Six Women Who Play Team Sports On Why You Should Join A #GirlSquad

'They become your extended family.'
Kikovic via Getty Images

Georgie Lack finishes work, grabs her lacrosse stick and jumps on the tube.

She gets a few stares and remarks - “are you off to play Quidditch or catch butterflies?” - but she doesn’t care, she’s off to join a team of badass women.

Sadly, just 30% of women in the UK play sport each week, meaning the majority of us are missing out on the fun (and fitness benefits) experienced by Georgie and others.

Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan initiative has highlighted a plethora of reasons why women avoid sport, but many boil down to one thing: confidence.

To mark Women’s Sport Week, we asked six women who play team sports about their experiences, plus their advice for nervous newbies.

You’ll be signing up to your local league in no time.

Georgie Lack, 23, plays lacrosse in London.

Georgie Lack.
Georgie Lack
Georgie Lack.

I’ve played lacrosse since I was 11 at school, then all the way through university. When I moved to London after uni, I joined my club to stay active and meet friends.

Lacrosse is the fastest game on two feet and you need a lot of stamina and skill. It can be difficult to pick up at first, but once it clicks and you can pass and catch, it’s such a great game to be able to play and watch. It’s quite an unusual sport to play as well - you get some weird looks when carrying your lacrosse stick on the tube - so it’s definitely an ice-breaker.

Joining a team is such a good way to make friends, whether you’re dying from doing too many burpees together or celebrating a win, it’s a real bonding experience. You play in all weathers (I’ve played in snow, hail and sunshine) so it definitely toughens you up.

For anyone thinking of joining a team, I’d say don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. At Central London Lacrosse we have lots of girls who’ve only played for a year or two and aren’t the most confident, but we’re a really friendly club and you can see their confidence progressing week on week.

Getting involved in sport is so important - it’s such a great way to release stress after work, get fit, and more importantly, have a good time.

Laurelle Jordan, 24, plays football in London.

Laurelle Jordan.
Camilla Langsbakken
Laurelle Jordan.

I taught myself to play football at the age of seven but I started playing for my first club at 14. I joined South London Laces around a year ago because I’d established a friendship with a few of the members and I also wanted to get back into 11-a-side after being out from football for a few years.

Football is important to me because at the lowest times in my life, I could just kick a ball around and it would help me escape from the stress. I think once you understand the sport, you realise that football is actually more than game. It helps you in many ways, like learning to never give up and also to display the right attitude if you want to stand out.

I enjoy training because I like to practice the skills I have and I enjoy competing because I find that it brings unity. It feels great to win games, especially if you have put 100% into a performance to get a great result. It is truly a beautiful feeling.

Regardless of whether I win or lose, my ultimate goal is to have fun in every game I play and to take a positive and negative from each match, to make myself better for the next.

The advice I would give to women nervous about joining a team would be to give it a go. Sometimes we can be our own worse enemy and this is how we miss out on greatness.

Being part of a team is great, they become your extended family.

Hannah Bowe, 30, plays hockey in Slough.

Hannah Bowe (left).
PA Archive/PA Images
Hannah Bowe (left).

For as long as I can remember, being part of a team is all I’ve known. First, it was Gaelic football [Hannah is originally from Ireland] and that was replaced with hockey when I went to school. My parents always encouraged us to take part in things going on, but sport always won and teams always appealed over individual.

I have met some of the greatest friends through it and while I hate to use the word ‘network’, it really is a way to meet people and connect over a shared goal. It also offers a means of escaping life’s pressures while keeping fit and healthy (until you hit the pub afterwards!).

Competitive sport has taught me so much (often unconsciously), whether that’s working with teams, pushing myself harder or the attributes of leaders I relate to.

I still get nervous joining a new team or even just returning from a break. We all have those questions – ‘Will I fit in? Am I good enough? Do I really want to put myself through this?’ - but the joy of sport is that it gives you an immediate common ground with others and the rest then becomes easy.

Leanne Ford, 36, plays netball and football in London.

Leanne Ford (left).
Leanne Ford
Leanne Ford (left).

I played netball at school but stopped in my teens. Then I saw a couple of friends had liked GoMammoth [netball league] on Facebook and I now play at least once a week. In March I also joined Hackney Wick Ladies Football Club after meeting founder Bobby Kasanga when they were fundraising at Tesco. I was impressed by how active the club were in the community and a few months later decided to give it a go.

Team sport is a lot of fun. The netball league I play in is recreational and when something funny happens in the game we often laugh with the other team and the umpires. We also fill in for each other’s teams when we’re players down so there’s lots of goodwill in the league.

I think sometimes women can be given messages in society that being competitive means you’re a bit of a b*tch or not conforming to a gender expectation. Playing sports is a really healthy way to overcome this and to get the benefits of both winning and losing. You’re sometimes going to fumble a pass or a shot and that’s ok.

In both teams I’ve joined, people have been so welcoming, but if you’re feeling a bit nervous because you’ve never played or haven’t played for a while, message the organiser and tell them so they can give you a bit of support to get going. Remember, no one is expecting you to be the best, we’re all there to have fun and improve.

Eli Zheleva, 29, plays doubles badminton in Portsmouth.

Eli Zheleva (right).
Eli Zheleva
Eli Zheleva (right).

I am part of two badminton teams, one for mixed doubles and the other one for ladies doubles. I joined out of curiosity.

I’m originally from Bulgaria and have been living in the UK for the last seven years. Three years ago, when I was visiting home, my mum gave a badminton kit to my nephew as a birthday present. He was five at the time and didn’t know how to play. My sister and I started playing to show him and ended up knocking about until 1am under a street lamp. That was the moment I realised I liked badminton.

As soon as I got back to the UK I found a club here. I have since become addicted. I love the fact that although it’s the same game every other evening, depending on your physical and mental conditioning on the day, who you’re playing with and when the last time you restrung your racket was, the game is completely different.

I’d strongly recommend badminton to everyone as it doesn’t matter what size you are, it’s all in the wrist and you don’t need to be the fittest person to play and be good at it. It’s also very cheap. Many places have pay as you go systems, where the player pays £5 per visit for a few hours of badminton.

My advice to women thinking of trying badminton would be to give it a go. In the three years I’ve been playing I’ve not yet seen or heard of anyone laughing at a newbie because they’ve missed a shot.

Kirsty Waddell, 29, plays netball in London.

Kirsty Waddell's netball team.
Kirsty Waddell
Kirsty Waddell's netball team.

I play netball in a team called the Slammers that play every Monday night in Highbury and Islington. I decided to join when I moved to London [Kirsty is originally from Glasgow] as it’s a great way to meet new people. I previously did the same thing when I moved to another city overseas and made very good friends.

It’s social netball but we play in a league each season so it gets quite competitive but in a fun, friendly way. It’s an enjoyable way to keep fit and you can release stress from your working week.

I have found that most people who play social team sport are looking for similar things, they want to play a sport they enjoy and have fun. A lot of my friends have joined team sports to meet new people and always end up making new friends.

Everyone who plays is in the same mindset and you will have similar interests. Playing a team sport, particularly when you win a game, creates such positive energy. It’s great to be part of that and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about doing it.