Jade Guppy is a footballer, a coach and a successful businesswoman, with her own football coaching clinic; but more about all those later.
Jade kindly got the drinks in (tea for me, latte for her), and we found a picnic table on the grass outside Rowheath Pavilion, in Bournville, south Birmingham, where Jade has a lockup for the football kit and where she runs football clinics and holiday camps. Again, more on that later.
I wanted to find out where the interest in football began, so started by asking her about sport in general: ‘When did that become a thing in her life? She smiled; the first of many during our chat. ‘It was always football. I enjoyed sport, but it was football that was my main interest. It was my Dad and my older brother who got me into it. They enjoyed their football, and I started kicking a ball about pretty much as soon as I could walk. As I got older I carried on practicing. There was one other girl nearby who also enjoyed football, and so the two of us practiced together.’
Did team football have a place? ‘It did. I played for the Cadbury Juniors’ boys’ team from about the age of seven. It was the only opportunity at that time, [SW: We’re talking late 1990s here] and I stayed with that until I was eleven, when the rules said I couldn’t play on.’
Then it was time to start secondary school; in this case Kings Norton Girls’. How was that experience as far as football was concerned? ‘It was good. We had an all-female PE department and they encouraged football. So we had a team and played other schools. I also joined Birmingham City Girls. It was a great privilege to play for such a big club.’
Jade has written about having ADHD. I was interested to know what effect that had had on her and on her football. Was she happy to talk about it? ‘Yes.’ Then she thought for a moment before continuing. ‘I realise now that I haven’t actually spoken about it before, and I think I should have. I doubt many of the parents of the kids who come to the football sessions know. I was only diagnosed as an adult; but I always knew there was something not quite right with me. School was a challenge, apart from sport and football, and I found concentrating in lessons hard. After being diagnosed, it all made sense.’
Has her condition affected her football? ‘Definitely; I got annoyed when things didn’t
go right on the field; when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to; but , at the same time, having football in my life has grounded me. If that was taken away, I’d find it difficult to cope without it.’
I commented that many people talk about their disability or their condition, like ADHD, as their super power. Is ADHD hers?
‘A hundred per cent. I definitely use it to my advantage. It’s helped me in lots
of ways to be where I am today. It’s another reason I think I should have spoken out more. There will be parents and carers of the children who come to football, and our other outreach sessions, who I know will think that because their child has ADHD, or some other learning need, they won’t go far in life. My answer to them is ‘Look at me! I’ve got ADHD and I run my own business!’
Our chat had naturally moved on to Jade’s business, J G Clinic. How and when did it happen?
‘I’d had jobs but none of them had grabbed me in the way football had. I continued to play football and I did my initial coaching qualification. I coach Bournville FC U16s, who are about to become U18s. I’ve coached them since they were seven. I’ve got a couple from that team still with me. We’ve had some success. I became aware of football clinics and thought to myself ‘I could do that.’ So I did the research and in 2019 opened JG Clinic.’
At this point I commented that it wasn’t the best time to
start a business with what came next. ‘We survived. There was really only six months when it was difficult, but we had support from the Government.’
So what’s the philosophy behind JG Clinic?
‘We’re not out to turn the kids into the next Lionel Messi or Leah Williamson. We’re more about giving them the opportunity; and it’s for all ages and all abilities. We want them to have fun.’ Here I have to declare an interest. My nine year-old grandson is one of those kids. He’ll never set the world on fire with his footballing skills, but he gets a real kick out of attending camps and working on those skills and socialising and, well, having fun. The coaches love it, too. They have a heart for kids, whoever they are, and it shows. I shared these thoughts with Jade, and she accepted them modestly; but that’s who she is.
We moved onto Jade’s own football career. She’s the captain of Redditch United Women. It’s a challenging role, but one she enjoys.
‘It’s about putting your arm around the shoulders of one of the younger players and giving them that encouragement; especially after a bad game.’
There were a few of those during the season. Changes of personnel, including managers, have not helped.
‘It’s not been the best season; so I’m hoping for a better one later in the year.’
Talking about poor seasons and changes of manager brought the conversation round to Jade’s other team, Tottenham Hotspur. Understandably, she pulled a face. It’s not been pretty. Why Spurs?
‘Although I played for Birmingham, I wasn’t interested in supporting them. That might sound
strange; but I liked David Ginola and I tried to play like him when I was practicing in the park.’
Our time was coming to an end, so one final topic: Her Game Too. How important are initiatives like HGT?
‘Very important; it’s amazing what Her Game Too has achieved so far. That they’ve got
involved with the big clubs is great; and to see male players with the logo on their shirts is also great. But it will be needed until the world changes a lot more as far as girls, women and football are concerned. As the coach of a boys’ team, I’ve been on the receiving end of abuse; and I’ve had all the usual comments we read about. So, like I said, there needs to be an even bigger change before Her Game Too won’t be needed.’
And that was that. It was just left to me to thank Jade for her time. ‘Thank you for the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed it; and I’m excited to read the article.’
If you’d like to find out more about Jade and JG Clinic here are the links you’ll need: