Footballer Kirsty McGee on her journey into the sport and why it’s important for younger players to build a career away from the pitch.
I was a late starter to the game.
When I was younger my brother and dad both played football and I would have a kick around with them. It was only when I went to junior school that I started playing for a team – the boy’s one. I got a few raised eyebrows being the only girl but when people saw me play they changed their minds.
When I went to secondary school there weren’t a lot of opportunities for girls to play football.
Back then, girls couldn’t play competitive football with boys after the age of 11 (the cut off age is now 16). There was a girls’ team but it wasn’t popular so I started playing netball.
I played football properly when I went to college.
I joined the football academy and met some other women who played for Portsmouth FC Ladies. I went along to training with them and was offered a place in the first team playing senior women’s football. I played at the club for 10 years.
It was a big decision to transfer to Reading Football Club as Portsmouth is where I grew up.
The manager invited me to a training session in 2015 and I’ve been there since. In my first season they asked me to become captain.
I joined the union PFA two years ago.
I was contacted by them when working as a full-time coach in schools before going into professional football. They asked me to become a union learning rep to help encourage younger girls to build careers away from the pitch.
Women’s football has taken off and young girls are being offered professional contracts straight out of college.
This means they don’t have to rely on full-time work to prop up their income. But with limited work experience and qualifications, they’ll have nothing to fall back on when their careers end.
Football isn’t forever.
A lot of girls get tunnel vision. I want to push the 16–18 year olds in particular to take advantage of the PFA’s education programme and build up their skills and qualifications.