It’s 2007, you’re ten years old and you’ve just made a deal with your best pal, swapping panini cards perhaps? Trading your Premier League Top Trumps? Not if you’re Alix Todd from AT Coaching, she was dabbling in her own version of the local transfer market when she struck up a pact during an FC Bracknell tournament: “My best friend at the time wanted me to join her at Ascot, so we made a deal. If Ascot got further than Bracknell in the tournament, I had to attend an Ascot training session and vice versa for her if Bracknell went further.
“In our head-to-head fixture we actually drew, but overall Ascot went one round further.”
Alix went on to explain that the Vipers team she’d joined two years earlier, unfortunately, folded that season so she made the move to Ascot Diamonds regardless. Prior to this, she’d just been kicking a ball about in the playground with the boys, a classic girl’s introduction to football.
The Diamonds too succumbed to folding as they struggled for numbers and Alix once again found herself looking for a new club, she made the move to California, now Eversley & California. She continued to train with Ascot, but was unable to play due to the age restriction. But as soon as she turned 16, she dual-signed and would play for California in the morning and rush to Ascot’s fixture in the afternoon. A far cry from the playground run around, Alix was considering her post-16 options and trialled for Berkshire’s very own John Madejski Academy having dreamed of playing for Reading as a kid. A second trial ensued and current Reading manager, Kelly Chambers, pulled Alix for a chat at the end of the session, she was convinced she’d blown her chances, “I assumed she was going to say I hadn’t got in and was fully prepared to hold back the tears and act strong”.
Quite the opposite as Alix would join the U16’s squad for the final two months of their season. And what a squad it was, with the likes of Fran Kirby and Grace Moloney in the side, all whilst being coached by Chambers, Phil Cousins and the at the time manager and Arsenal legend, Jayne Ludlow.
Alix speaks fondly of her time at JMA and the talent she was surrounded by, “I honestly lived the dream, I lived, ate, slept, and breathed football, we trained every day at least once, and had matches coming out of our ears”.
University is the first proper taste of coaching Alix encountered as she put her Level 2 badge into action as she began her studies at Bucks New and she didn’t mess about coaching the squad to win the regional BUCS Cup in her first year in charge. She continues to coach the team now, but talks of the challenges that naturally come with an ever-evolving squad: “Every year brings new players, and for us each year meant less and less players. We have had to adapt and adjust entering Berks and Bucks social leagues, playing futsal or 5 a-side in place of BUCS competitions”. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, Alix joined Wycombe Ladies in the same year she did her Masters in Philosophy and was part of the promotion-winning setup.
Fast forward to the summer of 2020 and Alix, like so many others, found herself furloughed from her university job. She missed the joy that coaching so often brought her and began by as she puts it, “dragging my brother out with me” and despite some initial reluctance “he was hesitant to start but he loved it, even though the fitness drills were killing him”, all came good in the end and “he loved the intensity and challenge of each session that he often didn’t feel even at his club’s team sessions”.
From there the idea of setting up her own coaching company, AT Coaching was born with Alix offering 1-2-1 and small group football sessions, “attempting to assist footballers of all levels to achieve their goals, whether that be improving fitness, building strength, and developing tactical and technical aspects of the game.”
She prides herself on tailoring each session to the individual player, focussing on their “objectives, needs and position”. She’s seen growth in every aspect of the role, in terms of equipment, clients and her own professional development.
Alix is all about “maximising the time players spend on the ball”, so what does a typical session look like? “When at an ATFC session, unless the player’s objectives and desires require something else entirely, then the session will consist of 2-3 high intensity drills, focusing on key components, from ball mastery, to first touch, passing, turning, and many other technical components. But even more importantly for me, each drill the players partake in will have some recognisability and some transferability to the position they play. For example, we may simply be working on a passing and turning drill, but I will always try and provide a picture of where on the pitch these actions would take place for them, allowing them to visualise and eventually replicate those actions on the pitch.”
It was only a matter of time before AT Coaching would make the crossover with Ascot United as Alix contacted manager Darrel Evans and told him she was “back in Berkshire, eager to coach a team and happy to shadow and support any of the girls or ladies teams if they needed any assistance” and as anyone who knows Darrel will know, he’s the most accommodating of managers and invited Alix along to the next training session where Alix was able to observe and as she puts it, “just like that I was back at Ascot”.
Alix has slotted in effortlessly as one of three coaches within the women’s section of Ascot, leading their Monday sessions and a part of the Wednesday slot too. As well as aiding the senior sides, Alix has got stuck in with the club’s Wildcats set up and loves “supporting the excellent coaches inspiring young girls to begin their football journey”.
When asked what Alix thought about the development and growth of women’s football, she talked fondly of a time on holiday in Cape Verde during the 2019 Women’s World Cup, “I couldn’t believe my eyes when there was actually a crowd developing in the hotel bar to watch the game against the USA, even that far away from home, on holiday, people wanted to watch the Lionesses play football.” But for Alix, it’s clear that the job isn’t done and made reference to a number of women defying the odds by getting involved in the men’s game. Sian Massey officiating in the Premier League, Renate Blindheim, the first female manager to manage a professional Norwegian men’s football team, Sotra, Nia Davies, the first full-time female football coach at a Premier League academy at Swansea City, Corinne Diacre, who became the first woman to manage in the top two tiers of a men’s European League when managing French team, Clermont Foot and Imke Wübbenhorst who took over the management of the men’s team at BV Cloppenburg in Germany.
Since setting up AT Coaching, she’s been “amazed by how many talented females there are, how supportive the network of coaches you can make at the click of a button is, and finding accounts like the Women’s Football in Berkshire one, it’s incredible how much the female game has grown just from when I was a youth player, so I can’t wait to see where we are in another 10 years time!”
If you’re interested in booking a session with AT Coaching, you can contact Alix on the following social media platforms:
All new clients for January and February are entitled to receive their first session free!