The Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year 2019 – Vitality Grassroots Award.

This is a slightly strange/awkward post as I’m writing about myself!  But, if anyone can help with some public votes, that would be brilliant, thank you!

In 2015, when I had the idea to set up a “kickabout” with some friends, so we could play football, I never ever dreamed it would spread as far and wide as it has!  I was 48 and there was nothing for “older” women to get involved in, kicking a ball around.

You only have to look at how many “older” women are now learning to play football (and coming back into the game) to see that being active at a later age is really important for women.  The main ingredient is to have fun in a non-judgmental environment, whatever ability, size, shape or experience you have.  A lot of the women who come to COGS have some really inspirational stories and everyone who comes along joins in with the ethos of having fun and participating.  Not to mention the fun that occurs with the social events that now happen, too!

With the help of funding from the EFL Trust, through the Crawley Town Community Foundation, the first 10 weeks were funded and the group grew from strength to strength, after 10 women attended on the first night.   Self-funded after that, the COGS grew and then another session was introduced a year or so later with 12 weeks’ funding, which enabled more women to come along.  More funding was found for a third session to bring women back into the game and we now have 3 different sessions a week (Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced) with an FA qualified coach from the Community Foundation, and over 100 women on the books, with the sessions all being self-funded.  Women from all walks of life, women who took the plunge and braved that first session, mainly turning up on their own, and women who are now great friends with each other and finding the positives to their mental and physical well-being through playing football.  Women from all walks of life are now learning to play football and loving it, just like we did on that first night.  It’s always about having fun and enjoyment.

There are some great examples of groups like ours, who have grown over the last few years, and when you look at how many “older” women’s teams there are growing by the week, it’s clear to see that more and more opportunities are needed to make sessions and Festivals available to all women, over the age of 30.

To be nominated for the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year, Vitality Grassroots Award was absolutely amazing but to be chosen by the esteemed Panel of Judges to be 1 of the 4 Finalists, is not only an honour but quite unbelievable!   After a bit of investigating, I found out that is was Jo Monroe and the Lewes FC Women’s Vets who sent in the nomination, so I will be forever grateful to them for this slightly surreal and extremely exciting time!  In fact, being involved in the Vitality Grassroots Award nominations’ publicity, has already brought even more newbies to our Beginners’ session!  Amazing!

The video to promote the Finalist nomination, which was filmed on a cold, wet night at The Peoples’ Pension Stadium, thanks to Crawley Town FC, was probably in the worst rain we have seen for a long time and yet you will always see the women smiling, while they’re playing.  This is what Women’s Recreational Football is all about, participation for enjoyment.

You can watch the video and VOTE here:

The winner of the Award will be announced at the star-studded awards ceremony on the 21st November and is being decided by a public vote, which closes on Monday 18th November at 12pm.

Videos for all 4 Finalists of the Vitality Grassroots Award are on the link above.  I’m very honoured to be among these brilliant women and look forward to meeting them at the Sportswomen of the Year Awards 2019, on the 21st November, in London.

Rebecca Myers, Journalist at The Sunday Times, also interviewed me and you can read that here:

The article was included in the Sunday Times on the 20th October as well as details of all the nominees, in the Sunday Times Magazine on the same date.

Whatever happens, it is a huge privilege to have been nominated and be involved with such prestigious Awards and I couldn’t be more grateful.  The Sunday Times has been incredibly generous with their reporters, photographers and film producers and nothing was too much trouble.  Thank you to Rebecca Myers and her team for being so kind and professional.

What this is all about, really, is making sure that women have the same opportunities that we already experience, to enable them to become more self-confident, active and enjoy having a great time.  Hopefully, by seeing how much fun we have, regardless of our ability, this will encourage and inspire other women to participate.

Can’t believe I’m actually writing this!

Thanks to everyone who has voted and supported this, so far!