The FA and TASS tackle dual career development

Birmingham City’s WSL Academy captain Georgia Popple in action (Credit: BCFC) 

The rising stars of England Women’s football will have access to a full programme of off-field performance services support as the groundbreaking FA Women’s Super League Academies kick off this month.

More than 200 players – affiliated to 11 academies nationwide – can look forward to expert advice from a range of specialist performance staff.

And it is hoped the next generation of national female players will graduate to senior football fully prepared for the unique challenges facing emerging elite athletes.

The FA Women’s Super League Academies and their Delivery Partner, TASS, offer 16-20-year-olds a combination of targeted coaching and complementary performance services.

And the emphasis will be on encouraging England’s best young female footballers to combine a full-time education with their on-field commitments.

“Firstly, this is a more professional pathway that should help players with the possible transition between the academy and the first team,” said Birmingham City’s WSL Academy captain Georgia Popple. “The expert coaching will help us to develop technically, physically and psychologically.

“Secondly, as an aspiring medical student, the TASS network will help me to develop as a dual career athlete. It will allow players who are passionate about their sport to realise their goals on the pitch and identify potential careers to pursue alongside – or after – football.”

Popple’s views are echoed by Cristina Torkildsen, Birmingham City Women’s Academy Manager.

“There are young women all over the country aspiring to become a professional football player and now they can,” she said. “But it’s extremely important that we continue to support a dual career approach.

The newly formed WSL Academy provides these players with more support than ever before – giving them the time, the environment and the guidance to pursue their dreams.

“The assistance and support of the TASS network will be fundamental in continuing to bridge the gap between the Academy and first team. Players will have the platform to continue developing within a structure that enables them to have a full-time professional training environment as well as a competitive and varied competition programme.”

Tony Fretwell, FA Women’s Super League Academy Manager, identified the need to develop a dual career Academy system and believes an extensive commitment to emerging players will reap long term rewards.

“The FA and FA Women’s Super League Clubs are working in partnership to establish a genuine dual career Academy system that brings together the clubs, further education and higher education institutions with the assistance and support of the TASS network,” he said. “Within high quality environments, FA WSL players can combine their footballing progression with their career aspirations they as they focus on A Levels, BTECs, or work-based training.

“The aim is very much to work in partnership to develop a consistent flow of highly skilled and employable young people – be that in football, the workplace or a combination of both.”

Ten TASS delivery sites across England will encourage The FA WSL Academies to access a full range of services designed to support players on and off the field.

And Ryan King, Head of Performance Services for The FA WSL and Talent Pathway said: “The aspiration is to develop a system capable of achieving world class performance support for The FA WSL, The FA WSL Academies and pathway.

“Although this is the first step, I believe that, along with our Delivery Partner TASS, we can significantly raise the quality of support offered to the players and this will help them achieve both sporting and academic success.”

TASS, supported by Sport England, already works alongside a number of national governing bodies across a range of sports supporting more than 400 performance athletes.

And Guy Taylor, National Director at TASS, added: “The new FA WSL Academies represent an excellent opportunity for female footballers to take the next step in their sporting journey.

“These players have already been identified as exceptional talents on the pitch. With the support of The FA we want to ensure that they fulfil their potential off the pitch too.

“The focus will be as much on physical, psychological and social development as much as it is on the technical side of football.

“TASS feels perfectly positioned to make a difference to the country’s best emerging female footballers.”

Traditionally, TASS athletes access support at a designated Delivery Site but specialist performance staff will host group sessions at Academies and FA WSL players will receive targeted support focusing on strength and conditioning, physiotherapy and lifestyle.

The majority of players signed up to the new FA WSL Academies are in full-time education and TASS will demonstrate the value of pursuing a dual career pathway.

Additional information

The FA WSL Academies are supported by the following ten TASS Delivery Sites:

  • Arsenal & University of Hertfordshire
  • Birmingham City & University of Birmingham
  • Brighton & University of Brighton
  • Bristol City & University of Gloucestershire
  • Chelsea & St Mary’s University
  • Liverpool and Everton & Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU)
  • Manchester City & Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Reading & Buckinghamshire New University
  • West Ham United & University of East London (UEL)
  • Yeovil Town & University of Exeter