‘Football helped with my anxiety and improved my confidence’

As part of our #ThisGirlCan celebrations Jade Hall-Smith, 28, a recent graduate, spoke to us about playing football at Goldsmiths and how it changed her life…

‘I started a full-time Masters course in Independent Games and Playable Experience Design at Goldsmiths in 2016. But I have autism and dyspraxia and began to find the course quite overwhelming. This meant I only ever went to class - I never joined any societies or interacted with anyone outside of my studies. I would often feel anxious being on a large, noisy campus so I eventually decided to drop my course to part-time.  But when I went to Welcome Week the following year, I tried the women’s football taster session. Everyone was really lovely and kind and the captain made sure that it was accessible for me. 

I decided to join the team after that, training weekly and competing against other university women’s football teams every Sunday. It didn’t matter that I was a bit rusty (I hadn’t played football properly for years) or that we didn’t always win as it really helped with my anxiety and confidence. I soon found that football was really helping with my creative flow too, which in turn helped with my grades. But, most importantly, I was socialising more with others and improving my coordination, which eventually prompted me to become a goalkeeper!

Now, I have rekindled my love of football and play three times a week. Better still, because of all the great help and confidence I got from being a part of the Goldsmiths’ women’s football team, I was selected to play with Millwall in their disability football team. We play tournaments once a month during the season and I also play matches with my disability women’s football team. My confidence and communication skills have improved so much that I’ve even been able to attend some game conventions and conferences in different countries that have been paid for by various organisations as an aspiring games designer. Football has also helped to improve my asthma AND helped me to stay fit too. 

I’ve now finished at the university and graduated with a distinction. Getting out there and playing football, making friends and meeting new people really did play a big part, which is why I’m so proud to be part of this campaign encouraging all women - no matter your size, shape or ability - to give sport a go!’

Words and images supplied by Jade*