Lockdown #2 comes into force, meaning all our junior teams and our men’s teams have their last games and training for a month — whilst the women’s first team face 3 games in 8 days with no change to schedule, as an “elite” team. Written en route to Leicester City for the 7th Championship game of the season. We are level on points, alongside Liverpool who we drew against 2–2 last week.
What I did
- Tried quite unsuccessfully to concentrate on Monday, the day after the Liverpool game. Hosting home games is pretty heavy-going, and I’m always exhausted the day after. Add to that, the nervous energy of remaining level on points with the full-time giants, and it was difficult to focus on the week in hand.
- Twitter updates for our midweek Conti Cup game v the Bees. I hate it. I miss bits of the game, and am constantly asking those around me “who laid off that ball, who got the shot? What happened in the middle then?” We’re trying to keep travelling numbers low though for COVID prevention, so it means a small number of people taking on additional tasks.
- Sort out new training kit with the pathway coaches for our very excited U14s and U16s. “Small shorts, large socks, medium training top, medium tracky bottoms — not small, medium, where’s the other box? We don’t have any more mediums? Rain-jacket — check, jumper?”
- Zoom meetings — with the FA on monitoring and improving physical performance, with the FA on COVID and lockdown, with the brilliant UK’s head of female sports chaplaincy about a chaplain supporting the club, with the FA on the legacy of the UEFA championships in 2022, with Aston Villa to learn about their new university partnership to see what we can apply at Lewes, with a researcher on female leadership in football)
- Gave an online talk to One Family in Brighton, about the club, and why increasing opportunity and equality for women and girls in sport is key to much deeper social cohesion. The talk was part of One Family’s series of talks throughout the year for staff to learn more about various diversity and inclusion issues. They were a good crowd with good questions.
- Fell asleep whilst watching the US election results come in — which didn’t matter, as I couldn’t have stayed away for 5 days in any case. Delighted that Biden has replaced Trump, excited at the prospect of Kamala Harris taking a leading role in the next establishment, horrified by how close it was, dismayed and disgusted that Trump’s support seems to have increased amongst white women, grateful to black women in America, nervous about Trump’s inability to accept the result.
Unfortunately this is also lockdown #2 week, meaning waiting for and then analysing government guidance, and then answering questions within our club community around who is permitted to train and play, equipment and facility use, etc. I know there are a lot of people in women’s football frustrated that women’s FA Cup matches are not going ahead this weekend. However, mindful this is not a popular opinion, I thought that the decision was quite clear-cut on the women’s side. The top two tiers (for good or for bad) have been under duress to apply very strict COVID protocols, in order to retain “elite status”. I can’t underline enough how difficult this has been at times, and has meant other forms of hardship, such as not having fans at games since the start of the season. So for health and safety reasons, it makes sense that only “elite” clubs continue to travel the country, use changing rooms and showers, and engage in the riskier forms of semi-contact (eg distanced team meetings) that can transmit COVID, whilst continuing to operate under strict protocols and undergoing testing weekly. I think a bigger question is actually whether we can get grassroots teams (girls and boys) back in a training environment quicker — without the most risky elements involved in competitive fixtures outlined above.
And of course I find it frustrating that Academy girls teams are not judged elite when their male peers are, but this — and the fact that the early current rounds of the FA Cup mean some men’s teams involved are professional but none of the women’s teams are, is evidence of the ongoing systemic challenges we face, where boys are prioritised over girls, and money is invested in men, not women. Simply allowing academy girls to play, or for grassroots women’s teams to play an FA Cup match doesn’t address the deeper rooted discrimination they face, whereby they have fewer resources, or are judged as second order (and it doesn’t make them immune to a global pandemic). Better to address some of the structural issues and ensure that in the long-term their safety, welfare and professional development is promoted and prioritised at the same level as boys. Them not being permitted to play right now is just an indicator of a much bigger problem that can’t be solved by allowing them to play during a global pandemic.
What I listened to
- Away games mean catching up on podcasts on long journeys. I managed to catch up on the Game Changers interviews with Gabby Logan (forgot she was a rhythmic gymnast), Ebony Rainford-Brent (changing the world of cricket, one girl at a time, and she has a mega bucket list and is super focused on strategy and targets… I bet she does good spreadsheets).
- My absolute absolute favourite from this podcast is the one with Rose Reilly. Yes you’ve probably never heard of her, and I just can’t do her achievements nor her storytelling justice, it’s just amazing, please listen!