As a woman, sports you might have enjoyed as a child can sometimes take a back seat when you become an adult. But it’s never too late to get back into the game you loved.
What if there were team sports out there that took the pressure off, with a focus on fun and friendship?
If that sounds like your game, then women’s recreational football could be for you.
Women’s recreational football is all about the camaraderie and having fun on the pitch. Whether it’s been years since you last played, or you’ve never kicked a ball in your life, it’s a great way to play casual football in a relaxed, friendly and social environment.
Teams are either five- or seven-a-side, each half lasts just 20 minutes, all fixtures have an FA qualified match official present, and results recorded via the FA Full-Time platform.
All it takes is for one person to get the ball rolling and you could be starting up another opportunity for women in your area.
If you have a child or teenager who is part of a local grassroots football club, you no doubt see other mums, nans, aunties, or sisters watching them train or sitting in the car while they’re training. Why not get a ball and have a kickabout on the other side of the white line?
Sisters Caroline Austwick and Jane Crowcroft did just that in 2022 when they started Wathletico Women’s FC.
Both in their 40s, Caroline and Jane were looking to join a women’s team after feeling envious of their children being able to play junior football. But with work and families to think about, they didn’t want the commitment or competitiveness of 11-a-side football.
Caroline contacted Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA to see if they could point her in the direction of any small-sided women’s teams in the Dearne Valley area. But there weren’t any.
Sara Harnett, Sheffield FA’s women’s recreational football officer, encouraged Caroline to consider setting up her own team instead. If they got enough interest, there was funding available for a facility and coach for nine weeks to get things off the ground.
After putting a call-out on social media, Caroline was contacted by another ten women who were up for a weekly kickabout. Wathletico’s first training session was in April 2022 at Wath Academy and the club has quickly grown to now have 19 players with two teams entered in to a five-a-side league.
“About a quarter of our players have played at club level in their 20s so they’re still decent footballers even now in their late 30s. The other 75 percent have either never played or played 30 years ago as primary school kids when girls’ teams weren’t a thing and they just played on the field with the lads.”
“I’d thought I was too old for football, that I was well past it. But you can still get better if you do something enough. When people ask me what I’d want to be if I could start life again, I say a seven-year-old girl. Girls have so many opportunities in sport now that I’d just be out playing football constantly,” Caroline says.
So many women of a certain age were part of that missed generation that didn’t have the chance to play football. Having never been properly coached, some women might not feel confident in their playing ability, but they’re just the type of women who suit recreational football.
There are no age barriers, no fitness barriers, and no experience barriers – it’s simply about having a kickabout and enjoying it.
Wathletico players have already seen the benefits of pulling on their team’s jersey. Football has given them a newfound optimism, provided therapeutic benefits of exercise, helped them make friends for life, and even alleviated symptoms of menopause.
And their footballing skills have improved, too.
“We entered a tournament three weeks after we started and got battered, finishing last. But now, we’re coming in the top three at the seasonal competitions we take part in. And we were crowned league champions in our first ever season as a team,” Caroline says.
One of their players, Laura, has even gone on to become a coach for her daughter’s team, Wombwell Town girls’ U10s, despite both of them having never previously been interested in football. Laura’s daughter was so inspired by seeing her mum play that she wanted to join a team, too.
If you would like to get involved in women’s recreational football, contact Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA who will be able to advise you about what clubs are near you or how to set up new sessions.