Coaches Corner: Charlotte Young
In the latest of our Coaches Corner series, we spoke former Brighton & Hove Albion player and coach Charlotte Young.
Charlotte has had quite the journey within football, a journey that began with her kicking a ball on the side of the pitch whilst her brother, Simon, played on a Sunday.
“Simon was that classic older brother who would stick me in goal when he was with his mates!” Charlotte says, smiling at the thought.
After initially joining a boys’ team in her early-teen years, Charlotte joined Ashdown Ladies when she was 16 spending a year there before diving straight into open-age football.
“I'm a quarter-four as well, born in July, but I was very tall, so going into women's football I didn't look out of place!
“I moved to play for Southampton when I was at college, as it was the easiest team for me to get to. I moved through clubs at University, just to wherever was closest to where I was living at the time.”
Charlotte describes her idol as Paul Ince growing up, remembering his bandaged, bloody head playing for England in the 90s. She aspired to go far in the game as a kid and remembers her idols from a female perspective.
“I was still aware of women's football; I had a signed Sue Smith picture that was given to me by a girl at Southampton. She was playing with England at the time, and I told her I loved Sue Smith, so she came back one day with that!
“As a family we spent a lot of summers in America and over there you learnt a lot more about women's football and we were there in and around the '99 World Cup. Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain were the big stars, and they won that World Cup.
“Kelly Smith was also very much on my radar as someone who had been very successful in America. I didn't know a huge amount about the players in England apart from Sue Smith because she'd made a World XI.”
Charlotte comes from an era which saw a lot of females make the move to America to play their football, something that she opted against and believes was the right decision.
“I had a scholarship lined up for America and tried to go over before I started college, but I didn't have a lot of support in terms of finding universities.
“Then when I was in my first year of university here, I was contacted by an American university offering me a scholarship, but I'd already done my first year here, I was playing for Reading which I enjoyed, so I just decided to stay.
“I didn't know at the time, but I was about a year away from getting in the England Under-23s and England University squads, so it probably was the right decision in hindsight.”
Playing was the main focus for Charlotte who was determined to make a name for herself. Coaching, however, did enter her radar.
“Coaching was very much an add-on to everything else I was doing. Whenever I went over to America I'd do a bit of coaching over there, when I was at Ashdown I'd often stay on and do extra sessions with younger kids.
“When I went to America during my first year of college I played for a bit in Boston, and someone said if I got my FA Level 1 then I could be paid to coach at soccer camps in the Summer.
“That's when I decided to dip my toe in the water with coaching, but I had never considered it as a pathway at the time, I was very much focused on playing.”
We caught Charlotte at a good time for this interview as she prepares for a new life in Australia, but still today she believes she’ll continue playing.
“I'm still not retired yet!” Charlotte exclaims, as she makes it very clear to us that she has more to give from a playing perspective.
“I will 100% try and play in Australia. I left Brighton four or five years ago before the Spring series in the WSL, because I got released.
“I went to Saltdean because I was doing my UEFA B License, and I needed an 11v11 team to coach at. I asked my friend Joe [McTiffen] who was manager, and basically said I'll play for you if I can do some coaching as well.
“It ended up that I'd gone from WSL to tier seven of football in that season! I definitely still have the passion for playing but it's not as serious, put it that way!”
During the back end of her time playing for Brighton, Charlotte played with a young Alessia Russo and her experience of playing with future Lionesses doesn’t end there.
“I was fortunate enough in my career to play with Fran Kirby, Ellen White, a lot of the more experienced ones from that team. Jill Scott I played against when I was younger, and she actually broke my nose - accidental of course.
“Alessia Russo was at Brighton during the Spring series, she had just signed for us before going out to America. You could tell what a talented player she was, very technical, and what I would say was part of that new generation coming through that had the technical grounding.
“The older generation didn't have that same technical coaching from a young age, until we were much older, and experienced coaches of the more elite level.
“When we were younger there wasn't enough of those coaches. Arsenal had some very good coaches, Chelsea started to as well, and of course the England national team did.
“Unless you were in those teams though you didn't always have access to it. We missed so much technical development in that sense. When I saw Alessia come through, it really cemented the fact that coaching in the women’s game had obviously improved.
