Kerry Read – March 2019 – Mother’s Day.

On Mother’s Day, we hear from Kerry Read and her inspirational story about joining the COGS…..

Kerry (r) participating in the FA People’s Cup 2019.

As a child when we lived in Scotland my dad used to take me to watch Dundee United play so football has always been in my life (not necessarily good football but it was there!). When I was a teenager living in London I watched the 1994 World Cup on tv at home and it really got me. I had to go and watch football somewhere and my local club at the time were Arsenal so I went there. I played for a while at University with a friend but once I left I lost the urge and my confidence fell away a bit and life took over.

I had always wanted to play again and since having my daughter at 36 and watching her enthusiasm for playing it has made me want to get back out there. I saw a short news clip on the BBC about older men playing football to lose weight which really struck a chord with me. While I was happy for them and what they were achieving I couldn’t help think that there must be women out there doing something like that and it turned out there was, about 2 miles down the road! And only a quick google away!

Before COGs I tried running and I tried the gym. I knew I wanted to go out and exercise but nothing really stuck. What was missing was participating in a team sport and this is a team sport with a difference. Its women playing together regardless of age, body shape or ability which completely changes the dynamic of walking in to a gym or a keep fit class where it almost seems competitive and unfriendly and that you shouldn’t be there. The classic comedy image of an overweight woman falling off a bike in a spinning class is all well and good but it kind of reinforces that image that larger women shouldn’t be in the gym or exercising.

When I signed up for my first COGs session my work mates actually laughed at me. “oh you’ll all end up in the pub and won’t end up doing the training like me when I signed up for netball” (Wrong! Sort of. We do the pub bit after a tournament or friendly but we DO the training!).

The first session is always the most difficult one. I felt all wrong, un co-ordinated legs, absolutely knackered but I knew I could kick a ball. By session 4 I had a decent pair of shin pads, a sports bra that actually held everything in place and the yellowest, shiniest pair of football boots you’ve ever seen.

The training sessions are always well constructed and Bradley our coach puts us through our paces. There are a lot of laughs but we also take it seriously. It is concentration (not always our best skill at 7.30pm on a cold Wednesday night) and commitment that gets you through. Even if you don’t understand something or don’t do something right, you have the support from Bradley and from your team mates who can help you.

At the end of the session you have your 15 minute match which gives me butterflies EVERY time, no matter how many times I play because you know that even though it’s a training session, you’re playing for your team and you don’t want to let them down (also a little bit of me pretends its kick off in the north London derby and millions of people are watching – hey, it helps me play better!). Even then, there are a lot of laughs but people are laughing with you, if a loud swear word slips out or you kick the ball and miss, or you get tangled up with another player and both end up in the ground cracking up laughing. You also hear the shouts of support and encouragement from others playing with you and after a while you find yourself instinctively doing it back, even if it’s the team you’re playing against!

After a year and a half of playing for the COGs my work mates are no longer laughing at me, I’m asked about it a lot and people are impressed to hear about the news articles, the Community Impact Award from the Sussex Sports Awards or the friendly that went on over the weekend down in Lancing.

It’s a confidence booster, it’s a health booster, it’s a bit of a “gateway exercise drug” in that now I’ve started doing my local parkrun to try and up my fitness a bit more. Crucially, it is also very beneficial for mental health. To go and run about for an hour with a bunch of like minded women and maybe scoring that goal, getting that cross in, tipping a shot over the bar or making that tackle can make you feel ten feet tall and that feeling lasts for a long time. I also feel more part of my community and it is given me an opportunity to meet more people and to feel like I’m doing something positive for me and for my daughter.

COGs is an appropriate anacronym because it works on a lot of levels, you are part of a team working together and it feels like the missing piece of me that makes me feel I can be who I am.