Hannah Gardner – Football

Gardner, HannahThe common question I get asked is “who do you play for?” which of course I have no qualms in answering that question; I have always been proud to say who I represent. However, for me the bigger picture is the background and the journey that has been undertaken by the athlete, describing how they got there in order to tell the story of their career, allowing the listeners/readers to capture what they may feel, is their hopes and dreams.

Mine is a simple story really, from the age of 5, I played for a boys team; I was the only girl, but I remember being a striker, I loved to run. I can’t really explain why I love football so much; my father enjoys football and used to play in his early adult years, but to my remembrance there is little relation in my mind for the reasoning of my passion for the game. As I grew older I developed more and more love for football, it was my focus, my distraction from life events at the time; it became an integral part of me, to which is has always remained still to this day.

Up until the age of 16 I always played football for a big town near by, just your average level. When I was 17 I moved counties and trialed for the Charlton Athletic Academy.  At the time that was my breakthrough from recreational level to elite. After a year in the Academy, I went to West Ham Utd Ladies, where I took an even bigger step up in my game; to date that has to have been my proudest achievement, more so because I grew up supporting West Ham, and officially being apart of the club was a real sense of achievement for myself.

11046904_10152642317595812_4463376697463877296_nAfter a few years out of football, and after suffering from a debilitating illness, I decided to reintroduce myself to the game again and played for my University (Canterbury Christ Church). Which was a great starting point for me as it helped me develop as a player technically, and improved the confidence I lacked. Despite the lack of belief due to being out of the game for so long, I still have the hope and mentality of ‘I played at that level before, I can do it again!’ My ambition and hopes are to reach the Women’s Super League and play alongside some of the greats, the women I aspire to. It’s a long journey ahead of me, but I’m not willing to give up!

It requires a great deal of time, thought, and energy to play at the level I do. My current club may not be at the top, but that does not mean my mentality isn’t aiming for it. I train like an elite athlete; in preseason I train 5/6 days a week, sometimes twice a day. However, my focus shifts once the season has started, as well as my studies. My degree needs the energy, focus and time as much as my sport. During the season I work on maintaining the levels I reached during preseason, a typical week for now is training 4/5 sessions a week, including a game (it depends on events I have on in the week, as to how many sessions I do). Those sessions consist of training with my club, strength work in the gym, and pitch fitness outside; that I do out of choice, and most importantly stretching. Training can be very difficult when I also have to factor in a job to financially support myself. It’s hard work but once I see improvements, achievements, and results it all becomes worth it.

10516608_10152642317765812_2688392460525186337_nBeing a Christ Church Sport Scholar brings a real sense of accomplishment.  The representation of being a scholar almost encapsulates my success as an athlete so far; so it feels anyway. Having that recognition of being a scholar instills a sense of pride, the confidence in my achievements and abilities, and the motivation to continue to develop as an athlete. Obtaining a Scholarship provides not only the emotional sentiment to myself, but a financial support; it aids in my travel expenses to training and games, the expenses of new equipment, and professional services such as; Sports Therapy, Strength and Conditioning and Nutrition. All of which are key factors in the development of my pathway to reaching a higher level.


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