Here, Starling writer Charlotte Lorimer talks with five young footballers who have been supported by Starling with a £1,000 athlete award. The footballers – Maddy Earl, Mia Enderby, Evie Rabjohn, Zara Shaw and Mia Endacott – were chosen in partnership with the charity SportsAid.

Throughout my conversations with the five footballers, the same phrases were spoken: “only girl,” “hard work,” “don’t give up.”

“When I was younger, I was told that girls can’t play football,” says Mia Enderby. “It knocked my confidence – I used to be the only girl in the boy’s team. But now, I feel like I’m proving them wrong.”

Mia Enderby plays for Sheffield United Women FC

All five girls began playing in boys’ teams at their local club. All five have been told that ‘girls can’t play football’. All five have played for England.

Growing in confidence

Mia first represented England when she played for the under 16’s team against Wales, aged 15. She now plays for Sheffield United Women FC. At 17, she’s one of the youngest in the team. So far this season, she’s their top goal scorer.

“Since the age of two, I’ve always had a ball at my feet,” she says. “I’ve grown up with football – my mum always used to have it on the TV and I’d play with her in the garden.”

Maddy Earl, who played with Mia in the under 17’s England match against Poland this summer, is also part of a family that loves football. “My older brother was – and is – obsessed with football and he got me playing in the garden, sticking me in goal and shooting at me,” says Maddy, 15.

Maddy Earl plays for Arsenal Women FC

“Football has become a way to express myself. It gives me an opportunity to learn and everything I learn is beneficial, not just in football but in life.”

Learning from experience

For Maddy, the biggest lesson the game has taught her so far is to “carry on despite challenges you might face – on the pitch, off the pitch, psychological, physical. That determination to keep going can apply to anything in life. Work hard and do what you’re there to do.”

‘Determination’ was also the word 17-year-old Evie Rabjohn used when I asked her what football had taught her. While 15-year-old Zara Shaw answered: “Discipline and dedication. Nothing comes easily, you have to work hard for it.”

Upping their game

The five young women train at least four times a week to prepare for their weekly game. “I train pretty much every day,” says Mia Endacott, 15, who plays for Plymouth Argyle FC. She made her England debut earlier this year in a match against Portugal.

Mia Endcott plays for Plymouth Argyle FC

A few of the players have recently been invited to train with a Women’s 1st Team alongside players that are much older than them. “With a 1st team, everything is more precise. You can’t take two or three touches when you get the ball, you have to be more ruthless. It’s all about the small details,” says Maddy, who trains with the Women’s 1st Team for Arsenal FC in London.

Zara Shaw plays for Liverpool FC

Zara, who played alongside Maddy in the England under 17’s match against Estonia, trains with the Women’s 1st Team for Liverpool FC. “The intensity and professionalism is on a different level – I love it,” she says.

Evie plays for Aston Villa FC. She has been involved with England since the under 15’s and played her first match aged 15 in the under 16’s. She has since captained the under 17’s team in a match against Belgium.

All five players have allocated a portion of their award to football boots. “When you’re playing football six times a week, they get wrecked so quickly so you constantly need new pairs,” says Mia Endacott.

Both Mia and Maddy are also using the money to pay for 1:1 football coaching sessions and gym sessions. “I’ve been doing strength work for football for two months and I feel a lot stronger and I’m playing better,” says Mia.

Sharing their advice

When it comes to advice for other girls playing football, the players seem to speak as one:

“Do it for yourself, not for other people.” - Mia Endacott

“Don’t be afraid to dream big and don’t think about what other people think.” - Evie Rabjohn

“Always believe in yourself and your dreams. Anything is possible if you work hard.” - Zara Shaw

“Work hard and have belief in yourself. You have to trust yourself before others trust you.” - Maddy Earl

“Don’t give up and always put in 100%. Take a negative and turn it into a positive. Prove them wrong.” - Mia Enderby

Their words can be applied to many pursuits, from starting a business to starting a bank. Here’s how our CEO and founder Anne Boden concludes the list of thank yous in her book, Banking On It: “To the person who first said to me: it can’t be done. Thank you. I do respond well to a challenge.” Anne is the first woman in UK history to start a bank.

To find out how Starling supports women’s football beyond our sponsorship of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 tournament, follow our social channels for updates.

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