Years of training and voluntary football coaching have helped Prestwood teenager Laura Bradley land a plum job as she embarks on a careeer as a sports coach.
The 19-year-old was inspired by Lisa Welling of Chesham United Ladies, who is the Bucks girls and women’s football development officer - but now Laura in turn is becoming a leadership role model, showing just what girls can do if they stick with their passion.
She loves all sports - "at school I did everything I could" - but football is her main game and it has been her pathway to her chosen profession.
It’s been a long trail and a lot of hard work from starting football aged eight with Prestwood Girls to taking on the job this week as community sport coach with Chiltern District Council.
Two years after she began at Prestwood the girls’ section was in danger of closing. Laura said: "The girls’ manager and coach had both left the club and Prestwood were unable to find other volunteers to take over."
But along came Lisa Welling, who herself was told at the age of 11 she had to stop playing football and didn’t take it up again until she was 24.
Lisa doesn’t want to see any more young girls have to give up the sport they love, and she and Sian Williams came to the rescue from Chesham United.
The Prestwood girls went from strength to strength, eventually becoming part of the Meadow club which gained Charter Standard accreditation.
Laura steadily progressed as a player, in the position of goalkeeper from U12 to her first season of senior football.
Three years ago she moved up to Chesham Ladies’ reserve team, playing a higher level of football, and now plays in the key positions of left back or left wing back.
Meanwhile the Misbourne School student was encouraged to develop her leadership skills. When still 15 she attended the JFO (Junior Football Organisers) course, which enabled her to plan safe sessions and run football tournaments.
As soon as she turned 16 she completed her FA Level One in football coaching and volunteered to assist the U12 training at Chesham, where she would take a warm-up and help within the main part of the session.
"In the summer of 2006 I got the chance to go to Wales for a midweek trip and complete my CSLA (Community Sports Leadership Award)," Laura said.
"I spent the week planning and delivering coaching sessions with a group of people like myself who wanted to become young coaches."
The CSLA programme included 50 hours of voluntary work within the sporting sector, which she completed with the Bucks Action 4 Youth organisation while studying for the National Diploma in Sport Development and Fitness at the Berkshire College of Agriculture in Maidenhead.
It was a very busy period and did much to test Laura’s vocation.
"I volunteered for two hours a week coaching children under the age of 12 multi-sports within a safe environment and also continued coaching for Chesham two nights a week," she said.
"In addition to that I got work covering sessions for Chiltern and Wycombe District Councils."
In 2007 Laura took her coaching up to the next step and was able to access a free Level Two course in Surrey with other female coaches.
She paid tribute to the help and encouragement given to her: "I received mentoring from the Bucks Girls Football League and higher level coaches at Chesham United Ladies FC, and by the summer of 2008 I managed to pass my Level Two."
Now able to lead sessions, she took on Chesham’s U10 girls’ section, gaining valuable experience in recruiting, managing and coaching.
On leaving college Laura joined Bucks Sport where she had a part-time job coaching within local schools.
"I had to promote girls’ and women’s football and link talented participants into their local club. This was great as I was coaching every day with mixed ability girls, providing them with enjoyable sessions."
The position of community sport coach with Chiltern came up just when Laura needed to think about working full-time.
She took the chance with relish - and was offered the job after impressing with her skills and coaching ability.
While continuing to manage Chesham U10s and play for the reserves, who are second in their table, Laura said she can’t wait to start her work in local schools after half-term when she will be coaching multi-sports, mainly in primary schools.
As well as football, this includes basketball, hockey, rugby and agility skills.
Nobody could be more delighted for her than Lisa Welling. "She’s worked her socks off over the years and she thoroughly deserves it," she said.
Chesham United Ladies are recruiting at all ages, including seniors. Contact Lisa Welling on 07958 342693 or via the website culfc.co.uk.