Football star Marissa Callaghan aims to inspire others
Having experienced the benefits of being an international footballer, including travelling to the US, Marissa Callaghan is passionate about attracting other young women to the sport.
The captain of the Northern Ireland women's football team has pledged to use her passion for the beautiful game to inspire the next generation of female footballers.
Marissa (31), from west Belfast, has graduated with an advanced certificate in performance analysis and coaching practice at Ulster University's Jordanstown campus.
She has scaled the ranks of women's football over the last seven years, including holding coaching roles as well as her own international career.
Marissa has recently been appointed as a female football ambassador for the Irish Football Association and academy director at Cliftonville Ladies. The Belfast woman said her experience travelling to the United States on a football scholarship inspired her to get into coaching.
"I came home in 2005 and decided to do a foundation degree in sports coaching at Ulster University. To gain experience, I volunteered as a coach within my own football club and worked with other community organisations," she said.
"In 2010, I was offered my first full-time post as a female soccer active community coach.
"I worked there for six years before I was offered a job within the Irish Football Association as a female football ambassador.
"I focused all my attention on becoming a football coach and didn't give any other careers a thought."
Marissa said the Ulster University's advanced certificate in performance analysis and coaching practice was the next natural step for her.
"Managing my time was a massive challenge during my studies," she said.
"I have a very busy schedule, juggling full-time work, training as an international football player and I also volunteer as a coach and academy director with my football club.
"I really enjoyed my time at Ulster University.
"The lecturers were fantastic and supported me throughout my time there.
"I gained knowledge and experience that has given me the tools to become a better coach.
"It's amazing what you can achieve when you enjoy something."
Looking to the future, Marissa wants to continue to make her mark on local women's football.
"My passion is women's football.
"I hope to keep developing as a coach through my current job role.
"Looking forward, I want to gain an 'A' licence in football coaching and continue to work in women's football in Northern Ireland," she said.
"I want to be a role model for young female players. Playing football has given me so many opportunities on a personal and professional level. I hope I can inspire the young players through my experience."
Marissa is one of four full-time members of staff from the Irish Football Association to graduate from Ulster University this month.
Referee development manager Lee Tavinder, women's domestic football manager Gail Redmond and Diarmuid O'Carroll (club and community development) at the IFA also graduated with the advanced certificate in performance analysis and coaching practice from Ulster University, Jordanstown.
Last week the university honoured Michael O'Neill and Martin O'Neill, managers of the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams following their success at Euro 2016.