There are many times that life forces us to make a change. We go through different situations, circumstances, events that can define us as a person or an individual. Sometimes we can react in a negative way and sometimes we can react positively. But ultimately, the only person that decides that is us! We are the masters of our own fate. I like to think of it as a choice. We can choose to let it affect us negatively, or embrace it and see what happens.
Everyone goes through their share of tough times, but a friend of mine says ‘every crisis is personal.’ Some find them more difficult than others and everyone deals with them in their own way. This year has been a tough one for me. I don’t always blog about my personal life, but I feel I want to share these experiences. I have had a few things happen this year that haven’t been the easiest things to deal with. A friend of mine passed away at the start of the year, I don’t think you realise how much someone has influenced elements of your life until they aren’t there anymore. A few weeks after this, I went through a relationship break up. These are never easy to deal with, especially after losing a friend. The main lesson that these two things taught me was that you should never take life for granted, it is far too short. I like to think that I am a strong person, but no matter how strong you are, things like this do affect you, no matter how much resistance you put up.
I normally like to deal with things like this with either exercise or seeing my friends. I am lucky enough to have some awesome friends who have been amazing this year. They have been there for me when I needed them to most. Without them, things would have definitely been harder. The exercise part came in the form of football, cycling and going to the gym. Football has always been a big part of my life. I started playing when I was 5 and played in a competitive girls league at the age of 10 in an under 14 girls team. At the age of 14, I then joined a ladies team in Exeter. I then ended up signing for Yeovil in 2006. For the last 23 years, football has been my life. I couldn’t ever imagine not playing on a Sunday, not having training during the week and I could never imagine that I wouldn’t enjoy it. But that has changed this year. Three and a half years ago, I took up refereeing, in fact, it was my friend who passed away Keith, that encouraged me to do it. I said yes and I am so glad I did. He helped me through my first 3 years, telling me what I could do to improve and believing in my ability. He told me progressing up the ladder and getting to a world cup wasn’t out of my reach, but of course I had to work hard if I wanted it. I am now a level 5 referee, I have spent the last 2 years juggling refereeing and playing. It has been hard doing both. I was so reluctant to stop playing because it was all I wanted to do and I loved it so much. But, I knew I had to choose between the two at some point.
As it happens, this year in The FAWSL at Yeovil hasn’t gone too well for me. I spent a lot of time on the bench and not playing. I was frustrated and disappointed that I was spending so much time training and working hard and then not getting to play when it was all I wanted to do. This made the decision to stop playing and focus on my refereeing career much easier for me. I thought back to the beginning of the year, Keith was always pestering me to give up football to referee more but what I didn’t realise, is that I could actually do well if I put my mind to it. I asked myself the question: Why was I spending my time doing something that wasn’t making me happy anymore? I enjoy refereeing, I can’t put my finger on why I like it but I do. So, I did it! I stopped football and have spent the last 3 weeks happier than I have been in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at Yeovil but times change and it was the right time to go. It just proved to me that sometimes, making that one decision you think is the hardest, might bring a powerful change you couldn’t have predicted.
Since Yeovil released this article about me retiring to referee it’s all be a bit crazy. I’ve had lots of messages of support and well wishes, it was overwhelming really and I thank everyone for their kind words. BBC sport contacted me and wrote a further piece on my refereeing ambition (which you can read here), which then got picked up by 2 other organisations. You are the ref – a company that is founded by ex referee who want to support referees to progress up the promotion ladder and The Women in Football network. YATR have kindly sponsored me to aid me with my mission. I am excited and grateful to have their support. The WIF have asked me to join their network and have invited me to their event this week. In addition to my refereeing, I have also completed the necessary courses to become a referee tutor. The final part was this weekend. It was a very enjoyable course and I am excited to help other referees learn what I have so far. I would love to help increase the amount of girls that become referees. So, as the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens.
I am really excited to be able to now focus on refereeing and spend more time doing something I enjoy. By being brave enough to make this one change in my life that I never thought I would, I have given myself more opportunities without even realising it. People keep asking me one question….Do you miss it? I can honestly say I don’t. I thought I would but I now have more time for the things I sacrificed before. I am now taking a positive approach to my refereeing, I want to give myself the best chance to achieve my goals, both short term and long term and I am willing to work hard to do this. I would like to think Keith would be proud of me for making this decision. I just hope I can now honour his memory by becoming a successful referee as he believed I would be. I will give it my best shot. Watch this space….