Five Years of Fun, Friends, Football and Fitness – 16th April 2020.

Happy 5th Birthday to us!

While there are so many people missing playing football at the moment, who would have thought, that five years ago many “older” women who had never played football before would be saying the same?!

This is meant to look like a 5!

In these unprecedented times of Covid-19 heroes, sadness and working from home, there are Lockdown football challenges (even some of the simple ones are quite a challenge!) which are keeping our football activity alive.  There is also plenty of humour in watching some of those activities, especially when it comes to the COGS!  Kathryn always has us laughing with her antics!

On Monday 16th April 2015, at 6.15pm, after help from both Amy Fazackerley (Crawley Town Community Foundation) and Nicol Meredith (EFL Trust) and a rallying call from Carol Bates (aged 48 at the time) to Facebook friends and sideline Mums, the date had arrived for a new type of football session.  An idea from Carol for a session for “older” women to learn to play football was about to become real.  The term “older” was loosely translated to anyone who wasn’t a spring chicken, had no experience playing football and just wanted to have some fun with a ball, make new friends and possibly gain some skills along the way.

With some funding from the EFL Trust for 10 weeks and the session provided by the Crawley Town Community Foundation, 10 women turned up on the first night.  It was fun, we ached from laughing and doing the Liam Gallagher and Kim Kardashian stretches and we actually found we could kick a ball to each other!  It may not have gone exactly where we wanted to pass it but no one cared, we just wanted more……

We grew from 10 on that first night to over 150 women on the books, five years later.  Everyone comes when they can, there is no commitment every week, as women have busy lives.   Everyone is welcome.

Throughout the last 5 years, we are humbled to have been involved with some incredible events with the FA.  We have won some amazing National and Local Awards, been the subject of short TV films, radio interviews and newspaper articles (all of which have reached more women and inspired some of them to either start playing or set up their own groups) and been invited to some prestigious events.  We’ve been very lucky and even had a visit, in 2017, from the Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, which was fantastic.

One of the most rewarding things during this time, is that we have seen over 150 women join us at one time or another, the majority of whom have never played before, and to see their progress from not being able to play, to playing in matches with a smile on their faces is just brilliant.

Football is a great activity to increase confidence, self-esteem, mental/physical well-being and fitness, and we are of the belief that anyone can play because is doesn’t matter how good (or not so good) you are, to us it’s all about participating, having fun and enjoying being active.  From starting with 10 women on that first night, we now have 4 sessions per week which cover all abilities.  Whether you are a beginner with no experience, someone who has a limited amount of experience, someone who wants to come back into the game or just someone who wants a slower paced version of the game, COGS has a session for everyone, each week, 50 weeks of the year.  And yes, for just a few hours, Jordan Nobbs was a COG, in 2015!  How lucky we were!

Since we started, in 2015, there have been many other teams and groups who have started up and who also have the same ethos about just having fun while playing.  This, we believe is why, what we now call Women’s Recreational Football, is probably one of the fastest growing genres of the Women’s game.  Women’s Recreational Football is supported by the FA, with local County FAs running participation Festivals and competitive Leagues as well as other Clubs running their own Festivals/Tournaments.  We now have Women’s Walking Football, too, which helps not only women over 40 who want to play a slower paced version of the game but women who are coming back into the game who may have had an injury or just want to walk instead of run.   There is also the opportunity, separately, to download a football activity session called Soccercise, from the FA website, which includes football exercises too, so there is something for everyone.

During those 5 years, we have run some small Festivals and a National Women’s Recreational Football Festival where over 200 women came to Crawley to just play for fun.  Most recently, we organised the Old Girls’ “World Cup” with the Canterbury Old Bags, in France, which was an amazing success.  We were due to hold #COGSFEST20 in 10 days’ time too but for obvious reasons that is now on hold, but it goes to show how popular Women’s Recreational Football is becoming when 32 team spaces were booked within a week!  Amazing.  There are also some great Festivals and Tournaments being held around the Country on a regular basis.

One of our proudest moments came off the pitch, when just over a year ago, we started up our COGS & Care Homes project.  Not only is this one of the most rewarding part of COGS, it’s enabled us to give something back to the Community.  Francis Court Care Home is a wonderful place which houses dementia patients, as well as others, and we use the power of football to bring some fun to the residents on a Sunday morning every 6/8 weeks.   They love it, we love it and we hope that this can be replicated in more places in the future.


We spoke to a few women who told us what being able to play football at a later age meant to them.  Firstly, we spoke to some of our COGS, new and old, and asked them how they felt about now being able to play football, having not played previously:

Sandra Rees (52), was one of the original 10:

“I was 47 when I started, now I’m 52!  That’s…..  5 years of learning to play football!  5 years of making new friends!  5 years of enjoyment! Couldn’t live without it!  It’s changed my life in so many ways.  Happy 5th Birthday to us COGS!”

