Four ambitious college learner have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to represent their country in women’s football and play alongside her idols thanks to a leading Welsh college’s football academy.
Ffion Morgan, Gwen Davies, Shaunna Jenkins and Hannah Miles are all learners at Coleg y Cymoedd who have been selected to play for Wales’ national women’s football squads.
Ffion from Carmarthen, aged just 16, is one of the learners who has represented Wales in both its under 19s team and senior squad, playing alongside her idol Jess Fishlock, after making the jump and moving to South Wales alone to pursue a career in sport.
The aspiring star, who is currently studying a BTEC in Sport Level 3 at Coleg y Cymoedd, swapped her hometown in West Wales for Ystrad Mynach to train at the renowned sports centre and chase her footballing aspirations.
Living at a host house near the campus during the week, the teenager is part of the college’s elite female football academy, set up in conjunction with the Football Association of Wales (FAW) to provide girls from all over Wales with the opportunity to combine daily coaching sessions, intensive training and weekly games with full time study.
Ffion is now calling on other young women to consider representing their country on a national level in sport and to realise that furthering your education and following sporting dreams at the same time is possible. The rising star hopes to dispel misconceptions that football isn’t feminine and inspire more women to take up sport on a professional level.
She said: “I’ve often found myself as the only girl on a team, but this has made me feel really proud because I know that I’m representing so many more girls. For any students out there who love a particular sport and have the opportunity to give it a go professionally, I’d say go for it. There is nothing better than playing for your country and, if you are passionate and work hard, there is no reason why you can’t achieve your goals.”
From a young age, Ffion has been passionate about sport and football, having originally joined a local boys’ team as an outlet for her endless energy. Being the only girl on the team didn’t faze her and it wasn’t long before she impressed and was picked up by the Ammanford Girls’ football team.
At 15, Ffion signed to Bristol’s team - a move which saw her regularly travelling across the country and leaving lessons early to play. This prompted her to pursue her passion professionally by joining the Coleg y Cymoedd, which is widely considered to be the best place for female footballers hoping to play nationally thanks to its partnership with the FAW.
Ffion said: “Coming to college was the best option for me to develop my career. The course I am studying is great because it covers a range of sports, with a particular focus on football, and includes analysis work, practical advice and plenty of physical training. The academy and college course has helped me to grow as person both on and off the pitch, identifying my strengths, improving my technique and building my overall professionalism. The training I have received has also really improved my football, helping me to play better against girls at my standard and those at a higher level.”
Ffion has now gone on to play for Wales’ senior squad alongside her idol Jess Fishlock, even achieving her first cap in the game where Jess achieved her hundredth.
She said: “Growing up, Jess Fishlock was my main role model and so playing next to her on the pitch has been absolutely amazing. It’s a surreal experience performing alongside the very person who inspired you to start in the first place. It’s motivated me to want to be the best of best and I’d love for young players joining the team to come in and look up to me in the same way I looked up to her.”
Ffion maintains that while balancing academic study and professional learning with her professional football training can be difficult, it is possible with the right support. She added: “I am very fortunate as the college where I am studying has been very supportive with my football career, adjusting deadlines when I’ve been away with the squad and providing we with advice and support when I’ve needed it. This has enabled me to pursue my ambitions without compromising my education which I would have really struggled to do otherwise.
Judith Evans, Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “We have many very talented learners at the college who are hoping to pursue sports alongside their studies and we aim to support them to do so regardless of what course they may be on. We believe that there should be no barriers to our learners’ ambitions and achievements, and to see such an inspiring success stories such as Ffion, who is one of four Coleg y Cymoedd learners to have been selected for the Wales team, reinforces why.”