“Whilst she was very raw in a lot of other areas, she'd had that grounding, so you knew, from the experience in the WSL, and going to America, that she was going to be an unbelievable player. I'm so glad she's now done it on the national stage.”
Being released from Brighton was hard to take for Charlotte but was lucky she had already done her FA Level 1 and 2 as it set her up nicely for her next career path.
“My FA Level 1 and 2 were done in Oxfordshire, I had Mark Hainey for both of those and they were done in very quick succession (2010 & 2012) because I needed the Level 1 to go to America.
“Then when I got back, the tutor from the Level 1 said that I should really go for the Level 2 because he thought I was good enough to go for it.
“There was a significant gap between my Level 2 and B License because playing just took over. I stayed on at university and did a masters as well. At the time I was playing for England Under-23s and just super busy.
“I was living away from home at the time where I was doing all these training programmes I needed to do with England Under-23s, but I also needed to make a living.
“I think coaching and teaching go hand-in-hand; everything that underpins what I do well in coaching, is what I do well in teaching and vice versa.
“Obviously there are different aspects of what you teach and what you coach, but the foundations of the four-corner model, how you know your players, how you get a rapport with players, how you organise sessions, I've learnt so much from that which goes into teaching.
“I passed my teaching in 2012 and worked at Dorothy Stringer in Brighton for five years, and then I moved to Thomas Bennett College in Crawley to work on their football academy.
“What was happening during this period saw my playing days start to become limited. I suffered being released from Brighton, which was really, really tough.
“That year was the first time I realised I needed to consider my options, I still wanted to be in football, so I jumped straight onto the B Licence. That's when I joined Saltdean while I did that, and then when I did my A Licence I went to Crawley Wasps in tier 3.”
The B Licence though was the making of Charlotte from a coaching perspective and she tells us of those that influenced her along the way.
“I loved the B Licence, I was so lucky, I had Chris Jones, Matt Dunn, and Mark Leigh, then Ted Dale dropped in. That really underpinned my drive to want to coach at a higher level. The detail that they went into, Ted really stretched me on the questions he'd ask me, how I looked at the game.
“Level 1 and Level 2 gives you a good grounding as to what you want to do but the B Licence and A Licence was really where I learnt and applied the tactical side of things.
“I had a coach at Southampton called Mick Cracknell, and I was just a 16/17-year-old player but he came in and started talking about plyometrics and how I moved my body, how I landed, deacceleration. I remember talking to my dad on the way home saying like who is this guy, why are we learning about this stuff?!
“I was lucky to move to Reading as well with a coach called Brian Lackey, and he was the first coach, along with Mick, that went into that detail with me.
“Brent Hills, at England, was very good, and I actually had Laura Harvey there as well, who has had a lot of success with the USA Women's National Team and is now OL Reign manager.
“She was actually the first female coach I had along with Mo Marley in the England setup. So, it took me until national team level to see a female coach!
“I loved everything about how Laura delivered her sessions, and I always came off excited to go back the next day. There was just something about her humour, the way she got her technical detail over, but do it in a way that was so charismatic.
“We were all 21/22-years-old, and she wasn't that much older! But you automatically got that rapport with her. She's now heavily successful in the women's game in America, which is amazing.”
It wasn’t always an easy ride for Charlotte entering the coaching world, but she has let her knowledge and ability do the talking.
“A lot of the time I was at Dorothy Stringer, I coached male players, so my early years coaching there I didn't coach female players. The first set of female players I coached was at Saltdean in 2018. My Level 1 was in 2010 so it was about eight years until I coached female players.
“It was really challenging because I was going into environments that were male-dominated. I was coaching Sussex Schools and Brighton Schools, and I was taking boys teams and going to games where the opposition coach would go and shake hands with my assistant because they didn't think I was involved with the team.
“I had a lot of parents questioning why a female was taking their son for county football, I had a fixture where a referee came and asked if I was the physio and would be massaging the boys at half-time. I said, 'no I'm actually a B Licence coach and the manager of Sussex Schools Under-16s.' He acted very surprised to hear that!
“That was the grounding of me in football though because I was always getting second-guessed, and you know you have to be on it with your detail and what you say to players because you feel like you're always being judged.
“Luckily for me, I worked with some incredible players during that time, some of whom are now playing under Adam [Hinshelwood] at Worthing, who are heavily successful.
