Could you imagine your boss paying for a hobby you’re passionate about?
So when Prit, our chief executive officer, told me Assure Hedge would sponsor my community football team if the team and I integrated Salesforce in Q1, I didn’t think much of it.
Except he was dead serious.
And when we smashed the target of migrating in just under four weeks, he was true to his word. The FC Leytonstone women’s team, which I started on 7 Jan 2022, will sport the Assure Hedge logo on our shirts when we play our first international tournament in Amsterdam in May.
‘You in or out?’
I started playing football as a young child, mainly because, well, I didn’t have much of a say in the matter. Most of my cousins are boys, and all they ever wanted to do at family gatherings was kick a ball.
It was either play football or sit with the grown-ups. So I played.
But it wasn’t long before I started feeling myself getting sucked into the beautiful game.
Football became my all-consuming passion. I played whenever I could spare a minute, trained harder than any of my cousins, and went to every single club trial I could find.
Eventually I made it to the first team at Leyton Orient, where I played at semi-professional level (a fact I’ll never tire of reminding my cousins about) and reached the final of the Sue Sharples Cup.
Passing the ball
Over the past five years, women’s football has surged in popularity. The England vs US 2019 World Cup semi-final, for instance, drew a record-setting 11.7 million viewers on the BBC. But back when I was growing up, women weren’t very visible in sports.
As football-mad as I was as a teen, I couldn’t have named a single female footballer if I’d tried. That and the fact that, in my community, girls aren’t encouraged to play sports at a high level, spurred me to try and make a difference.
I believe many girls feel like they can’t keep playing partly due to a lack of role models. Being able to look up to somebody who has done what you dream of doing and looks just like you makes it much easier to carry on.
So, when the chairman of FC Leytonstone, who knew me from my days at Leyton Orient, asked me if I’d be interested in setting up a girls’ team, I jumped at the opportunity.
I did some coaching badges and, just over 18 months ago, I started coaching FC Leytonstone’s first under 12 girls’ team.
Back in the box
Coaching is, without a doubt, my biggest sporting achievement.
Many of the girls I coach have never played in a league before, and parents aren’t always supportive. Showing them that, yes, there is space for them to play and seeing them grow in confidence match after match has been immensely satisfying.
That said, I’d be lying if I said my feet weren’t itching to get back on the pitch.
Luckily FC Leytonstone’s chairman was as excited as I was about launching a women’s team.
As of January, we officially have a 5-a-side team. We’re hoping to build it into an 11-a-side team and start playing in the community league.
It’s coming home (we hope)
Getting sponsored by Assure Hedge — especially when we’re just starting out — is a huge, huge deal for us.
Community clubs aren’t profit-based. They’re funded by the players themselves, their families, and supporters.
For many parents, especially in my community, driving their kids long distances every weekend and spending time in environments where they themselves don’t feel comfortable is already a challenge. Having to ask them to pay for kits, training sessions, and the other expenses running a football club entails would only serve to put more barriers in place.
With Assure Hedge’s help, we can pay for the kits and subsidise training. Which means our club will be more affordable and accessible for girls and women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to indulge their passion for the sport.
It’s really a testament to what a great place to work Assure Hedge is. A company that not only gives me opportunities to grow professionally, but also supports me in the things I care about.
Now, to win that tournament in May…
Best get back to the training ground.