Coaching was the last thing on Nana Ama’s mind when she got admitted into Ashesi, much less coaching a men’s football team.
However, in her second year at Ashesi, she inspired an undefeated, championship run from a team that, only a few months before, was virtually in last position in the Ashesi Premier League, a student-run football league.
“This was completely new territory,” she said, on taking the job. “However, I felt I needed to step outside my comfort zone. Though I've played football all my life, this demanded more of my mind, and not as much of my feet. I love football and I also love to interact and work with equally passionate people, and the Elites football club has very disciplined and dedicated football players, so I felt I could work with the team. Also, football, like any other sports, teaches you important life lessons of team work, passion and dedication.”
After taking the job as head coach of the Elites football club and a mediocre first season, she had to channel some of these lessons into the second season. She learned that winning involved a mix of many little different pieces of life lessons into her game plan.
“I recognised that I don’t know everything about football, and more especially about coaching boys,” she explained. “There was the initial questioning of my tactical formation and strategy, so I decided to learn; I read online, watched YouTube videos and got myself well versed into coaching. As a philosophy, I rarely make impositions: rather, I open-up to suggestions, so in the end, we build a plan that is created and designed by the team. My job then, is to help execute this plan. I also built a support system for the team: creating a marketing wing and a fan club. This way, I worked to earn trust of the team.”
Though she was new to coaching, football was by no means new to her. Growing up, Nana Ama was exposed to football at an early age. Her earliest playmates; her cousins and brother, mostly played only football, so there was little choice for her when she wanted to play with someone else.
“As a toddler, I would cry because I couldn’t play with my rough and rowdy cousins and brother when they played football,” she said. “Eventually they decided to teach me to play football, and that was goodbye to dolls and teddy bears for me. In time, my dad became my personal trainer and coach, helping me hone my skills, and my mum was always in the stands to support me emotionally and psychologically. That's how I got into it; and finding it fun and relaxing, I stayed in it.”
[Nana Ama (left), and her dad, after winning a football tournament in 2012]
Over time, Nana Ama grew as a footballer, playing on her high school and travel teams. To her, football became more than just a sport, it taught her some important life skills.
“Sports is about discipline, and the more you work hard, the more you improve and more successful you become,” she explained. “For me, these lessons translate into my everyday life. Sports in general has helped me practically understand the importance of team work. And this runs through all the sports I have participated in: handball, cricket, basketball, football and athletics. Even javelin and table tennis are not all about an individual - you will be chosen to represent a team.”
While she looks to repeat the success next season, she also hopes to not only help with development of sports at Ashesi, but also that her role will encourage more girls to take up sports and sporting roles.
“For women in traditionally male dominated roles, I think there is sometimes low expectation because society may think very little of them. In some cases however, expectations are high because people wonder what that female could possibly do that a male can’t do,” she said. “So if you desire to be in such a position then you just have to make good use of both the positive and negative energies around you to make something extraordinary happen. I don't think it should be about proving a point necessarily, but most importantly, to show your dedication and love for what you do.”