International Women’s Day: Madeleine Szwed

Thursday 8 March 2018 is International Women’s Day and a time to encourage collective action for driving gender equality.

The theme is #PressforProgress, a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

At Palace for Life Foundation, we have been hearing from some of the women from the CPFC family who #PressforProgress in their everyday lives and careers.

Madeleine Szwed’s started training with the Palace Pumas in 2016 while her daughter was at her own football training. She enjoyed the sessions so much that she decided to study for her FA Level One coaching qualification. Backed by Palace for Life Foundation, Madeleine is now fully qualified and coaches her daughter’s U13 team in Caterham.

Madeleine Szwed

When you were younger, was it easy to find an opportunity to play sport with other girls?

During my Primary School years football was only ever played by the boys in the playground and the girls almost forbidden from getting involved. Going to an all-girls High School you would think there would have been opportunities to play sport or football but it wasn’t really encouraged other than during PE lessons and wasn’t advertised, and even then football was never an activity option. I’ve always been active and discovered a love for water-skiing and wakeboarding which I had to stop due to injury, but certainly in my younger years there wasn’t a great deal of opportunity.

What challenges (if any) have you faced as a woman in your career and life?

I’ve had a variety of jobs since leaving school and college and now work as a Fire Safety Manager for a Fire and Rescue Service. Even though it’s a predominately male dominated environment I have never faced any challenges because I’m a woman. By having knowledge and confidence in your subject is key within any role as well as being able to reflect and improve. When I discovered a love for playing football about two years ago, Palace for Life Foundation supported me in completing my Level 1 football coaching course where I was one of two women on a course intake of 18 people, all with a greater knowledge of football than me. I then joined the coaching team for Caterham Pumas U14 Girls who my daughter plays for and I am one of two female coaches for the well-established local football club.

Despite me feeling a bit anxious as I was very new to football and being a woman, both during the course and me joining Caterham Pumas FC, I was made to feel incredibly welcome. Being a woman wasn’t an issue and this new part of my life is something I thoroughly enjoy and find very rewarding and I actively encourage others to get involved.

The slogan for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress. How do you #PressforProgress for girls and women in your everyday life?

I’m a strong believer in following your dreams and working hard to achieve them and no matter what stage in your life or your circumstances, new achievements are always possible. I often reflect on the last two years where I’ve had to deal with some very personal challenges but yet discovered a love for football (playing and coaching) that I never thought possible. I have a demanding full-time career and life is generally manic, but I acknowledge that it’s vital for my health and well-being to make time for myself and playing or coaching football for me is my escape time from everything else going on. I encourage my U14 Girls to work hard, be confident, positive and also try to teach them to reflect. Through that and my involvement with the Women’s Recreational Football, I’m showing and encouraging others that anything is possible when you put your mind to it and apply yourself. Being a woman and a full-time working mum I have to be different things to different people and it’s easy for us women to neglect ourselves.

My #PressForProgress is to be a good role model to the younger female generation and to encourage everyone in my life that if you want something badly enough, if you work hard, show courage, strength and determination, you can achieve it and at the same time, it’s ok to be a bit selfish sometimes and put yourself first.