Pauline Maddocks (61), joined 3 weeks after the first session: 

“The best decision I ever made was joining COGS 5 years ago.  I have become confident, outgoing, made loads of friends, developed skills and found my playing position as the “Rock in defence”, a nickname given to me by Marcus which has stuck. I  am a happy, fat, fit 61 year old who doesn’t want this football journey to end.”   We hope Mr. M. comes a close second, Rock!!

Kerry Jinks (37), joined COGS in January 2018:

“Joining COGS has been a real game changer for me.   I have made some fantastic friends over the last couple of years and can’t imagine my life without you all.  I have never laughed so much and I love being around you all.  COGS is a great way to get fit and make new friends and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.”

Louise Camby (45), joined COGS in April 2019:

“I joined COGS last year and have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this fabulous ladies football community. Loved making new friends, enjoying exercise in a team environment, learning and appreciating the skill of playing football and taking part in festivals and collecting medals! It’s brilliant!”

Tricia Williams (48), joined our Walking Football session in January 2020:

“I joined the COGS walking football in January 2020 as with my children getting older, I was keen to take on an activity for me to improve my fitness and make new friends. I love the walking football sessions, they are great fun and an hour flies past.”

Debbie Tippett (45), joined our Walking Football session in January and also now attends the Beginners’ session, too:

“COGS has brought me new friends, exercise that I enjoy and most importantly a confidence that I’d lost. Everyone is so warm and welcoming. Love it!”

We also spoke to Jo Treharne who founded the Canterbury Old Bags, in January 2017 and Caroline Jones (CJ) who along with Kate & Andrea, founded Hot Women FC, in August last year, after watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup.  The “Hotties”, as they refer to themselves, also started up a Women’s Recreational Football podcast, which has been fantastic!  You can find it on the usual platforms under “Hot Shots”.  Women’s Recreational Football really has come a long way!

Jo Treharne, Founder of the Canterbury Old Bags, proudly said:

Since ‘spotting’ Carol on the BBC talking about the COGS, our own little project in Canterbury has gone from strength to strength, with new members and new sessions being developed all the time in addition to our normal Thursday recreational group. Several of the bags have developed their game further, with around nine of the team now playing regular league football for Faversham Strike Force women’s team, and our brilliant Ally Walters taking over as coach. We’ve also developed our Futsal programme with Catherine ‘Bradders’ Bradley organising a Canterbury recreational league which has seen two bags squads compete with teams from across East Kent. Bradders, Ally and Jo have also qualified as Level 1 Futsal coaches, and Emma, Ally and Chloe have completed their level one FA badges. Several other bags are planning to take their badges soon and Chloe, Emma, Jo and Millie also coach the Faversham Wildcats on a Sunday morning! Helping the next generation of female footballers. We have also teamed up with local club Canterbury Eagles to offer Wildcats sessions for girls – starting in 2020. That’s not to mention the socials, the parties, the babies (8 at the last count!), the support and the fun that we have had. So from tiny acorns so many mighty oaks have grown! Happy 5th birthday COGS – look what you started!

CJ, from Hot Women FC, enthused:

“Apart from the joy of just playing football, Hot Women FC gives us reason to get fit and stay fit in a really enjoyable and inclusive way.  And through football, our small group of founding friends has widened to become a broader community of footie-mad Hotties.”


So what we want to say really, is that if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to learn to play football at a later age or if you’ve ever thought, I’m not good enough to play as I don’t have any experience or am not the right shape or size, you’re exactly the sort of person who would love the sessions!  If you’ve played before and fallen out of the game due to family, injuries, not enough time, or not being able to commit to anything, you’re exactly the sort of person who would love the sessions!  Our non-judgemental sessions are held, without commitment, you turn up when you can, you come and have fun with us when you can and you can make all kinds of new friends in women that you may never have met!

Not only has COGS provided a community of women the opportunity to play football, the knock-on effects from that are substantial in terms of supporting the Women’s game, in general.  Quite a few COGS are now football coaches, with some running new girls’ teams, some have completed Referee courses and officiate in matches and many COGS now attend/watch the professional Women’s game as well as games below that.  Some have even returned to playing League football!

A few COGS along with members of other Women’s Rec. teams travelled to the World Cup in France and have followed the Lionesses to other places too.  It’s a great knock-on effect.  The small steps taken to start learning to play football can lead you to even bigger steps in helping grow the Women’s game.   Get on Board, it really is great fun when you all get together!

When we can get back to playing, we will continue to promote and enjoy trying to get more opportunities for women everywhere to be able to play and we hope, in the next 5 years, that many more women will benefit from what we’ve been having fun from for the last 5 years.

We’ve laughed together, we’ve got drunk together (this is quite common among the women and groups we know!), we’ve cried together, we’ve bonded together and all because of a football!  Just give it a go, you never know how much your life will change.

Just remember, you’re never too old and it’s never too late!

We’ll certainly be having a drink tonight (at home) to celebrate!  Happy Birthday to us!