She may not fit the stereotypical mould of an elite football coach – but at just 24, Natalie Henderson is used to challenging people’s perceptions.

Young, determined and talented

As part of the Premier League’s Elite Coach Apprenticeship Scheme (ECAS), Natalie is already working full-time to inspire the next generation of footballing talent.

“I could never have imagined the experiences the Premier League would give me through ECAS; studying different sports and environments at the Lawn Tennis Association and Valencia FC, watching Tom Daley train and listening to speakers from the SAS. Some of these opportunities may sound strange but all of them have proved very significant for myself and the other elite coaches to learn from.”

I could have never imagined the experiences the Premier League would give me through ECAS.”
Natalie Henderson, Newcastle United Academy
Natalie Henderson holding a ball in a goal

Feeling supported

From starting out at 14 as an eager volunteer at Newcastle United’s Girls’ Centre of Excellence, Natalie’s commitment ensured she quickly progressed. She became a Community Coach at Newcastle United FC aged 20 and was employed part-time at the Academy when she was selected to join ECAS last year. Natalie says that many people have helped and supported her success so far;

“It’s definitely not down to just one individual but Joe Joyce, our Academy manager, has been a massive support to me. His knowledge of the football industry is phenomenal but he is very open to new ideas and I really respect him for that. I hope to have his level of knowledge and expertise in the future.”

And whilst a big part of her role is to develop and inspire the youngsters coming through Newcastle United’s Academy, she has also been inspired by people she has met along the way.

“I once coached a teenage girl at the Women's Football Academy I ran who was from a disadvantaged background and spent a lot of time drinking on the streets of Newcastle. She didn’t care much about her education, football or friends. At the end of the season she was the most kind and caring team mate you could have wished for. She gained a Level 3 Qualification in sport and progressed as a footballer to have trials for Newcastle United Women and become Football Captain at her college. Her attitude to turning her life around reminded me why I became a coach.”