So it would be difficult to write my first blog post without discussing what led me here, so here goes!
In 2019, I took part in a charity football match (#EduFootyAid) the education world's equivalent of SoccerAid. I signed myself and Hayley, a fellow teacher friend, up believing it was a female football match...little did I know we'd be the only women there with 20 odd men! It was catastrophic - I barely touched the ball - but I loved it! I got home and googled 'local football for over 40s' but couldn't find anything. Not for females anyway! There seemed to be lots of men's vets teams around but I couldn't find anything geared at my age or gender. I remember going to bed disappointed.
The following day, I decided I'd try to get some friends together to have a kick about. I posted on Facebook wondering if anyone would reply and I tagged in every local women I knew who I thought might show an interest from friends and family members to parents of the kids football team I ran for over 10 years. It reminded me of how I got involved with football in the first place, almost 15 years earlier when my 4 year old daughter told me she hated ballet and wanted to play football like her big brother. Back then I remember being shocked that no teams would take a girl so young. Why? When my son had started playing 2 years before at the same age, there was an abundance of local teams to choose from. Why did she need to wait until she was 7 or 8? So I decided to start a team for her and her friends. Here I was again, many years later on the verge of doing the same for myself!
What happened next would change my life as I knew it, although that wasn't clear at the time. On that first session 16 women turned up and everyone agreed how much they enjoyed it and they couldn't wait until the following Tuesday, to play again. Originally I started it as an over 30s session but soon people were asking if they could bring sisters, cousins or friends who were under 30 which of course I agreed to. "The more the merrier," I'd respond. Within a couple of months, over 50 women had joined us. Women of all ages, all sizes, all abilities! Everyone was welcome. That was how the women's recreational football club I established first began. What I never could have imagined is how it would have such an impact on my life...
Now here I am 3 and a half years later, still teaching but also head of women's football at Bury AFC, about to begin a football related Masters in 'Elite Business Leadership' and about to launch Female Football Factory with my very talented fashion designer sister. How exciting and to top it off, today I have been named as the winner of Manchester FA's 'Spirit of Grassroots Football Award'. That kick about I arranged turned out to be one of the best things I ever did!
Have you faced challenges in sport or football because you're too old or too young or too female? I'd imagine most have. Life is ever changing and in the 50+ years since the FA lifted the ridiculous 50 year ban on females playing football, things have definitely moved in the right direction. But there's still work to be done!