England and Arsenal legend Rachel Yankey is working as a ‘Confidence Coach’ to inspire the next generation of female footballers.
Yankey delivered a moving Team Talk at the Gatorade’s 5v5 all-female tournament, where she revealed she cut her hair and went by the name of Ray to be accepted into the local boy’s football team. This disguise helped her confidence blossom.
The England legend shared how her first ever football coach, a painter and decorator, developed her self-belief and helped her feel part of a team.
Gatorade launched the first video in its ‘Team Talk’ series featuring former England and Arsenal icon Rachel Yankey.
The video marks Yankey’s role as one of Gatorade’s new team of ‘Confidence Coaches,’ a move which comes in response to new data revealing that a lack of self-esteem in teenagers is preventing their participation in grassroots sports.
In the emotive video, Yankey is captured addressing a group of young footballers about the first team she played for as an eight-year-old in Kilburn, north-west London.
Yankey said: “I became involved because I have always been keen on grassroots football and I have always worked, whilst playing, in primary schools and with grassroots schemes.
“Gatorade asked me to go out and be a confidence coach for the girls and highlight and understand that there are different barriers between girls and boys when it comes to football.
“That is especially true at different ages, when you are in primary schools, the barriers are different to when you are at secondary school.
“Some of the girls were really good players, some of them had probably not played football very much, but this tournament was for them to go and have fun.”
Yankey’s story is needed now, more than ever before. In 2023, Gatorade took steps to identify the barriers that teens face when playing, starting, or staying in sports, by surveying over 2,500 parents of 13-17-year-olds.
Over four in 10 people (41%) agreed that a lack of confidence or self-esteem was a barrier, while 44% reported that a lack of visible and relatable role models also contributed to the problem.
“It’s worrying to see the number of young people give up sport and cite a lack of confidence as the reason.” Yankey said. “No one sails through life without experiencing periods when your self-belief and confidence are rock bottom.
“My manager in the boys’ team was a painter and decorator. He just laid on sessions and made a safe space for the team to play. The confidence is built by somebody giving you the ball and allowing you to play, so as a youngster you play within a team and feel valued by your teammates.”
Gatorade is committed to fueling everyone forward, regardless of individual sporting ability. This purpose is the driving force behind Gatorade 5v5, the annual grassroots tournament, where Yankey issued her moving Team Talk.
The annual five-a-side competition for 14- to 16-year-olds is now in its sixth year, however the 2023 tournament marked the second year the brand has conducted an all-women’s contest.
The tournament featured nine female teams from across the Netherlands, including young talent from Eindhoven AFC.
Each team fought hard to qualify for the final and to represent their local communities on a global stage.
Legendary Dutch team Cruyff Academy from Tillburg lifted the trophy and were crowned champions following the unique tournament in Eindhoven, the day before the UEFA Women’s Champions League final.
“The stats we have released today demonstrate that there is a crisis of confidence in grassroots football,” said Robert Blythe, PepsiCo’s Senior Director, Sports, and Hydration.
“As young people grapple with self-belief, it has never been more important to unlock the power of sport to help them tackle challenges both on and off the pitch.
“The Gatorade 5v5 tournament is a fantastic opportunity for budding players to build their confidence whilst highlighting their passion and dedication for the game. Over 126,000 young people from around the world have taken part in the initiative since its inception, allowing the next generation to develop their team skills, build self-belief, and most importantly, have fun!”