The Hoops family is growing, as Cath Shanks joins as our new social media ninja – welcome Cath! But she isn’t just a whiz-kid on Instagram and Twitter, she was pretty handy on the football pitch too. Here, she tells us about her experiences as a player, and the health of a sport that has been growing exponentially in recent years.
“There are so many opportunities for girls to progress”
The game is definitely growing and people are taking it more seriously from younger ages.
When I was playing, there were very few teams I could actually have played for – now there are hundreds of girls’ clubs around the country. I wish that was there when I was younger!
Now there are so many opportunities for girls to progress.
There are different tiers of leagues from a younger age as well, there are more divisions so there’s space for those who are beginning or just want a kick around, and then the ones who want to take it more seriously as well.
We once beat a team 29-0 – it’s not great for us because we aren’t taking anything from it and it isn’t great for them because it crushes your spirits, it can’t be enjoyable.
It’s better for everybody if girls can have a choice of what level they play at.
— Cath Shanks (@_cathshanks) April 22, 2017
“Football grows strong, independent women”
Currently there are other sports that girls take up before football when they’re young, but that’s just because they’re pushed into making those decisions.
Girls do netball, boys do football. I’m hoping that we see a change in that, because playing with males at a younger age will benefit girl players as well.
You learn a lot of life skills and values from playing football.
We need to carry on breaking down the gender stereotypes, because the girls coming through in a male-dominated sport grow into strong, independent women.
“The coverage we’re getting is insane”
The highest level I reached was at Hull City Ladies, which is the fourth tier of women’s football in England. I never broke into the first team because I had problems with injuries, but the standard is something else.
And the opportunity is there now for girls to reach that level. If you want to make it in women’s football you can do, because there are teams out there.
There’s a pathway in. And it’s not a closed, invite-only thing now because they’re running things like open trials.
When I was younger it wasn’t what you knew, it was who you knew. If coaches weren’t aware of you from the age of 10, they weren’t interested.
But it’s definitely getting better now. And with the creation of the Super League, it’s more professional, there are paid players – there’s something to aim towards. The coverage that we’re getting is insane.
Seeing things like how well Manchester City Women are doing is inspirational – I went to a game the other day and there were three or four thousand people in the stands.
It’s amazing to see how far it has come – I’ve been to England games in the past where there were only two or three hundred people there.
“We’ll get there eventually”
There is still a long way to go.
Quite a lot of the players at the top level still have to have second jobs on the side. They aren’t asking for millions, they’re not in it for the money they just want to play the sport they love and inspire young girls to play.
But there is still that boundary there, and players aren’t going to fully reach their potential until they can play football as their full-time job.
But we’re stepping in the right direction and women are powerful, they know what they want to achieve and we’ll get there eventually.
“The women’s football community is stronger than ever”
It’s so much easier for girls to get into football now compared to how it used to be.
My advice to girls thinking about getting into the game would be just don’t be bothered about what other people think, if it’s what you want, go out and do it.
Don’t be worried about whether or not you are good enough, but make sure you’re putting in the time and effort to get to where you want to be. I spent endless hours practicing on my own so that when I went out to play I had learnt that new trick and I was confident in my skills.
I spent time worrying whether I would be accepted, but at the end of the day that was silly because football is a global sport that brings people together in so many ways.
The women’s football community is stronger than ever, so just go for it and play.
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