Football heroine inspires girls to follow their dreams

Students at Sydenham High Junior School went football crazy on Monday 7 July – but not because of the World Cup.  Rachel Yankey OBE, England’s most famous female footballer and youth mentor with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, visited the school to talk to students from years 3 to 6 about her experiences and to present them with their end of year prizes.

Rachel told the girls about the highs and the lows of her career and advised them that they should follow their dream, always believe in what they wanted to do and ensure they gained enjoyment from it.

She explained to the girls how her passion for football started at the age of eight but that she had to pretend to be a boy to play for a team.  Determination and a coach who championed her talent meant that she eventually joined a girls’ team and was soon scouted to play for Arsenal and then England at the age of just 17.  Since then she has earned the distinction of being the first female player to receive a central contract from the FA and enjoyed an illustrious club and international career, including selection for the Great Britain football team for the 2012 Olympics.  The girls were also amazed to hear that she had won more England caps than David Beckham!

She then presented prize winners with their awards and also leaving gifts to the girls in year 6

At the end of the ceremony members of the school’s football team turned the tables on Rachel and presented her with a gift of their own: a football signed by the team as a memento of her visit.

Headteacher Kathryn Pullen said: “Rachel really embodies the true Sydenham High spirit and her speech was hugely inspiring to the girls.  At Sydenham we teach the three r’s – resilience, responsibility and resourcefulness – along with academic excellence, to produce remarkable young women who will make a difference in the world and fulfil their dreams as Rachel has done.”

The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust helps disadvantaged youngsters to reach their full potential. Through a range of personal development programmes run across the country, every one of the young people helped by the Trust receives mentoring and support from a world class athlete.

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