Female Football Week: Why visibility matters to CUA coach Sarah West

Growing up in Brisbane, Sarah West never played under a female coach and it wasn't until she was in an elite playing pathway that she had even heard that there was an Australian women's national team called the Matildas.

"I never ever saw a female coach so I never saw myself as anything but a player," Sarah said. "Visibility is something that I didn't have growing up.

"So after my playing career ended, I was lost to football for years because it never occurred to me that coaching was an option.

"I missed it and it was a gaping hole in my life."

But then Sarah started to notice female coaches, in particular, Rae Dower who started to progress through the coaching ranks.

"I realised that there was something more for me," Sarah said. "I was actually first brought into the CUA coaching team by Heather Garriock, who was a woman who put the ladder down for me and gave me a chance to prove myself in this environment."

Sarah West, Sarah Kelly, Dea McQueenie and Chantel Jones
Sarah West, Sarah Kelly, Dea McQueenie and Chantel Jones make up the all-female coaching team of CUA's U17s team.

Knowing full well the importance of visibility, Sarah's U17s team will now be led by an all-female team of goalkeeper coach Chantel Jones, physiotherapist Sarah Kelly and manager Dea McQueenie.

"In most of the coaching jobs, I have been the sole female coach where all the other coaches in the club were men," Sarah said. "This is the first time that my entire coaching team is women.

"Football playing careers don't last forever so it is important that these girls see that when their playing career comes to an end, there are so many other options to keep them in the game and to keep them in the football community.

"They can see that they could be a head coach of a team, they could be a goalkeeper coach, they could be a physio or they could be a manager.

"It is also important to me that these girls don't just see me as a token female coach."

Sarah, who now sits on the board of Football Coaches Australia, has come a long way since she was a young girl that never realised that coaching was an option to her. For Sarah and her U17 girls, the future is bright.

"While we still have struggles when it comes to opportunities for female coaches in the professional arena of the game, it also demonstrates to me how far we have come," she said with a smile.

"To know that I am one of a group of capable women in this environment gives me hope for the future."

Female Football Week provides a chance to acknowledge and celebrate the female players, coaches, volunteers and referees that have had an impact on the game.

If there is someone you would like to acknowledge, please contact Lachlan Roberts