Looking for a role model? Enter the Lionesses

I started playing football at primary school. I played at breaks and lunch, and in the school’s team. I was the only girl. I enjoyed it so much I started going to coaching with a local football development scheme. This led to me joining the only girls’ team in the city; Peterborough Pythons.

This initiative was picked up and written about in the local paper. It includes a feature on my football career (!) and my proud mum has kept the clipping…

Peterborough Evening Telegraph article on women's football, 1993

Sadly, Peterborough Pythons didn’t last long. We lost our coach through lack of funding. And despite the attempts of a couple of willing parents the team eventually folded.

Reading this article back, 20-odd years later I think it’s a shame that some of the issues identified are still around today, especially the idea that football is a ‘lads-only’ sport. Evidenced by some of the comments about the coverage of the sport by the press.

What is changing for the better is the profile of the women’s game. Now what we need is more investment to increase the opportunities for girls to take up the sport and develop.

Like many people in the UK, and undoubtedly around the world, I’m currently afflicted with World Cup fever.

The first game I watched was Sweden vs Nigeria; a six goal thriller which ended in a draw. I was hooked. I’m like a kid. I’ve got a book and I’ve been filling in the scores for all matches.

I was elated when England’s Lionesses commanded their quarter-final match against the hosts, Canada. They made history with the win that took them to the semi-final.

I was devastated with the semi-final loss to Japan. England were the stronger side, looking hungry for the win and dangerous in front of goal. But sport is cruel.

All the way through the tournament I’ve been thinking about what England’s success will mean for the next generation of female footballers. By success, I don’t just mean winning games.

As a fan and sportsperson I have been so impressed by how the England team have approached each match: professionally and with spirit.

As a team captain the example of leadership shown by Steph Houghton has been an inspiration.

As a supporter it’s so crucial to see what each match means to the players. All the England players have shown skill, composure, dedication and passion.

These are the sporting role models every young girl needs.

Role models, take 2

In the Family section of the Guardian on Saturday there was a great article by Alice Arnold: Clare Balding, my very own national treasure.

I found it a joy to read, and wanted to share one of the last sentences with you because it speaks to what I was trying to get across in my previous post about role models:

If just one gay person or parent of a gay child sees us and thinks that maybe it’s not so bad, that you don’t have to live your life in fear, that sexuality does not define everything and it doesn’t always need to be a struggle, then we have achieved something.

Here, here!

Role models

As I read an article in the Independent recently on women in sport, I began thinking about my role models growing up. All of my female role models (that I can remember) came from the world of sport.

First and foremost there was Helen Rollason, who I first knew as the presenter of Newsround. She later became the first woman to present Grandstand. As a young hockey player I remember idolising Jane Sixsmith, who won bronze with Britain at the 1992 Olympics. There were other Olympians too; Sally Gunnell, Denise Lewis and Tanni Grey-Thompson. They are all strong and successful women who I am sure were the heroes of many more young girls.

Watching the Olympics this year I saw a new generation of role models. Not only female role models, but importantly for me, lesbian role models too. I was prompted to post these thoughts today after watching the following video of Megan Rapinoe accepting the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s Board of Director’s Award. I wish that as a teenager I had lesbian role models like Megan. Like the national treasure, Clare Balding. Like the leader, Hope Powell. In addition to being strong and successful women like the role models I had, they are out, and proud, they are respected and loved.

Really, I just wrote this post so I could share the video. Watch it, and I hope it inspires something in you: