PE Teacher and Professional Footballer
Shelly graduated from Loughborough with a degree in Sport and Exercise Science in 2005, and completed her PGCE the following year. In her alumni profile, Shelly talks about juggling her job as a PE Teacher alongside professional football and raising her children.
At the end of my AS levels, I was selected to train at the FA National Player Development Centre based at Loughborough University. This was aimed at encouraging female international players to train in the UK rather than going to America to gain scholarships. In my time there, both Jane Ebbage and Lois Fidler were responsible for our development.
Having spent a year at Burleigh College doing my A2s, I then applied for a place on Sport and Exercise Science. I always knew that this would be my ultimate achievement in education but didn’t think I would ever get in. But I did, and always felt very proud that I was able to work alongside some amazing athletes and really appreciated the opportunity.
Loughborough was such an inspirational place in general. The lecturers were highly respected and hugely knowledgable. I always remember being totally engaged in the information they were giving us. They had the ability to get us to Thursday morning lectures, which I know can be hard.
Having the opportunity to train there was just fantastic. The calibre of athletes around you was superb and only ever inspired me to get more out of myself physically. And this was the reason I stayed in the international set-up, because of the facilities and sport science expertise.
Having Paula Radcliffe running around your pitch when you were training, having the England Rugby team walking into Powerbase when you were doing weights. It was just fantastic!
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
Do not take for granted the opportunity you have to learn from the best at the best university. Make the most of all of the facilities and look forward to telling your children all about it! I can’t wait to tell my two children about all my stories.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, how did this impact upon your Loughborough experience?
I was unable to play for the university football team unfortunately due to international and club commitments. But we got to know some of the members of the men’s team as we played against them a couple of times in training games.
The team spirit within their team was great, it seemed much more close-knit than club football.
Loughborough played a huge part in making me the best I could be, both physically and mentally. The sport science and psychological support was second to none. This enabled me to be involved in all the England youth age groups up to U23’s and saw me through two U19 European Championships and an U19 World Cup.
I was given a sprint coach who worked with me personally to improve my speed and this not only improved my physical performance, but it also gave me knowledge that I now use in my teaching.
This has always been hard. When I was at Doncaster Belles, I would leave school in Southampton at 3pm, meet a couple of girls in Nottingham, then get to train for 7.30pm. I would then stay overnight in Nottingham and leave at 5am to get back to Southampton for 8am. I would do this twice a week and then travel to games on a Sunday. It seems crazy now.
At Reading, I was one of only a few part-time players, so trying to keep up physically alongside having a young child was hard. Kelly Chambers, the Manager at Reading, was always very understanding about my situation. But I was still having to train on a Tuesday night, have 6 hours sleep, take my son to nursery and then do a four lesson morning the next day, before driving for a couple of hours to Bisham Abbey to train again. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I suppose it has all come down to an amazingly supportive husband and a fantastic family who would do anything for me. Also, my school in Romsey have always supported me when I have needed to change my timetable due to training or if I have had to leave early for a game. This support makes a huge difference.
My Dad always drove lots as part of his job and I suppose I just thought that this was normal and installed the attitude I have. At one point, before I passed my driving test my Dad would drive me up to Loughborough from Southampton on a Sunday night, to then drive back home. He would then pick me up after work on a Friday so that I could come home and play for my club at the weekend. You don’t realise until you look back how much your family sacrifice to support you. I was very lucky.
My career in football has taught me to be strong, independent, and has given me the ability to ride the highs and lows not only in football but in life in general and has encouraged me to never give up on my dreams.
I have met, played with and played against some amazing players and have also been coached by some fantastic managers. These people often have had to travel the country week in, week out, sacrificed their social life, juggled jobs, being a parent and being out of pocket as a result of trying to play football at the highest level possible. Because of this, there is something very special and inspiring about people involved in women’s football, something you can’t teach.
I love inspiring young people to take part in sport. I believe so much in how physical exercise is important for your physical, mental and social health. I feel lucky to be in a position to be able to encourage and inspire the next generation.
I have just signed for Southampton, who are hoping to be selected to compete in the second tier of women’s football for next season. The club is very committed to the development of women’s football in Southampton and is a very exciting club to be a part of.
In terms of my career, I am currently on maternity leave having just had my second child, and I’m intending on going back to this after Christmas. But in the meantime, I am going to go back to my sport science roots and start my own personal training business having just completed my Level 3 certificate. I hope to start exercise classes in my area and inspire people in my community, showing people how beneficial an active and healthy lifestyle is. I am also hoping to get some experience in exercise science to see if this can lead me into working with a sports team in the future.
Ultimately, sport and exercise is my absolute passion. I just couldn’t do anything else!
My proudest moments were stepping onto the Wembley turf to represent my country at U16 level and playing in the first U19 World Cup in Canada.