The Power of Change

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. Change 4

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.

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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.

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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….

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Week 8 – Refereeing

I have been wondering what to blog about for last week and after the last two weekends I have decided to blog about refereeing. I am a level 7 referee and in the last year have been going for referee promotion to level 6. This has been no easy feat. As I play football myself and have a hectic schedule the only games I have been able to referee have all been men’s on a Saturday afternoon. It was just over a year ago when I did my first men’s game. It was a local game between two Yeovil District and County League division 3 sides. The game actually went really well and I was surprised by how much respect the players displayed. I was unsure if this was because I was a female ref or because if they generally was pretty good towards male referees too. After the game I received some very positive comments which was pleasing to hear. It was the success of this game that helped me decide I would go for promotion.

I should find out by the end of the month if I have been successful in my promotion campaign. I have had 3 positive assessments so I am hopeful but due to cancellations of games I only managed 18 games in the promotion season, not the 20 that is advised. So we shall wait and see. In those games, I have given 1 red card and numerous yellows. The red card was for offensive, insulting and abusive language towards another player. The yellows have been for a number of things ranging from reckless tackles to dissent. The main reason I wanted to blog though is the lack of respect shown at times from players. My last two games in particular have at times made me question why I do it. As a referee I sometimes expect people to contest decisions as do I on occasions (not very often). But the extent that it happens even though I know it is the correct one, makes me realise why not many people referee. It is not for the fainthearted. I strongly believe that if there was less ‘moaning’ from players there would be more referees. Don’t get me wrong, I deal with situations that I need to but sometimes the nature of the game requires less. I even had to say to two grown men this weekend to stop acting like primary school children. 

I feel something different could be done by the FA to discourage some behaviours. I know the respect campaign helps to a certain extent but if all players were to sign a code of conduct when they sign on, then there could be some form of consequence if they breached it then maybe it could improve. This obviously sounds easier than it is, the reality is that people probably wouldn’t sign it. It is just one idea that might get them to think about how they speak to others. As a player, you do not get all the moaning and language in women’s football that you do in men’s, so surely something should be done. Perhaps players could also learn the laws of the game. This helped me as a player and would help players know what they are actually allowed to do. Or not to do. An increased understanding of the game can only have a positive effect. But once again, the question of getting people to do it would be the biggest barrier. 

One factor that does not help the situation is professional football. They get away with challenging the ref, you rarely see a red card for offensive language towards the referee even though you can clearly see it being used. The laws of the game state it isn’t allowed, yet at the highest level they put up with it. The only reason I can think of is money. The players get paid so much and there is so much money in football in general that it is just accepted. These men are role models to young children, this is what they see. So then if they are doing it then surely it’s ok for other to. As a teacher I see this in boys in school. I have taught football to 2 different boys PE groups, in both groups pupils were questioning decisions. This is because they think it is ok to do so. I had a conversation with 2 boys in particular about respect. I was gobsmacked with their responses and their logic behind what they were saying. That it is ok to moan at other players or the referee because they want to win. 

Another factor that prompted this post was a discussion in my GCSE PE group about refereeing last week.  They know I referee and asked me a related question. They play U15 level and have younger referees that they seemingly know of. In particular, they told me that their referee who was 17, didn’t turn up at the weekend because he was fed up with being treated badly. This is the kind of behaviour that needs to stop. If young referees are being put off then eventually there won’t be anyone left who does enjoy it or actually wants to referee grassroots football. I pointed out to them that if they carried on then there wouldn’t be anyone to referee their games. How would they feel if they were treated like that. I firmly believe that when people get caught in the ‘moment’ they don’t think about their actions or the consequences. 

Everyone has their own opinions about referees and yes, sometimes mistakes are made. They are human. It is actually really hard to make a decision in a split second when some things happen so fast. So, I ask you to consider your behaviour on the pitch. I imagine the majority of you are thankful and grateful for them. But for some individuals. How can you support referees instead of making their job more difficult. Without referees, football cannot be played. Well, as fairly as it would be with them there. There are vital to the game. Repect them. 

Week 1 in 2014 – The life of a PE teacher

So we are one week into 2014 and this is my first blog of the new year. I thought I would start this year writing weekly blogs on what I encounter both as a PE teacher and in my personal life. I spent the first few days of 2014 doing the usual, eating healthy and exercising to get myself prepared for the new challenge that 2014 brings me on a personal level. As you may or may not know I play football for Yeovil Town Ladies. We are embarking on a new adventure this year in The FA Women’s Super League 2. This is an exciting opportunity but I know it will be a huge challenge juggling my time for work and ensuring I am in the best shape possible for this higher level of competition. It is of course, a challenge which I will give my all. 

I also spent a day or so doing extra planning ready for the new term. Anyone who knows me will understand that I am organised. I believe there should be a definite balance between work and life so I always make sure I am pretty much organised for the new term before the old one finishes. I know it is probably easier for me than most as I teach PE so the marking load is a lot lighter but for any teacher I believe they need to make time for family and friends and spend less time working at home (easier said than done I know).

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The first week back at school after a 2 week break is always tiring. I have been planning on setting up primary school support with the PE department in my school. The aim is to support local primary school PE to help the children get a more varied experience of PE but also to support the primary school teachers with their delivery. Giving them ideas they can take into lessons with all of their staff and pupils. It is something I feel strongly about, especially as 95% of neurological development takes place before the age of 10. It is important that children are taught skills right so once they pass the age of 10 they have the skills to cope with further demands of sport. This will also help increase their confidence and social skills in secondary PE. If we can get Primary PE at a higher level then it will have a huge knock on effect later in life. Well in theory anyway. Will keep you posted on how this goes. 

Although I teach PE full time, I also have to manage work commitments with my personal ones. I train 2 evenings a week and a Sunday with the squad and also then have to fit in 3 other gym sessions a week to ensure I am fit enough for football. In addition to this, I am also a qualified referee and have been refereeing men’s matches for the past year. This is something I really enjoy. It is sometimes extremely hard to juggle of of this with a hectic work schedule. But, I really enjoy being busy and doing as much as I can to help the students. I am still running the boot camp this year. It was very successful for the last two terms so decided to extend it to benefit the fitness of the pupils involved. I would love to run it all year long to help pupils understand that a healthy lifestyle isn’t a short term goal. It needs to be a longer term target and needs to be maintained. This will start again next week and I am looking forward to the positivity the project will bring. 

So that sums up the start to my 2014. It will be a busy one with 3 exam groups and the new WSL2 but a year I am very much looking forward to. I am now off to do some marking. 

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