Rushlake Green teen propels female footie teams to success

Sussex Express photo
Sussex Express photo

A SPORTY 17-year-old girl is singlehandedly propelling a trio of female footie teams into county-wide soccer stardom.

Becky Wickens from Rushlake Green was just 14 years old when she joined forces with Steve Baitup to create, build up, train and run a girls’ football team in and around local towns and villages.

Although Steve’s not involved any more, football fanatic Becky believes his input was essential to get the idea off the ground. The outcome was the Broad Oak and Horam Girls Junior Football Club which Becky has built up from just a handful of keen players to a total of three full teams - the Under 11s, Under 13s and Under 14s.

She said: “Three years ago we only had three girls training week in, week out. Now we have three teams and more than 30 registered girls playing for us. Girls’ football is a priority in my life. Now we have a fully established girls’ club and it’s going great guns.”

The teams train at the Tower Recreation Ground in Heathfield and the Horam Recreation Ground.

Former Heathfield Community College student Becky has loved the game since she was old enough to remember kicking a ball. Her enthusiasm involved time on the terraces as well as the sports channels on TV. In her private life family connections mean a lifelong support for South London team Charlton Athletic. She explains: “My great grandma lived near there so it’s in the blood really.”

Becky’s been footballing since she could walk, played with boys’ teams from the age of seven and when she was 11 she joined an Uckfield Grasshoppers’ girls’ team. Now Grasshoppers’ coach Tony Rossi confesses all the keen girls in Wealden head straight for Becky’s teams; “We don’t have girls’ teams, they all want to play with her!”

There was also time spent with girls’ teams in Eastbourne. She tried hard to get involved in girls’ football at school but said at the time there were not enough enthusiastic players to form a team. Now, thanks to the very public success of top clubs’ female football teams and greater coverage on national TV, more and more girls and women are coming forward to play.

Under her coaching, now all three teams in the Broad Oak and Horam Club play in the Sussex County Women and Girls’ Football League. Becky also referees (something else she started doing at the age of 14.) Is she a toughie on the touchline? “No, I’m pretty laid back. But I can give as good as I get and I don’t take any nonsense. People seem to prefer it that way.”

She has a five year plan to develop the club with even more age-specific teams involved. She went on: “I need to spread the word and promote our club so that more girls come into football, or even better, into our squad.”

Becky’s even managed the tough task of securing sponsorship for the teams. She wants to say a big thank-you to Pura Bathrooms from Crowborough support the Under 13s and Under 14s while James Gibson sponsors the Under 11.