An Interview with Lindsay Johnson, our Director of Sport and Former Lioness

November 24, 2023

Former Lioness defender Lindsay Johnson has been appointed Director of Sport at Withington Girls’ School.

Ms Johnson’s illustrious football career saw her play for both Liverpool FC, followed by 12 years at Everton, alongside representing the country in the iconic England Women’s football team from 2004 to 2011, where she gained 43 international caps for the Lionesses.

After 15 years as an Assistant Head at a Liverpool school, she is now heading up Withington’s Sports Department. And with Withington having, earlier this year, achieved its highest ever ranking in School Sports magazine at 43rd place nationally out of 200 schools, Ms Johnson said she has been ‘impressed by the sporting pedigree and overall reputation of the school’ and aims ‘to help build an even stronger Sports proposition for pupils’.

What have been your first impressions of Withington and its Sports department and facilities? 

It’s been a very busy start but also a pleasure to get to know everyone. I’ve been struck by the girls’ enthusiasm for giving 100% effort in lessons, as well as their extracurricular sessions. WGS has impressive sporting facilities and a wide-ranging offering for pupils, and we are now developing a longer-term strategy to ensure a compelling whole school proposition. We believe that PE should stand for ‘positive experience’ for everyone, so ensuring balance between striving for excellence in elite competitions and general pupil participation remains the primary focus.

What is the importance of sport in a setting as academic as Withington and how can it help overall development?

In an ever-changing society, the values that sport teaches us are more important than ever. Skills learnt through sport include teamwork, communication, leadership, respect for others and self – these underpin everything Withington stands for and equip our students for their future beyond school. It is also important to learn how to lose yet remain resilient.

At Withington, physical exercise and sport are an integral part of pupil and staff wellbeing. How will you actively encourage ALL to participate and engage with sport?

Health and wellbeing are critical for a successful and enjoyable life. I firmly believe that there is at least one physical activity that each of us can enjoy.  The current extra curriculum offering is broad and appeals to a wide range of interests. It’s not limited to traditional games, but includes yoga, dance and fitness.  However, we are always open to new ideas.

What have you taken from your football days into education – and specifically into Withington?

Enjoyment is key to succeeding within a sporting environment and is so important in encouraging ongoing participation. Effective teamwork is also critical for success. It’s key to how I work with others and what I encourage from my students. I am ambitious and have a competitive drive to win but this needs to be channelled in a positive way, to ensure I’m a positive role model for both staff and students.

My generation paved the way, empowering girls to pursue a career in sport. Hopefully, young girls can now see this as a realistic career ambition and know that their gender shouldn’t hold them back. Through teaching at Withington, I hope to inspire our pupils to follow their dreams, whether in sports or any other discipline.

When did you discover your talent for football – and how did that lead to the Lionesses? 

I have always been sporty and naturally gravitated towards physical activities. I first joined a local football club close to home, Hartlepool St Francis, then played for my university team before going on to Liverpool FC.  Soon, I was approached by Everton Ladies, who were one of the top clubs in the country at the time. I worked hard and was picked to join the England set up in 2004.

What was your greatest achievement of your football career?

I made some of my best friends during my time at Everton and learnt a lot from the experiences we had. In terms of football highlights, one of the best with Everton was beating Arsenal in the 2010 final to win the FA Cup. Scoring my first international goal against Norway in 2009 ahead of the Euros was also a special moment.

Finally, what are your interests away from football?

Sport! I still enjoy going to watch any live sport, exercising and keeping fit and hiking and spending time in nature. I read for pleasure but most of all I enjoy spending time with my young family.