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Saints Sport Spotlight: Women's Football

Interview with Women's First Team Captain Cally Wuthrich

How long have you been playing football?

Since age five in the US. So, I guess I’ve been playing for over fifteen years now which is crazy to think about.

What position do you play for the women’s first football team?:

Usually right back. However, this year I’ve started playing center mid which is new for me, but usually right back.

Do you have a leadership role on the team?

I’m the captain of the women’s first team and the Head of Marketing for the Football Club.

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Year of study: Third-year

Degree: Joint Honours of Art History and Management

What is your favorite thing about football?

A lot of different things. But I love that it’s a team sport. There is something incredibly motivating in having your teammates around you. Even when you think you might be drained, looking around and having those girls around you playing their hearts out makes you want to keep going. Win as a team, lose as a team… I know it sounds really cheesy but it’s true. Something special about football is that it can change so quickly. So you really have to be on all the time and pay attention. It’s definitely a game played in the margins. All you need to play is a ball. That’s definitely why it’s one of the most widely played sports in the world. It’s nice that it brings people together in this way, there’s practically no barrier to entry. What’s also cool about football is the balance between structure and creativity. There are set plays and certain passing drills that we do. But at the end of the day you need to be creative in the moment. That’s really valuable. So much of the game happens really quickly, so, as much as you can plan ahead, a lot of games are decided in an instant and good players are able to adapt in those moments.

What is something you think most people don’t know about your sport but should?

Football is definitely familiar to most people. But something that surprised me coming over here is the attitude toward women playing football. I’ve found it’s not as prevalent for girls to play in the UK. Back home in the US it’s popular for both boys and girls. UK football is still primarily seen as a men’s sport. There is a certain prejudice I’ve experienced being a girl playing football here. Which isn’t something that happens at all back home. I guess that a lot of other issues within society can easily be seen tied up in sport, too. I’ve found with football that gender inequality can be very real. I don’t want to get too negative but our team has definitely had some not so great experiences. Nothing major but some off-handed comments about girls' effort in strength and conditioning and it’s often small things like those kinds of remarks that are indicative of the larger culture at work. So I guess to answer the question I didn’t expect football to be seen as predominantly a guy’s sport when coming from the US to the UK, so I think that would surprise most people that there is still a pretty big gender divide in the way girls and boys football teams and programs are treated.

Best part about playing on a team for the University of St Andrews:

There are so many things I could say right now. I’ve tried to narrow it down to a few things though. Firstly, the community I’ve found through sport here. I made some of my closest friends during preseason — so even before school actually started in first year. I love the layers in the football community. We have our team and then the women’s club. We do stuff with the men’s first team too. And then there’s the whole football club which includes all the men’s and women’s teams. And the whole football club does socials together every week. So, there’s a really big football community here even though my team is a small tight-knit group of girls. It’s great to be able to walk around town and know I’ll see at least one football person. But, I would also say that the socials are what make football at St Andrews so special. It’s the whole football club coming together. Not many other schools do this. Of course, other places have games, practices, conditioning, and all that sort of sport stuff, but not many do full mixed club socials. There are club chants and it feels like a really special part of the community here.

Football culture is obviously really strong in the UK. This kind of gives me an insight into British culture that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise if not for joining football. The community is the best. I love being able to see more of Scotland. We travel to games every Wednesday. We’re going down to England this semester. It can sometimes be overwhelming during deadlines but it’s something really special and football has taken me to these places that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. On the bus rides to games I definitely take the opportunity to look out the window and appreciate the countryside and landscapes we get to drive through on our way to games. So I guess I really like that intertwined with feeling like I am experiencing a part of British culture both through football socials and by seeing more of the country.

Being on a football team also gives me such structure to my week. It is a lot. I do something related to football 5 or 6 times a week, not only playing and training but also coaching little girls. As much as that is, I do really like the structure it adds to my day. I’ve played sports my whole life so I’m used to it. It really helps me be productive, handle my day and schedule. I definitely value that structure.

Recently, on an internship application I found myself talking about football. They asked about something I’m involved in at university that might not have been included in my application. I realized how much I’ve learned from football. Being a good teammate, being a hard worker. Now, being captain this year has taught me a lot. I’ve acquired skills I wouldn’t have previously associated with football. Managing logistics, maintaining the role of liaison between our coach and the team, responsibility, and time management of course. There can be a tricky stigma associated with sport. Think jock. But it’s been interesting to reflect on all the concrete skills I’ve learned from playing football here that can be so useful for going into the real world and useful in a job situation. So, sport teaches really valuable lessons and can be so important and I think should be treated as such not looked down upon in the ways they are now.

If you could change one thing about the game you play, what would it be and why?

I kind of already touched on this. But I would want to change the attention and funding that is given to women’s football. Here, at St Andrews, we are really lucky that we have a great program. As I mentioned, I do some coaching for the St Andrews and East Neuk girls football club. Some of these little girls haven’t really met many older female football players. So I want to try and inspire the next generation to keep playing football. This local girls club was started and had a great turn out, and after a few years their numbers started to rival the boys. The boys wanted to take over and manage the girls club. So, the boys club wants to take over and manage the girls club, even though the girls club was founded because there wasn’t a spot for girls in the first place. This girls club wants to continue to be their own entity and foster an environment for girls to play football. It’s important to have St Andrews girls on our uni teams to be role models for these 8, 9, 10 year old little girls. When girls hit puberty the numbers drop. It may not be seen as cool anymore. But these years are really important to plant the seed so they can continue playing hopefully into university. I never would have thought I’d be a coach. But I’m now really passionate about it. It’s incredibly rewarding.

So overall, the one thing I’d want to change about football is to try and increase awareness in football about female players. Working to change the general ‘boys club’ environment that football can sometimes have. I’d love to feel like I’m making a difference with the next generation of girls football. So that one day they can get equal funding, training, and attention that the boys do.

If you could pick any other sport to play, which would you choose?

I have a realistic answer and a dream world choice. At St Andrews, I think I’d want to run cross country. I ran track and field in high school so I think I could do that here and would have a lot of fun. Dream world: I’d want to be a ski racer. Kind of an unrealistic answer since I’ve never done it before but I do love skiing so I think making that hobby and joy for skiing into a competitive sport would be really fun.

Extra: Everyone should go watch Ted Lasso?

I really resonate with a lot that’s on the show Ted Lasso. Most obviously the part about an American entering into the British football environment. I just really liked the way they portrayed the joy of the sport but also the investment that goes with playing the sport. It is such a simple game at the end of the day. You only need a ball. But it can get so much more complex than that with off the field politics and dynamics in a team and all that. I think Ted Lasso really captures all of that really well. Leaving high school I wanted to be done. I didn’t think I wanted to play anymore. But when I visited St Andrews, I toured the gym and talked with the director of football, and he really convinced me to join. I hadn’t even committed to coming to St Andrews at that point. But I sort of agreed to play football here before even confirming I’d matriculate as a student. Here is night and day compared to my high school experience. I dedicate so much time to football here but that’s because I love it. It’s a huge part of my uni experience and I can’t imagine not playing. I guess this is just to say how quickly you can get wrapped up into it. Once you’re in it, it can be hard to see beyond football. So, I think for anyone that hasn’t yet watched the TV show, Ted Lasso, they should. That show really hits home for me. It definitely encapsulates a lot of the football community. British football culture with songs and chants and everything.

Image [Cally Wuthrich]

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