SheBelieves: Danielle Carter Discusses Being ‘More Than a Footballer’ and World Cup Injury Heartache

Ever since I was seven years old, I was there, in the playground, ruining my school shoes with all the boys playing football with a tennis ball. I played football whenever I could, Saturdays, Sundays, during school, after school. Half an hour was all I ever needed.

I never thought, ‘I’m going to play football. I want to earn loads of money.’ I just loved it. I just wanted to be a footballer because of my passion, the same as previous generations of female players. For those players, it wasn’t the case that they could be solely a professional footballer and earn a big wage. They were always ‘footballers and’ – footballer and a physio, or maybe a footballer and an accountant.

Even though I knew I wanted to play football I didn’t know I was going to be professional. My mum always stressed to me, ‘you’ve got to have a backup!’ So I always took my education seriously…I’m always studying. 

The generation of players before mine were in a similar position, they had to really think about their careers. Jane Ludlow was a physio, a coach and did loads on the side, whilst also playing for ​Arsenal. Players now are now seeing what it means to reap the benefits of those who played before. 

Young players are coming into to into an environment where you might have an agent, a boot deal, free clothes and training kit. It’s not wrong that this is becoming the case, but it has always been instilled in me that I shouldn’t think of football as something I could live off for the rest of my life. My generation of players are lucky because we can learn from the older girls to keep a straight head and to be humble with what’s coming.

The truth is, we get so much free time as footballers. Male and female footballers. People think we don’t, but we do. We can do so much more than what we’re doing.

I joined Arsenal around the time I was deciding whether to go to college or to stay on for sixth form, as I ended up doing, at my school. I passed my A-Levels and then decided I wanted to get university degree alongside my football. I had to decide whether to study physiotherapy, maths or sports psychology. After much umming and ahhing I chose physiotherapy, I think perhaps expecting it to be just related to sports. 

Danielle Carter

In actual fact, I ended up doing cardiorespiratory physiotherapy. I studied for my degree for four years, whilst playing semi-pro at Arsenal. I’d be at uni or on placement daily in a hospital helping to extract phlegm from patients’ chests to help with breathing problems 9-5, then I would go straight to training 6-8. When I look back, I don’t know where I got the time! 

Football’s always been the most important thing in my life but since rupturing my ACL at the very end of the 2018 season, I’ve spent the last eight months in recovery. I’ve got a month left and it’s been one of the toughest things I’ve had to go through. At the time I was in and out of the England team with a World Cup on the horizon. 

The injury wiped out my dream of going to the World Cup, but also gave me a fresh mentality. It’s a fresh start, it’s time to prove my worth and prove my ability. A strong work ethic has been instilled in me by my family from the beginning. I believe whatever you put in you’ll get out. Whatever I put my mind to I know I can do. Whether that’s football or in other walks of life. 

I’ve always wanted to be involved with Arsenal in the community, for example. Since suffering the injury I’ve had the chance to commit and really get involved with a lot of projects. I’ve wanted to use this time to help people, and the whole experience has been amazing. For some reason, people look up to me and see me as a role model. 

That’s still bizarre to me. I’m still just Danielle, but to the wider community footballers are role models. Half an hour with someone has the potential to truly impact their life and I can see the benefits of being an individual who can have a chance to positively affect others people’s lives and futures.

The truth is, we get so much free time as footballers. Male and female footballers. People think we don’t, but we do. We can do so much more than what we’re doing. When we transitioned to becoming full time at Arsenal I didn’t do anything outside of football for a while and found myself getting restless. I decided to do a course called ‘On the Board’ that the PFA helped fund. It helps gives people the knowledge and ability to sit on boards and panels.

I believe that time is the most precious thing you’ll ever own. You can’t buy it, you can’t get it back but what you can do with your time can be so valuable to others.

I had no idea about corporate governance at the time, but since that course I’ve been fascinated by how interesting the business side of football is. It’s also led to me to joining the FA Council and other advisory boards. I’ve since decided to do an MBA course that focuses on the skills required to be a CEO of a sports business. 

I’m the only professional footballer on some of the panels I’m on, but I feel it’s really important that I bring that voice to the table and provide a different perspective. The more I learn the more I realise that I can explore different avenues and that I could be a part of a generation that affects change at boardroom level.

Danielle Carter,Alex Scott,Jordan Nobbs

The women’s game has come so far over the last few years in so many ways, and it’s only going to get bigger. But what’s great is that outside of football, people want more of our time, which is a credit to the players who came before us who paved the way. There’s so many opportunities for everyone in the women’s game now. 

I believe that time is the most precious thing you’ll ever own. You can’t buy it, you can’t get it back but what you can do with your time can be so valuable to others. 

Football is my dream job but it also allows me to be involved in the perfect amount of other things around it. I have time for my training, but I also make sure my work with the FA, my studying, my work within the community and volunteering to help others fits into the time I’ve got ready to give, where I definitely want those things to be.


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