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5 Life Lessons Women’s Football Taught Me

UCL’s sports societies have phenomenal track records, a bustling social life, and an impressive array of activities they chase after eagerly, whether it’s imaginative events or creative ways of supporting charities! The Stay Club is sponsoring a number of them for this academic year, and we were really curious to delve deeper into what makes them “tick”. Naturally, we reached out to UCL’s Women’s Football Society, and asked the best question we could think of: “What are the 5 life lessons Women’s Football taught you”? The responses are as human as they are enjoyable, and will definitely resonate with you, even if you’re not a sports enthusiast!

1. Leadership

– Robine van der Eijk | President

Leadership was a quality I never thought I had or would ever come to acquire. Being in charge felt like an enormous responsibility with a pressure that I did not think I could handle and the fear of disappointing always holding me back. However, over the years I’ve been a part of UCLWFC, I have grown and have appreciated that leadership is a quality and skill we grow into. I started in the club as the overexcited player on the pitch always cheering and the shy fresher in the corner at socials. The following year I took on the role of captain for the 3rds team with my beloved team member and now current Treasurer. At first, I was nervous, afraid I was not up for the task. I did not want to disappoint the team; I wanted to be the captain they deserved. As a captain, I learnt how to use my time most effectively, how to keep the team motivated for both the games and trainings, to encourage them to come along to the socials and making them feel welcomed at all times. I learned how to work with the rest of committee to run the club smoothly and so much more. To see the team show up with smiles on their faces made the occasional stress and break downs worth it. Now in my presidency, I have used the skills from being captain to even greater use. I am able to work towards deadlines and set myself goals, to support the other committee members if they need anything, to liaise with the union and other societies, to organize and plan ahead for anything and everything to insure success. As a president, I do feel the pressure, I do feel the stress and at times it does really get to me. But I put my love for the club and for football into my role and it inspires me to keep going and not to give up. I know that I can be the president that the club deserves. I know I can continue to grow UCLWFC, to inspire more women to join a sport, to give a sense of belonging to everyone in the club and to make this a successful year like the presidents and committees before me have done. I believe leadership is a life lesson I will take with me from the club and appreciate in my day to day life for years to come. I couldn’t be prouder to be the president of our wonderful club. The job doesn’t come without stress and disheartening moments but with a club like ours, you only feel supported and stronger. I am no longer afraid of the responsibility and the pressure, I take it upon me for the club and for myself because I believe in this moment and time, my leadership will take the club to new horizons.

2. The Importance of Community & Teamwork

– Liv Lloyd Williams | Volunteering Secretary

In our annual general meeting last year, several members of UCLWFC gave speeches: one thing that came up repeatedly was how much the club had come to feel like a family. Everyone agreed on it. I’ve played many different team sports in my life – hockey, netball, volleyball – but none of those teams have felt as warm and welcoming as this football club. I can’t tell you exactly why. Maybe because it’s a relatively new sport for women (with the FA having withdrawn their support for women’s teams until 1969). Maybe we all want the sport to grow, so we support each other intensely. I’m not sure. What I do know was that it was incredibly easy to make friends. Despite coming from different backgrounds, when we all grouped at the pub after our matches, conversation just flowed. It helps having the sport as a basis to go off, but the non-judgmental atmosphere made it especially easily. This lack of judgement translates to the pitch too. If someone makes a mistake, we shrug it off. We keep playing, and deal with the necessary improvement later. Part of teamwork is playing to people’s strengths and supporting them through their weaknesses. The former part is easier; it’s the support that is difficult to maintain, but the community that we have at UCLWFC is admirably good at doing that. So, it’s no wonder, when you ask one of us how we feel about the club, we’re likely to say it feels like a second home.

3. Identity

– Lauren Sauerland | Social Media Secretary

While identity may not have been something I learned directly from playing Women’s Football, it was a large part of helping me navigate through the beginning of university, what role I play within a team and how I interact with others. Moving abroad, away from everything familiar to you and attending university is rather intimidating and leaves you vulnerable. Inevitably, this puts you in a position of learning who you are outside of the life you lived before as well as what kind of qualities you possess and practise. While this might seem dramatic, many university students can relate to this experience. In my case, leaving the country I had previously lived in for 10 years was a very confusing, but exciting adventure. I had previously played football and upon moving to university sought to join a club. Joining UCLWFC quickly taught me the ways I personally fit into a community, what kind of weight I was pulling within a team and how far I am willing to push myself. When it comes to team sports, there’s a certain dynamic within every team – within ours particularly, I learned that it was about friendship and doing your individual part for the greater good of the team. In turn, this allowed me to realize that working with others, a big part of who I am and my ‘identity’ per say, is working collaboratively and giving back to those who do so much for me.

4. Perseverance

– Ghina Kheir | 2nds Team Captain

Being in a team sport is more complicated than most people think. There are so many aspects to playing a team-sport that people either underestimate or don’t even consider at all. Personally, I never thought perseverance would be an issue for me since I genuinely commit to playing the best I can on the field. However, the social, emotional and personal aspects of team sports are just as important as giving it your all when playing competitively. My ability to communicate, socialize, motivate and inspire my teammates requires as much perseverance as playing any sport does. After all, if your teammates are not consistently trying their best, being positive and building long lasting friendships on and off the pitch, I personally think playing the sport would not be as fulfilling. With that being said, I made genuine progress with my football team recently in terms of socialising and improving my ability to play. So, one takeaway I would mention is that a team sport has its name for a reason: you build a team and a family simultaneously.

5. Awareness of Physical and Mental Health

– Marie-Angela Stokolosa | Treasurer

Football has helped me a lot both in terms of physical and mental health. I’m really bad at motivating myself to go to the gym, who even has the time for that? But football, with the weekly trainings and matches being something I look forward to, made exercising easy. It’s the perfect way to keep active and there’s honestly nothing as fun as working out with friends. Sports are also so helpful in terms of mental health. Twice a week, football is my escape from the stress of studies. I was able to put myself in a routine that I really enjoyed. With the club raising awareness for mental health, I have felt a safe haven to feel free to express myself. I find myself in an environment that did not make me feel ashamed for how I felt, that it was okay not to be okay. UCLWFC is a club were its members support one another, which is one of the reasons it is exceptional.