Girls’ Football Week: ‘College football enabled me to represent my country and live my dream’
To celebrate The FA’s Girls’ Football Week, AoC Sport is producing a series of articles and features on different aspects of the female game throughout colleges.
For our latest piece, we spoke to SGS College student Paige Sawyer. The 17-year-old plays for our ECFA women’s national team and has recently broken into Bristol City Women’s first team in the FA Women’s Super League 2.
The striker made her senior debut earlier this season in an FA Cup match against QPR, and scored her first senior goal for the Vixens just last week, in a 3-0 victory over London Bees.
What made you first get into playing football?
From the age of three I said that I wanted to either play football or rugby. Then when I was five my mum’s friend told us that Warmley Rangers Boys Football Club allowed girls to play. So I went along to a training session and I was hooked. I guess the rest is history.
What do you think of the opportunities available to girls playing football now?
Although I’m only 17 the opportunities for girls to play football have massively improved since I started playing, especially over the last couple of years. There are more teams for girls and events specifically to engage girls in football are held and they now have female footballers as role models to inspire them. Here at Bristol City we have a full player pathway from our mini vixens and skills centre through to our centre of excellence, college, development teams and ultimately the first team.
What levels of dedication and commitment are needed to start breaking into a Women’s Super League side?
To enable me to play at this level for Bristol, I’ve been given approval to miss lessons to enable me to train twice a day every day. Although I say I miss lessons it means I have to work evenings to catch up on my college course work, so you need to be organised. Alongside playing and studying I have to try and fit in a part time job, this means having to make decisions where you miss out on social activities and events with friends and family. It’s also important to manage injuries correctly and follow advice and rehabilitation programmes to enable you to perform at your peak level and prolong your playing career. Although it’s a full-time commitment and tough decisions have to be made I wouldn’t change it as I’m living my dream!
Who are your biggest role models in football?
Steven Gerrard as he’s someone I grew up watching through my support of Liverpool FC. He always played for the shirt and led by example which I attempt to emulate when I play.
How has college football and the opportunities to play and volunteer helped your development, both as a player and academically?
College football has allowed me to play and develop in the game I love alongside my studies and SGS College have been really supportive since I started in September last year. It’s enabled me to represent my country in the ECFA national squad playing international games at home and abroad. Being part of the college programme I’ve been able to improve my coaching and my match official skills assisting with youth and college teams.
What has been your biggest achievement in football so far?
There have been a couple recently, firstly signing for Bristol City WFC first team and making my debut for the club against QPR in the FA Cup. This is something I’ve been working towards since joining the club at the age of nine. Then representing my country with ECFA and scoring a hat-trick against Wales.
What are your aims for the next couple of seasons and the long-term future?
Over the next couple of seasons I will be challenging myself to develop and become a regular starter for the club. In the short term I want to help the club get back in to WSL1 which will bring new challenges to play against some of the best players in the world.