After 2021 started at one hundred miles an hour I decided to take a week off over February half term to recharge the batteries.  And as I can only do so much running at my age I also tucked into a couple of books and thought I’d share some of my thoughts from them.


The first was the story of the Dick Kerr Ladies Football Team ‘In a League of their Own’ written by Gail Newsham.  A very easy to read book which charts the history of the ground breaking and probably most successful football team there’s ever been.  If you’ve not heard of them Dick Kerr Ladies FC were a factory based football team from Preston who started playing during WW1 (first match was on Christmas Day 1917) to raise money for injured servicemen. 

Over the next 48 years they played over 800 charity matches raising over £10 million in today’s money, and they lost less than 4% of the matches they played too scoring over 3,500 goals in the process.  Mostly the team came from factory workers (who were almost entirely women during WW1) and as I’m more of an experiential learner this book was / is perfect for giving a great insight into the role football played in women’s emancipation and the ground breaking achievements of this team playing what had previously been a men only sport. 

Despite the public being massively supportive – crowds were bigger for these women’s charity matches than for most men’s league matches (eg on Boxing Day 1920 53,000 people paid to watch them play at Goodison Park in Liverpool) – the Football Association (entirely run by men of course) weren’t and it wasn’t long before they were using ignorant and clearly highly dubious medical opinion to ban women’s football on league grounds.  Despite this, and this is what I really enjoyed about the book, the women’s outlook and camaraderie stayed positive and they found a way to carry on playing the sport they clearly loved and were obviously very talented at too. 

Gail’s passion for women’s football and the former Dick Kerr Ladies she meets researching the history of the team is also very infectious and sometime in future I look forward to visiting Deepdale (home of Preston North End FC and the FA National Football Museum) where she (now with support from the FA amongst others) has created a permanent memorial to the team.  Great feel good book and also reminded me of the pleasure of playing and working as a team.


The second book was totally different but also involved physical and mental endeavour as it was the epic story of Joe Simpson and his mountaineering partner Simon Yates and their assault on the west face of Siula Grande in Peru.  You may have heard of ‘Touching the Void’ as it has also been a very successful film but to really get a sense of Joe’s (and Simon’s) psychology I suspect you can’t beat the book.  It’s an amazing story of the bond between climbers and life / death survival after Joe fell and badly broke his leg close the summit of the mountain. I’m sure I’m not ruining the story to say he then spent the next 6 days sliding, falling, crawling and stumbling back to base camp – some of it with Simon but much of the journey spent on his own with only his own personal demons for company. 

An unbelievable journey when you consider the scale of the challenge in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments and the nature of his injuries.  Again much experiential learning about the value of trust and just making decisions / trying things (even when all hope may be lost), listening to your internal voice and breaking the big task into very small achievable and measurable objectives.


Week over – back to the challenge ahead – and I hope to take some of this with me - breaking new ground – empowering diverse voices – building relationships and teams – tackling much short term uncertainty – and plenty of opportunity too – critical work to enable wellbeing – testing resolve – staying positive – keeping on keeping on – and always reminding myself of the value of an active lifestyle.