Emily Da Silva is a coach and player at Hornsby Heights FC in Sydney’s Upper North Shore. This Female Football Week, she spoke to Our Game about her experiences as a woman in football and about how she embodies #LoveOurGame.
One of her earliest memories of football was joining her first all-girls team in u8s.
“My Mum started the team for me and my friends as a lot of us were nervous to play with the boys,” she explained.
“We came up against many boys’ teams who believed that they’d get an easy win because we were all girls, however when the game would start, we’d prove them wrong.
“It was good to see that we were breaking the stereotype that boys are better than girls.”
Proving people wrong has not stopped as Da Silva has gotten older. Employed by KANO Football – an organisation that seeks to raise the standard of grassroots football in Australia through coaching – she said the biggest learning curve at her job has been staring down sexist beliefs that she didn’t have the knowledge to be a good coach.
“Many people – not co-workers, but parents or clubs around me – believed that because I was a girl, I wasn’t good enough or didn’t have the knowledge,” she explained.
“When in fact, those parents didn’t know what they were talking about.”
Da Silva was first drawn to coaching when she was only 12 years-old. Encouraged by her mother, who believed it would boost her confidence, she volunteered to help out at KANO. Soon enough, she fell in love with the role.
“I enjoy everything about coaching, but if I had to pick one thing that I enjoy most, it would be the kids,” she said.
“They honestly do bring a smile to your face. Being able to watch them grow as a player really does bring me joy.”
That joy is reflected back in the way that players respond to their coach. On the Hornsby Heights Facebook page in 2021, Sandy of the u9s had three favourite players – Marta, Sam Kerr, and of course ‘Coach Emily.’
Every grassroots club is a football community made up of players and volunteers of all ages. Da Silva has been a loyal member of Hornsby Heights FC since she was young, and says that they are the reason she keeps coming back.
“The people at Hornsby Heights are the reason why I have stayed for so long,” she explained.
“I have built so many connections with parents, kids, players and committee members. They are the ones up in the clubhouse working hard and cheering you on.”
It’s important for Da Silva that women and girls are represented in coaching. This is not only so that both girls and boys can see women reflected in leadership positions, but also because women and girls can bring something different to the table as coaches that can benefit the development of a team.
“Both genders need to see that it’s not just a male job and that females can do it as well,” she said.
“I feel as though women and girls bring something different to coaching. I especially can relate to those girls who are the only ones in their team and are a little nervous to play with the boys. I feel as though we just have a way of bringing kids out of their shells.”
She hopes that her coaching can be a small part of helping grow the women’s game into the future.
“I hope to increase the quality of women’s football, as well as increase the number of supporters,” she explained.
The theme of Female Football Week this year is #LoveOurGame, harnessing the power of football to celebrate and elevate women and girls.
There is no better time to get involved in coaching to help drive the future of the women’s game.
“If you have a passion for football, get involved in coaching,” Da Silva emphasised.
“I always love talking to young girls about starting their coaching journey. It’s such an amazing opportunity to learn more about football and learn different life skills such as communication.”
You can find your club and get involved at https://www.playfootball.com.au/