Turning a hobby into a job is an aspiration many hold when deciding upon their career path, and for PGMOL Sports Physiologist Vicky Smith, hard work paved the way for that to become a reality.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited, or PGMOL for short, were formed to improve refereeing standards across all EFL, FA and Premier League competitions. With Vicky’s interest in football initially coming in a playing capacity, it is no surprise that her career ambitions would follow a similar path.
A graduate of Birmingham University, Vicky studied Sport & Exercise Science before a two-year master’s degree in the same area gave her the platform to succeed in a fiercely competitive sporting industry.
With four years’ worth of experience at the elite level, Vicky’s main observation from her career to date is simple – the amount of women working within sport is quite rightly on the rise across all areas.
Vicky said: “There are more and more women moving into roles within sport, and the numbers may actually surprise a few people. Of course, there are still more men, but it is very encouraging to see the progress being made in recent years.
“The fact women are starting to filter through into roles is a positive change and we’ve just got to encourage people to not be daunted by that environment when they’re first starting out.
“I wouldn’t say I was daunted by the role myself, I was very keen and eager and grateful to be in any position. At St George’s Park there were many women already employed in senior roles, so that is inspirational from the get-go.”
Upon leaving university and gaining experience through work placements at the likes of Birmingham City and Aston Villa, Vicky gained her first break in the sporting world with Perform, who at the time were based at St George’s Park, the home to England’s 28 national teams.
A permanent position at West Bromwich Albion gave Vicky the opportunity of working alongside professional athletes on a day-to-day basis before she applied for her current role at PGMOL.
But how does a role working alongside players at a Premier League football club differ to that at the PGMOL?
“We meet officials within PGMOL, a specific example would be the Select Group 2 officials, who cover the Sky Bet Championship, on a training camp in which I am responsible for delivering all the fitness work and training. Obviously every individual is different, so it is a case of planning for their specific needs.
“This can be their nutritional work, or strength and conditioning, just to name a few areas. I am one piece of a big puzzle that does what it can to support the officials that take to the field on a matchday. Hopefully what we do in preparation can aid their performance – at least that is the aim!”
Whilst there is still improvement to be made, female employment within the sporting industry continues to increase year-on-year. So much so that Vicky admitted it doesn’t even enter her mind on a normal working day.
But, what are the next steps to ensure this trend continues, and more importantly improves across football and sport in general?
“I think we have to try and promote the opportunities available, starting whilst in education and at university. It is so important that you gain that experience as early as possible to enable you the best chance of succeeding.
“Regardless of what sport you start in, any elite exposure is going to take you on and improve you professionally. If we can continue to get the message out there about the opportunities available to women then more will want to try their hand in the area.”
Read this week's other inspirational stories from women in football below: