Sarah Osborne – March 2021 – #IWD

Sarah is an inspiration to many women and hasn’t let age, or being the only woman on football related courses, stop her!  We think she’s fab and will continue to inspire many more women and girls in the future.  Read Sarah’s story….


“I’ve always loved sport.  I’ve always loved football, certainly since my teenage years. The first time I kicked a ball in earnest though was 18 months shy of my 60th birthday.

Sarah (l) continues to inspire into her 60s.

Where I grew up, even the boys were prevented from playing football at the local secondary school.  Rugby was the game and it was taught with such brutality that both my brothers developed a lifelong hatred of all team sports.  No way were they going to kick a ball around with their little sister.

The best illustration of my family’s disinterest in the game is one summer holiday camping in France.  We were messing around outside the tent in the afternoon sun as usual (mad English).  The rest of the campsite was quiet, as was normal at siesta time.  Suddenly, all the tents burst open and people of all nationalities rushed over to ‘the English tent’ to congratulate us.  My father looked suitably bemused but eventually said something like; ”oh, was there some sort of football match on”.  The date, of course, was 30th July 1966

My (all girls) high school motto was ‘By Learning and Courtesy’.  We were meant to be sweet and demure and definitely not kicking a football.

Once I was old enough for it to be considered safe I would go on my own to watch The Dons at Pittodrie (yes – the Dons from Aberdeen not that Wimbledon bunch) and I’d listen to matches on the radio, but that was my only real exposure to the beautiful game.

Later, I married a man who also hated team sports.  We both took up lots of individual sports.  We both took up running, I swam, we windsurfed, we cycled and we skied (I’d learnt in Aberdeen  – it was good for that) but when my eldest son expressed an interest in playing football it was me who was straight out in the back garden kicking a ball around with him.  I got hold of some coaching videos (youtube didn’t exist in 1998) and began to try out a few little drills. We asked around the village about joining a team but there wasn’t one and the nearest club only took players from age 8 (he was 6 at the time).  Then, just after his 7th birthday, I spotted a notice on a lamppost.  A local resident, ex policeman, was thinking of setting up a club and asking for parents to get in touch and come to a meeting.

43 children put their names down.

Just one parent turned up at the meeting.

That parent was me so I became the Club Secretary by default.  Three months later, tragically, the ex policeman died of a brain haemorrhage (indirectly linked to the gun-shot wound that led to his early retirement from the force).

I had ‘inherited’ a football club before we had played a single game and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!!

Admin, I could do.  Marking out pitches was OK.  But I also had to take on the training of 43 enthusiastic young players based solely on what I had managed to pick up from the videos.

I don’t think my sessions were very good but we muddled through and things got better.  Over time, other parents volunteered and the club has thrived.  I was helped in those first few years by fellow Crawley Old Girl, Gillian Weston and another COG, Karen Dare joined us a few years later.

I decided I needed to get some proper training so I signed up for the FA Level 1.  This is the point at which I discovered the joys of being the only female on a football course.  Not only was I the sole female, I was also one of the oldest people there and I was far and away the most useless at football.  Some of the men were OK but others made no attempt to hide their disdain.

I just did my best, apologised a lot, and felt slightly deflated at the end of each day.  Thankfully the tutors from Sussex FA were hugely encouraging.

I completed my Level 1 and (some years later) my Level 2 and also qualified as a referee (again the only female on the course).  Attitudes amongst male coaches are starting to change (and for this I give credit to The FA and to the BBC in making women in football more visible) but there is more to do.

My biggest problem as a coach was lack of technical ability.  It’s hard if you’ve never played.

Then, in 2016, I met Carol at a Sussex FA Women’s coaching session and she mentioned COGS.  I went along, extremely hesitant, wearing second hand boots and shin pads borrowed from the club lost property box.  I wasn’t the best, nor the fittest, nor the youngest.  But neither was I the worst nor the oldest nor the least fit and, in any case, none of that mattered.  What mattered was that everyone there loved football and just wanted to play, to learn and to have fun.

I had never before realised that you can learn and laugh simultaneously and non-stop for a whole hour.  Credit here to Bradley who, as a young man of 19, had an amazing understanding of how to run a seriously good coaching session with a group of older women who appeared to refuse to take anything seriously.

On a practical level, the training has been so useful.  It has given me so much more confidence in running my own coaching sessions.  I have a new insight into how the game is played which you just don’t get from the training manuals. This was the missing element from my coaching.  All those men, who had played for years, just knew this stuff instinctively.  Perhaps it was my lack of this instinct which fuelled their disdain.

There is so much more to COGS than the technical input though.  I get to the pitch and it feels as if 50 years have been lifted from my 63 year old shoulders.  I’m running around like a little girl with her mates.  I’ve discovered my second childhood, and it’s on the football pitch.

Sarah (second left) with her team mates in the FA People’s Cup.

My ambition now is to stay fit enough, long enough, to get a few more years of fun.  It’s taken a very long time for my love of football to find a home.  I want to enjoy it for as long as I can.”