06 March 2020
When my daughter first started playing football at aged 4, she was the only girl, but she loved it.
She came up against some interesting resistance from the boys in her group. They would kick her ball away from her in training, tell her she shouldn’t be there because she was a girl. I sometimes wonder where a prejudice comes from at such a young age. Why, at age 4, do they think a girl can’t play football? What influences this decision making?
My daughter almost stopped going to football, but her coach told her she was too talented to quit, and he worked hard to change any attitude and to inspire her to keep training. She is now very much part of the team!
At age 5, her coach told me she should be training more because she ‘had something about her’. He said that Brighton’s Albion in the Community training school and Lewes FC would be good choices for her as they were both putting time and money into developing women’s football.
From there she started training 3 times a week, 3 different teams and whenever we could we would go and watch lots of women’s first team football. We went to Lewes and Brighton where she soon found role models in Laura Rafferty (Brighton) and Katie Rood (Lewes). Both women brilliant on the field, positively shown on social media, and amazing at interacting with the young fans after games.
Katie Rood has been to see the young girl’s teams at training. and chatted to them all when they were mascots for the team. I asked Katie if she would answer some questions for London Youth’s celebration of International Women’s Day 2020 as the football club is currently championing equality within their club and throughout the media.
Katie Rood – Lewes FC Women
When did you start playing football? At about the age of 8
How long have you been playing for Lewes? 1 year
Did you ever come up against resistance or negativity when playing? Yes, all the time. I often felt as though I had to prove myself before being accepted by the boys in my team and sometimes even opposition parents would have snide remarks on side-lines, especially when their boys would underestimate me and then I’d make them look a little silly.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachForEqual – What can you tell us about the Lewes FC campaign for equality in football? I’m in awe with this club. They are so ambitious with growing our presence on the football pitch but at the same time using football to highlight important social issues.
They made the decision to split the resources equally between the men and women’s teams and saw what a positive impact that has had.
Alongside being a community owned club, they now promote and campaign for equality and investment into the women’s game.
It’s huge because they are bringing awareness to the discrimination we face as female footballers and are uncovering and challenging the ‘justifications’ for why it is the way it is.
They’re literally changing the game and it’s really empowering to feel a part of that.
How does Lewes celebrate this in football and encourage it through the age groups? We have a strong engagement around Lewes and are always looking for ways that the club can add value to the community. I’ve visited a number of schools this year to present assemblies and share my journey as a female athlete, the history of women’s football in this country and why what Lewes FC is doing is so important.
We got some great feedback from the schools and this has been reflected in the support we get at home matches.
If you could give a message, after your football journey so far, to all the young girls and women reading this, what would it be? Don’t give up on your dream. If you love something, then work every day to get better at it. Some people won’t believe in you, others will actively try and stop you. There will be setbacks and hard times but every time you overcome them you will be stronger than before. The ideal combination is when you can use your gift/talent to help the world.
How do you feel about being a role model? I didn’t have many female role models in sport that I looked up to as a kid so it’s special to be able to engage with kids who might aspire to be like me one day.
I strive to be the person that I would have admired most when I was young and hopefully that resonates with those I interact with. It’s hard at times to be somewhat in the public eye but with social media and the way society is obsessed with beauty, drama and this kind of fakeness that we’re constantly subject to, I think it’s really important that people see and hear from real, down-to-earth people pursuing their dreams.
What’s your biggest hope for the future of men and women’s football? I would love to see all football clubs become more like Lewes FC and take on a social initiative that would really benefit their community. Football has so much power to change the world as it reaches everyone from the grassroots to the super wealthy. Imagine if we could use that power to make real tangible positive changes to the communities surrounding each club. I’d also like to see the women’s game funded better so that players at the top level can focus primarily on football and not fuss about finding work and time to eat etc. The more players that are full time the greater level we can reach and help inspire more people across globe.
– Katie Rood was interviewed by Laura Burton, Programme Officer at Hindleap Warren.
Click here to read more of our International Women’s Day blogs.