“I still see some of those players and they will always come and say hello. You then realise it doesn't really matter what other people's opinions are, it just matters what your players think.”
Luckily for Charlotte, there are endless amounts of career highs that she can talk to us about. “This last year I took my college team to the national cup, and we were able to play our game at the Doncaster Rovers stadium (Keepmoat), that was amazing.
“Some of the venues we went to with Sussex Schools was incredible, and also getting Saltdean from tier 7 to tier 6, I know that doesn't sound much, but me and Joe had a really successful and fun season with that team.
“Just recently with Brighton we've had players that have gone on to international duty, Libby Bance has now progressed to the first team under Hope, and she was an under-16 with me.
“Brighton's Under-21 squad faced Portsmouth at Fratton Park recently and that was made up of the majority of players that progressed through the U16s at Brighton, so it’s great so see a pathway for them.
“Just seeing them playing in front of 3,000 fans when they're 16-years-old, is the stuff of dreams when I was a kid, and they are now doing it regularly. The direction the game has gone is incredible; these girls have so many opportunities now and I kept telling them how lucky they all are.
“These girls are now training at an excellent new facility at Brighton, which is dedicated just to them, and they're now going out and seeing thousands of fans watch their games, it's just so good.”
In any interview around women’s football, it’s rare the name Hope Powell doesn’t get mentioned. Charlotte was close to playing under her but was even more delighted to coach under her.
“She has this incredible aura about her;” she says, remembering her first encounter with the former Lionesses manager.
“I have to give a special mention to Hope, because anyone who has been in and around the women's game will know how important that woman has been to the growth of the game.
“I came across Hope when I was in the England Under-23s. Hope came to watch us against USA at Bisham Abbey, and I remember the whole team went silent as she walked across the pitch. I had never met her before and she walked past, friendly enough, said hello, and then I realised the affect she had.
“She came in during my first year at Brighton and came to watch me coach. It was possibly one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I've had!
“I was a B Licence coach at the time, not been working at Brighton for very long, then Hope walks in and starts watching! She doesn't watch for very long; she very much throws herself into the session.”
Brighton & Hove Albion Women have their own training facility now, separate to the men’s and Charlotte tells us of how that transition went.
“When I first went to Brighton we were training at Falmer, but where it is now with our own building and a receptionist on the desk as you walk in, seeing the changing rooms, boot rooms, it's amazing.
“Tony Bloom, Paul Barber, Hope Powell, Perry Northeast, there's so many people I can mention behind the scenes that have been instrumental in this happening.
“Even back in the day with George Parris, and people like that, there's so many people that have wanted the club to do well within the women's game, and that's the reason why it's got the grounding it has now.
“It's such a positive club to be around and for me as a coach, it was so instrumental in the last two or three years, working with exceptionally good players, but also in an environment that's elite.”
Charlotte is now a UEFA A Licence coach and explains to us what the experience gave her as a person and coach.
“Just before COVID, I did my A Licence. I was lucky enough to have bursaries for my B and A Licence, I was on a Betfair bursary for my B Licence and a female one for the A Licence.
“The A Licence is the most enjoyable thing I have done over the last few years, very challenging! What they require from you is super challenging.
“I had some fantastic tutors, Rich Horner, Matthew Bish, Matthew Joseph, Amy Price, just brilliant tutors that want the game to go as big as it can do whether it's women or men.”
Charlotte epitomises the fact that hard-work can get you anywhere. She’s faced barriers that she broke down, and leaves England with a lasting impact on the women’s game and those she has coached.
Lastly, Charlotte spoke to us about her newest role as a tutor and where that leaves her future aspirations.
“I still want to continue tutoring and move to tutoring on the B Licences and A Licences. I think if I continued in England that would have been the next step.
“I have always had quite strong aspirations to work within the national team pathway. I've worked briefly in national talent camps, which do the pre-Lionesses, where we worked with the girls coming through at sort of under-15s/16s level.
“I'd like to have done more of that and continue to work with The FA, but who knows maybe it will be the Australian national team now!
“I like to pick apart tactics on how a team might play or setup, I love that side of things. We did a lot of great analytical stuff on the A Licence, and I liked that aspect of the game and how you might break them down.”
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