Harriet Meers: Lots To Look Forward To In 2021

Just before Christmas, Impetus announced it was sponsoring Wroxham Women defender Harriet Meers. In the first of our regular catch-ups with Harriet, she talks to Ben Gilby about her footballing journey so far.

Harriet began our conversation by introducing herself briefly to us:“I was born in 2000 (I am 20 years old) and was brought up in Ipswich and haven’t moved far until university where I study Biomedicine in Norwich at the University of East Anglia. I will also look to complete a Masters as a Physicians Associate when I qualify. Alongside my studies I have two part time jobs to keep me busy, especially during the pandemic! Although, I have to say, most of my life seems to revolve around football, that’s where my friendship groups are too!”

Above: Harriet in action for the University of East Anglia. Photo via: Harriet Meers.

In terms of her introduction to football, Harriet admits that she was a late starter: “I was quite late to football, considering most of the players I play with started as soon as they could walk, and I first joined a team at the age of fifteen. In my area and school as a child there never seemed to be the opportunity for girls unless you wanted to play alongside the boys, and even that opportunity wasn’t there unless you started as a little one! I helped on match days with my brother’s team and started attending a girls weekly turn up and play and that’s when the club Kesgrave started their first female football team. I played for fun in midfield roles and was captain of the team until the team parted due to various commitments three seasons later.”

“This was a pivotal point for me as I could have stopped playing but under the encouragement of my Dad, I started training with a new team, East Bergholt at ladies open age. In my first season with East Bergholt I found myself in the new position of right back and as a team, we went on to win the Suffolk Cup and League double. I then went to university but carried on playing matches with East Bergholt and we managed to get the double titles for a second season running! At this point the team mutually decided to take promotion into the Eastern Region League but due to becoming captain for the university team and travel problems I decided to focus on university BUCS football and take a season out from Sunday league. I took on the role of captain as the team got promoted so it was a challenging year ensuring we kept our position in the league, of which was success!”

Above: Harriet early in her footballing career with East Bergholt. Photo via: Harriet Meers.

“Due to the coronavirus restrictions the 20/21 season looked like it would have a BUCS sized gap in and I may not get to play much football. With this in mind I joined a local team Kesgrave Kestrels for game time to improve my fitness and to get into Sunday league mode again and found myself playing a centre back role which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Having started off the season at university training, I met Bex (Rebecca Burton, Wroxham Women head coach) and after a conversation I got an amazing opportunity to come be part of the Wroxham team just before Christmas. I knew as soon as I was offered to sign I had to take the opportunity as the next step in my football journey into the Eastern Region Premier division.”

Harriet has mentioned the influence of Rebecca Burton, but I wondered who the other key influences on her footballing career have been so far: “As I will say over and over again my Dad has been my biggest supporter and always will be. He started my journey and has kept pushing me when I doubted myself.”

“In high school, I will always remember my PE teacher at the time and football coach, Mr Finch. I didn’t think I was even good enough to use football as one of my GCSE sports but he quite literally forced me to join in with the boys, gave me encouragement and would without a doubt say he played a huge part in my journey so far, I ended up with full marks somehow so guess it wasn’t all bad!”

“There are so many people I could mention here, but the last people I want to mention are Bex and Harry Diggens. At University of East Anglia (UEA) they have given me a fab opportunity and have seen something, albeit God knows what, that’s worth working with. I am really looking forward to a fab season when things can return slightly more to normal!”

Above: Harriet is very excited by the opportunity to play for Wroxham. Photo via: Rebecca Burton.

In terms of the sponsorship from Impetus, I asked Harriet what difference it will make both personally and professionally to her: “When Bex announced I had received sponsorship I was over the moon, I didn’t expect it to happen, let alone so quickly! As soon as I heard about Impetus and their founder Ben, I was so excited to get on board and have someone who not only can support me financially but to have that one person believe in you makes such a difference. I instantly felt overwhelmed with this sponsorship opportunity and I am super excited to see where this journey takes us! Sponsors support clubs in so many ways, but the support to an individual is priceless and I am so grateful for Impetus and Ben, it definitely makes things easier!”

Life itself at the moment is full of challenges, I wondered what Harriet’s biggest challenge as a footballer has been so far: “My personal biggest challenge as a football has to be my confidence. My Dad has always believed in me, and I have one friend at university, who has always said I was better than I think I was but I have never been able to see it. My Dad even had to ‘persuade’ me to trial for the university team with the offer of new football boots as I was too afraid to go! Without those two I probably wouldn’t be here where I am now. I never would have had the confidence to trial for Wroxham without them! Sometimes you want to impress someone and that’s what inspired me to keep up running and everything over lockdown, when one person tells you they believe in you, when you don’t believe in yourself – that’s priceless and exactly what happened. Bex has helped massively with my confidence and this opportunity is one I will always be grateful for!”

Wroxham have been pushing for a place in the FA Women’s National League for several years now and are known as a well organised and supported club both on and off the pitch. This is something that Harriet agrees with: “Life at Wroxham is so different to anywhere I have been before! The training sessions are super intense, structured and thoroughly enjoyable. I knew Bex was an incredible coach before I started, but the team ambitions and goals are second to none. The club is such a big family and from the moment I came to my first session I felt so welcomed by everyone. Sometimes trialling at a club can be daunting and you can feel isolated but it was far from the case. The girls welcomed me over and got me involved and it didn’t stop at that training session. Right up to the point I signed I had the girls encouraging me.”

Just days after Harriet signed for Wroxham, football was cancelled again due to the coronavirus outbreak. I wondered how disruptive this time has been for her: “Corona virus has really disrupted football, but it has definitely still helped me in some ways. It has been tough not having guaranteed training sessions followed by weekly matches. University football is one of the most important things for me, it’s a great way to socialise, work release and offers a completely different type of football to Sunday league. Coronavirus has meant there has been no BUCS football and we have only had a few training sessions at the beginning of the year. Although with new coaching staff when it resumes its set to be a positive fresh start!”

Above: With the national lockdown starting soon after Harriet signed for Wroxham, it’s been a frustrating few weeks, but there’s much to look forward to. Photo via: Rebecca Burton.

“Sunday league football has been slightly less affected; however, this new lockdown has put a stop to that. It’s hard not being able to have that kick about, see your mates and have a good training session. After the first lockdown I once again started coaching U14 girl’s football which had its challenges due to the new corona virus guidelines; however, it was so rewarding to see how much the girls enjoyed the return to football. Most importantly for me, the lockdowns have been my personal challenge to improve my fitness and strive for new goals. Although I miss playing football, it has been great to get into running and massively change my fitness goals.”

In terms of footballers that Harriet admires, she’s pretty clear: “It probably sounds a cliché as everyone goes with Lucy Bronze but I think she is an exceptional footballer who has inspired so many, so it is no wonder she has won so many awards, not only for her ability but her personality – it might help she is a fab defender too! It is so important of female pro-footballers to use their platform like Bronze to inspire young girls into the sport!

Whilst Harriet is still in the early stages of her footballing career, I wondered what her aims are over the next few seasons: ”I would like to have solidified my place in the team with Wroxham and look to push for promotion into the FA Women’s National League. On a personal level, I would love to gain more confidence and improve myself as an overall player whilst having a good time! I also look to continue coaching in the girls football pyramid.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW

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