Jack Woodley – Professional Football Coach, working with children in and around Henley-on-Thames

My football journey

I’m Coach Jack Woodley, 25 years’ old and a UEFA B licensed professional football coach. I specialise in football education and coaching children aged 4 to 8, mainly in the Henley-on-Thames area. I am also involved in the continuous football development of children aged 9 to 13. I have coached teams at under 18, winning several trophies, and worked as a coach in Reading Football Club’s pre-Academy.  Long term I plan to progress my coaching/managerial career into adult football and the professional game.

Starting young

I am the older sibling of two. My younger brother Robson was also into football so there was always someone to play with. We were lucky to live at the end of a cul-de-sac and had a goal on our front garden and a quiet road with space in front of our house to play in. There were also lots of other families with children our age, but I was still the oldest.

When I was about 10, a parent of one of our friends said it was unfair on the other boys that I was bigger and better so I should only use my left foot when playing in the street. This meant I was able to develop my left side and can now just as comfortably take a free kick, corner or penalty with my left as with my right foot, as well as being able to dribble, pass and shoot with confidence with both feet!

Getting into teams

I started playing football very early, joining my local team when I was just 6.  I played for them right through my primary school years before making a move to another team in a higher league. This became a common them in my football journey. As I improved, I felt the need to move up a level and this continued until I was 18 years old. I played for Wantage in the Allied Counties league, the highest league that you can play in at that age, being in an academy or men’s first team. Unfortunately, I never made it into the academy system, but I still really enjoyed football with all the teams I played for.

Trying something different

Again, starting young, I took a referee’s course when I was 14 and was able to officiate at grassroots football matches on Saturdays and play for my team on Sundays. This was great, as I got paid, and I treated it as a job until I was 16. I would recommend it to anyone who is into football at that early age.

A lucky break

When I turned 15, I was lucky enough to meet Shelley Strange, my brother’s coach at Reading FC’s development centre.  One day I started helping out, collecting footballs and picking up cones. Week by week my responsibilities grew and then, a year later, after obtaining my level 2 coaching qualification, I started working for Shelley in AFC Henley’s Saturday Mini Soccer, where she was Head Coach.

Five years later, Shelley moved onwards and upwards as a coach at Reading FC but continued to mentor me, as I took over from her at AFC Henley. Now, Shelley is one of the top female coaches in the country, working in the male side of academy and professional football, but she still finds time to mentor me.


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