Sharon returned to England from America still with an urge to play and whilst teaching in Bournemouth, played for Southampton Ladies. Unfortunately, she ruptured her ACL and missed out on their run that year to The FA Cup Final.
Upon her return from injury, she decided with the responsibilities she had as a PE teacher that her playing days were perhaps behind her and Southampton offered her the chance to coach the Under-16s girls.
Following her good work there and in Bournemouth as a teacher where she developed girls football hugely, she became Director of Sport at Bede’s School in Sussex.
“When I was there I helped develop the independent schools football association offer for girls, bringing girls football into the independent sector which has been really successful especially under the stewardship of Ian Bent and Chair Susannah Abbott.
“I saw the power of that and it made me realise, at Bede's we're lucky to have a good girls setup and actually I want all schools to have that.
“So, then an opportunity came up to join The FA's PE unit, which was to do with the upskilling of PE teachers and also working with Premier League clubs in upskilling their coaches on curriculum.
“I saw it as an opportunity to take the work I was doing in my school to 100 schools. I wanted to have more impact, I loved being a teacher working with the same children and managing the same staff, but it was an opportunity for me to show what a positive vehicle football can be.”
That’s what brings us to where Sharon is today continuing to create a positive change in female football.
“I'm now employed as a Coach Development Officer with particular focus on supporting women and girls' coaches. I look after six counties, Sussex Surrey, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Essex, and Kent.
“My role is to support the identification and recruitment of female coaches, support them and retain them in the game.
“In Sussex I lead the workforce group for the UEFA Women's EURO 2022, and that aligns in general with what we are trying to achieve in the women's game.
“We created a stepping over the side-lines workshop which is about making females aware of the attributes they already possess through football.
“We're also trying to work alongside women and girls officers in County FAs to deliver Female Friendly Clubs training which helps create the right environment for women and girls at clubs.”
Now, with UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 coming to England, and locally to Sussex, Sharon tells us the impact it will have.
“I think the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 will really shine a lens on the great work everyone has been doing. I think we've worked really hard to ensure there's infrastructure to support the legacy of the EUROs.
“For every girl to have the opportunity around the country to go and watch live games of females playing in a huge tournament, even just watching on TV, is incredible.
“Hopefully it encourages more investors, hopefully it encourages more clubs to want to grow the game, improve facilities, it will be instrumental I hope in continuing the surge of interest.
“Female players from all over the world will now be on posters and even Panini stickers, a small thing like that I never thought I'd see but I'm too old to collect them now unfortunately!”
It’s a highly inspirational journey that Sharon has been on and one that highlights the positive change we have made for women and girls’ football. She had a childhood where football was unavailable to her but today, works in the game professionally where she gets more and more females into the game.
Lastly, Sharon adds: “In the next five years I'd love to think that girl’s football is higher up on the agenda for more clubs, obviously more role models but also more females in high influence positions within clubs.
“I'd like to see every county, especially Sussex, that people see the County FA as somewhere they belong, it's their hub. If you are female and looking to get into football but maybe need that bit or reassurance, know that it is there for you.
“The Sussex County FA website has great resources for you to look at. You have Paul Ofei-Kwatia that you can contact from a playing perspective, there’s myself from a coaching perspective and you have Lisa Benn if you want to get into refereeing.”
For more information on Women & Girls' football in Sussex please contact:
T: 01903 766855