Things have changed since Emily Ramsey started playing football at 6 years of age. “I joined the local grassroots boys’ team in my hometown Salford because there weren’t any girls’ teams, I think there were only 3 girls at that time in the whole league.”
However, since the England National Team won the 2022 UEFA Women’s EURO, the UK has seen a 15% increase in female youth teams made up of girls aged between 5-18 years old. The historic win also served as the catalyst for change across the country as the government announced new measures that would provide girls with equal access to sports in school.
Emily is a professional goalkeeper at Everton (on loan from Manchester United) and has represented England at the international level at a pivotal time in women’s football.
“I have been in and around football at a time of real change and women’s football has taken a big step forward. The 2022 EURO’s played a massive part in that, especially as it was a home tournament. The Lionesses inspired younger girls and boys to play and people to just watch women’s football more which has carried across into the attendances at the Women’s Super League (WSL) this year. It is an exciting time and hopefully, with the World Cup coming up, women’s football will take a step forward again.”
Emily, who received her first call up to the senior squad during the last international break, hopes to represent her country in the England National Team during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer.
“I made my debut in the international youth levels at 15, it was my first ever camp and I was starting that game, I was so excited and so nervous. It is an absolute honour every time to get called up and to be able to work through the pathway from U16s up to U23s, and then step into the senior team. It has been a big achievement for me and something everyone strives to do in football. I was proud to get that first call up, and now I need to try to stay there and work every day to keep myself in that environment.”
For Emily, being called up has been another opportunity to challenge herself and learn from new sets of players and managers to continue building up her game.
“It is just such an elite environment, and the mentality is so strong. I am playing with the best players in the country and around the world and working with Serena [Wiegman], who is recognised as the best women’s manager in the world. The way that Serena runs the team and the belief they have in the squad is incredible to see and experience. It was wake-up call for me to really step up in that environment.”
“I have an opportunity to make a career in football, and to be able to go and work with different, top-quality players and experience completely different managing styles – that's helped me to understand my role and figure out how I can be the best for the team, whether I’m a starting player or not. It has also developed me in terms of my confidence in my ability to be a good teammate.”
While Emily is focussing on her professional playing career, it has not stopped her from thinking about life after football and a second career after she retires from playing, which led her to pursue the BSc (Hons) in Applied Football Studies developed by Ahead in Sport.
“A lot of women players think about a second career, fortunately the professional women’s game is now at a point where we can just play football and we don’t have to work, which is great but when we retire, we’ve got to have something in mind. I always thought that I would stay within football, but I didn’t exactly know what role that would be and with this course the modules cover a wide spectrum of different areas of football you can work in. I thought it would be interesting for me to learn more about the different roles and see what fits for me and where I’d want to go.”
While Emily’s still figuring out what she wants to do as her second career, she has enjoyed modules focused on identifying and developing talent within youth football, media and broadcasting and feels that her experience as a professional footballer has benefited her studies.
“As a professional footballer I have insight into things that we discuss during the modules. I draw from real life experience, especially when I am doing assignments or researching, and I will be thinking, ‘Oh, wow! That’s something that really is prevalent in professional football.’”
Despite all the positive changes the women’s game has experienced since she started playing, the course has helped Emily recognise the on-going disparities.
“Women's football is an area that needs more support and where there continues to be areas of weakness. As a player, I can see that first hand, but the course has really helped me recognise that. For example, during topics we have researched in the coaching and talent identification in men’s football modules, I have been able to make comparisons as I lived through the experience in the women's game and the two don’t really compare. There is research and work going into improving this disparity in the women's game. I think it has been interesting to see and uncover the differences more than similarities.”
In addition to providing Emily with career opportunities to explore, Ahead in Sport has helped her understand how to promote her qualifications and create professional profiles, something most professional athletes don’t need to worry about. “Football is my job, but it’s not a normal job, so I didn't have LinkedIn or other profiles set up in terms of putting myself and my qualifications out there. The course helped promote that and will set me up down the road when I am looking at things non-player related.”
Another big selling point of the course is that it is flexible, as a professional athlete Emily needs to fit her studies around her demanding training and playing schedule.
“The fact that everything is accessible online, and I can watch the webinar recordings on my own time is great, because with my busy work schedule, I miss a lot. If I get behind, I can block out a day that I am not playing football and I can go back through and catch up, or even get ahead. And when I am submitting assignments and going back through old webinars and workbooks, just to have the information easily, accessible really helps. I am a second-year student and so far, I have managed to balance it all well.”