Lewis: All-female Phoenix coaching staff a “massive” step for visibility in football

Gemma Lewis will take the reins as Wellington Phoenix head coach in the club's inaugural A-League Women campaign;  an inspiring appointment which helps to set a record for female representation in the competition's coaching ranks.

Aided by assistant coach Natalie Lawrence in the league’s second all-female coaching staff (along with Canberra United), Lewis takes the current number of female head coaches in the league to four - the most of any season in the history of both the A-League Women (formerly W-League) and Women's National Soccer League (WNSL: 1996-2004).

To be leading a coaching staff eager to improve the visibility of women in all positions in the game is a story Lewis says she couldn’t have scripted better herself.

“It’s pretty amazing to do something to be able to create a little bit of history,” Lewis said.

“We look towards our careers… and it’s kind of a really good next step for us, but to also be something that is a first time for New Zealand, and to be on that journey along with players and things like that as well is something that makes it all the more special and important.

"I think I couldn’t have really written the story better if I tried. I’m excited about it, and it does definitely mean a lot. 

“(Visibility) is definitely something we continually work on in New Zealand, and to be honest the world. It’s still something that needs to improve, and I think female coaches being involved and us being able to improve that visibility is massive.

It shows that there is a pathway, there are opportunities. It can become a career, you can take it down that professional route.

That only comes with exposure and visibility, and people being able to see that and to know that it’s actually an option and something that’s sustainable and something you can work towards.

“This and the Phoenix investing in us and New Zealand football, has meant that we’re able to build that visibility within New Zealand football.”

READ: Wellington Phoenix appoint Lewis as first A-League Women’s Head Coach

Gemma Lewis
Lewis will take charge of the Phoenix in the club's inaugural A-League Women season

Lewis, a former Welsh international, found her pathway into coaching through New Zealand Football, serving as an assistant in New Zealand U17’s bronze medal winning side at the 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay, and assistant coach for the senior side at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France.

Lewis has spent the past two years overseeing the New Zealand Football’s Future Ferns Domestic Program (FFDP) whilst serving as head coach of the U20 national side.

The incumbent Phoenix boss will be assisted by Lawrence who has her own outstanding footballing CV. A former New Zealand U20 assistant coach and educator/mentor at New Zealand football, Lawrence has gathered coaching experience in the USA, Canada and New Zealand, and takes her place alongside Lewis in an exciting Phoenix coaching staff eager to foster the talent possessed in young footballers set to thrive under their tutelage.

Lawrence says it’s an exciting new chapter in her coaching career, one which has taken years of planning and patience to finally come to fruition.

“This has been many, many years in the making,” Lawrence said. “Having been involved with football in New Zealand for a number of years, this is definitely the icing on top of the cake.

“From many years of hard work through ourselves, the players, New Zealand football and the Phoenix, it’s really, really exciting, it’s an honour to be a part of something historical and personally I can’t wait to get on the field and get started.

“For us, we were told on Friday we’d be only the second all-female coaching staff (in the league). I think to Gemma’s point earlier on, you have to see it to believe you can do it. 

“This really aligns with some programs we’ve been doing anyway with female coach mentorship, just that whole visibility of women’s football, (that) you can be a professional player but you can also be a professional coach. 

"I think for us, we feel really excited to be part of that, because eventually we want to have female coaches sat here and just be called coaches, and it’s not an exception, it’s something that’s more normalised.

“We know we’re not there yet, but we feel really passionately about helping - especially in New Zealand, and New Zealand females - get to that point.”