West Ham United’s first ever female coach Nicole Farley is forging a pathway with the support of the Premier League’s Coach Inclusion and Diversity Scheme (CIDS).
Farley is so dedicated to her role coaching the next generation of superstars at the West Ham Academy that it takes others to remind her she is a pioneer and an inspiration for other black women.
Speaking to VERSUS from the Hammers’ Academy of Football, which forged talents including Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Declan Rice, Nicole discussed how CIDS has benefited her and how she remains as ambitious and motivated as ever.
“People say I am a trailblazer. It’s great, but I don’t want to be a benchmark," she says. "I just see myself as a coach. To be respected for the work that I do is important. I deserve to be here.
“But to say I’m the first female coach [at West Ham] is incredible. My friends introduce me as that a lot and it completely goes past me. But if I sit back and reflect on it, that is quite a big thing, you know?”
The CIDS coaching scheme, which launched in 2020, is increasing the number of female coaches and male Black, Asian and mixed-heritage coaches in English professional football.
“A scheme like this is needed,” says Nicole. “I’ve been involved in coaching for 18 years now in part-time roles and I’m now embarking on a full-time journey. I think of where I am and if this scheme wasn’t available, I wouldn’t be doing this right now.
“The scheme has helped me to push myself out of my comfort zone and also given me a consolidation of what I already know. Showing that a place for me does exist within the industry and reaffirming my purpose – it’s been amazing.
“One thing about West Ham is that it is very diverse. It makes you feel like things are possible. My opinion is valid and valued.”
Nicole is a firm believer that background shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone.
“I think a coach is someone who is multi-skilled," she says. "You’re a mentor, teacher, educator, friend and more. You are there to aid young people and help them to be the best that they can be.
“There’s a bit about culture and relatability. Some things are unspoken but enable you to make connections.
“Everyone has a different experience. Mine is that I’ve come from a single-parent background. The journey hasn’t been easy, but my experiences lend themselves to aiding the boys here.
“At some point, I want to be with the first team – like how Ted Lasso works out! Most importantly, I just want to keep working with people.”
Photography from VERSUS