention," Louis said in an interview with FIFA.com. "They actually got in touch with me and explained what the Football Fun Factory is – how they manage to offer amazing football experiences to boys and girls of all ages and abilities, overcome obstacles and use the country’s passion for football as a vehicle for development. Nobody promises the kids that they’ll become professional footballers. It’s all about transferable skills and life lessons, and that’s so important between the ages of five and 12," she explained.
"They said to me, ‘This is your chance to work in football full-time. We can see and feel your passion for the sport. You can be your own boss and give something back to your local community.’ I couldn’t say no. The opportunity was there and I had to take it. If I hadn’t, I would have really regretted it."
The Football Fun Factory in brief
The Football Fun Factory was founded by James Cutting in 2017. It offers innovative, educational and inspiring football experiences for children of all ages, abilities and experience levels. Its offerings include school holiday camps, training for small children, football fun and development and even birthday parties. All sessions are led by highly qualified professional football coaches. The combination of technical training and fun games in a relaxed environment is designed to help children to develop their play.
Giving women's football a voice
Louis discovered her passion for football at an early age while standing on the touchline watching her older sister play. "I always played football and loved it, just because I wanted to be like my big sister. I was captain most of the time."
Despite this, she took a two-year break from the game at the age of 16 because none of her friends were interested in it. "I realised what a big mistake that was and how much I missed the sport, so I went back to my club. I spent several years there before moving to Needham Market FC, where I became manager of the women’s team. In 2019 I was appointed development manager for women and girls (club and academy) to oversee the entire department, and began paving the way for our players to move from youth to senior football."
As much as Louis loved playing the beautiful game, it only became clear to her in recent years that she needed to focus on her role off the pitch. She has spent hundreds of hours developing and running her #HappyGaffer website to create a platform for promoting the growth of the women’s game at grassroots level.
"It became really clear to me that people like me need to give women’s football a voice at grassroots and all other levels to try and push the game forward," she explained enthusiastically. "After all, if people like me don’t try to make a difference and stand up when something doesn’t go right, then I don’t think the game will develop."
Louis is convinced that women who get involved with football off the pitch are an inspiration not only for children and young people but for adults too. She wants to take the opportunity to break down barriers and encourage women to take on roles within the game.
"At the moment I think there’s a stigma around being a female football manager," she said. "For example, a couple of days ago I went to speak to the coach of the opposing team, and he sent me away because he wanted to speak to my manager. Well, I’m the general manager, so that meant he brushed me off purely because I’m a woman and he couldn’t imagine me having a position of responsibility off the pitch. Those are the kinds of barriers that need to be removed," she explained.
"For me, it’s important to show that women without a professional background can also work in football," Louis continued. "I’m the Football Fun Factory’s first female coach – which is an incredible achievement – and I don’t come from professional football at all. I just work hard, have a passion for the game and want to improve it.
"It’s important that girls and women of all ages see that they can get involved in football. They don’t have to have a professional background; they don’t need a UEFA A Licence. As long as they have that passion and are ready to work hard, they can make a difference."