By Faye Hackwell
Her Game Too’s first Manager Advocate has been inspired by his daughters and experiences of coaching female football to show his support for our campaign.
Darren Marjoram, who manages Cambridge United Women, hopes to use his position to spread the message that football is a game for all and to inspire other coaches to follow suit and get behind Her Game Too.
His involvement in female football began when his now 22-year old daughter was aged eight and started enjoying playing football.
He recalls: “She said to me and my wife ‘I want to play football in a team’ and I’ve been involved in football all my life, from playing as a kid through to playing for and managing men’s teams as an adult, so I mistakenly thought it was going to be easy to just phone up the local club and ask if they had space.
“That’s when it really hit me just how difficult it was at the time to find somewhere for girls to play football locally to us – even a team half an hour away I spoke to said ‘we’ve got too many already’.”
Eventually a local club agreed his daughter and her friends could train with them and, later, to set a team up for them, with Darren as a coach.
When his daughter joined secondary school, he helped out with football coaching at her school as well – winning national championships with the girls’ sides and assisting with training a range of different age groups.
“It was brilliant and so fun.
“There were some girls who were extremely good and some who had never kicked a football before, and I just loved the challenge of trying to keep both ends of the spectrum engaged and happy and enjoying it.”
His coaching journey took him into adult women’s football and two and a half years ago, he joined fourth tier Cambridge United Women as their manager.
He is passionate about driving supporter engagement with the women’s side at a big club with a League One men’s team, and encourages his players to interact with fans on match days and to give children the opportunity to be involved on their match days as mascots.
Darren has followed the growth of Her Game Too on social media since its early days and has witnessed the work Cambridge United’s Her Game Too Ambassador Emma Smith has done at the club to raise awareness of the campaign.
“It’s been 13 years now I’ve been involved in female football and I take a keen interest in anything that shows support for the female game because I'm passionate about promoting it.
“I’ve got two daughters and I've always been very passionate about them being able to be what they want to be in life.”
By becoming a Manager Advocate, Darren hopes to support Emma with Her Game Too-related initiatives and events at Cambridge United and to promote the campaign through his team.
He is also keen to champion women who work and volunteer at the club, such as their female secretary, physiotherapist, foundation coaches and match officials, and to encourage other women to take up roles within football.
An incident at a game two years ago when a woman Darren worked alongside at Cambridge United was told she “should be wearing her gloves at the sink” while at a match highlighted there is still progress to be made in changing some people’s attitudes towards women in football.
“I just can't believe that in this day and age, with all of the positive messaging and the ability for people to see female football on the TV a lot more and what the Lionesses have achieved, how anybody can think those things.
“Unfortunately there's still a lot of stereotyping of women's football and women being at football and watching it.
“I think there's still a section of people who believe that football is a male sport and that’s just sad isn't it?
“I just think if people broaden their horizons a little bit and saw what was out there, I'd like to think they’d think differently.”
Darren describes becoming Her Game Too’s first Manager Advocate as “really special” and “an honour”.
He hopes the move will encourage other managers to do the same and utilise the influence they have as coaches in prominent positions.
“I'm sure there will be so many people who are managers who've got a passion for it the same as I have, so I think if we can get more managers on board to hopefully spread the word at their clubs, then I think that could be so powerful.”
Emma Smith, Her Game Too’s Cambridge United Ambassador, said: “I’m so excited about this announcement.
“Darren has supported my work for Her Game Too at Cambridge United from day one.
“He’s absolutely perfect for the Manager Advocate role.
“He brings so much enthusiasm and his positive character makes him a fantastic addition to our Her Game Too team.
“I’m proud that he’s our first Manager Advocate for the campaign and I hope this announcement might help inspire other managers from the women’s and men’s games to join us.”