By SFC Media time Mon 08 Mar Dear younger me...

To celebrate International Women's Day, Southampton FC Women's defender Shelly Provan has written a letter to her younger self, detailing how best to navigate the world of football and family life simultaneously. Here's her story.

Shelly, you are so young but you have already shown so much strength.

It’s this strength that is going to help you through all of the ups and downs of life, so don’t be afraid.

Embrace the good times and learn from the bad. Each hurdle, each setback, each disappointment will give you the tools to overcome the next.

You will find your teenage years tough, for so many reasons. But football will be your release, your way of showing the world what you are capable of.

It will give you attention that others won’t like and their way of dealing with this will be to tease you and call you names.

With those buck teeth and frizzy hair. Straighteners and good braces are yet to come.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - 2 JULY:  Shelly Provan (right) signs for Southampton FC pictured at Staplewood Training Ground on July 2, Southampton, England. (Photo by James Bridle - Southampton FC/Southampton FC via Getty Images)

You will have players and coaches that think you are the next best thing. They will sing your praises and build you up because yes, in your part of the world, you might be one of the best.

Don’t let this go to your head, work hard no matter what.

You think you are a forward player but trust me, this will change so use this time to make yourself the most complete player you can be. Yes you will need to use your right foot, yes you will need to track back and yes, most certainly, you will need to head the ball, so work on it!

Lastly, listen to Dad, he is almost always right.

Matchdays

You will work hard and become part of the England youth set up for 9 years. You will be labelled the ‘England player’ by all who know you and sacrifice so much.

But this will make the time when you are no longer an England player so much harder.

Enjoy every second you wear that shirt but know that there might be a time when it’s taken away.

Plan for this, control the controllables and make yourself more than just 'Shelly the England player'. Your soul will thank you for it.

MARKRANSTAEDT, GERMANY - JULY 25:  U-19 EM 2003, Markranstaedt; Schweden - England (SWE - ENG); Team England; hinten v.l.: Fara WILLIAMS, Hayley KEMP, Anita ASANTE, Torfrau Karen BARDSLEY, Josanne POTTER, Joanne TRAYNOR; vorne v.l.: Shelly COX, Alexandra SCOTT, Eniola ALUKO, Kelly McDOUGALL, Katy WARD  (Photo by Nadine Rupp/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Provan (bottom left) alongside the likes of Alex Scott (number seven) and Eniola Aluko (number ten).

Your family are your everything, appreciate every time they take you training, every time they watch you play in the pouring rain, all the times they travel the country and even the world to watch you play. Because again, there will be a last time.

You lose some of your biggest supporters over the years. Don’t frown when Nan gives you grapes after every game, let her warm your hands up when you are cold and listen to every story she tells you, even if you have heard it ten times before.

Because it will be in hers and Grandads final days that they are telling everyone how proud they are of you, you give them so much life. It will make all that sacrifice worth it.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MAY 19: Women's team win and lift the trophy after the Womens Cup Final match between Southampton FC and Oxford pictured at AFC Totten on May 19, 2019 in Southampton, England. (Photo by James Bridle - Southampton FC/Southampton FC via Getty Images)

It’s this time in your life that you start to show your true colours. Your work ethic, and your bravery in taking risks, your loyalty and kindness.

But it will be these that will be your enemy in so many situations. You will be let down and disappointed by people you truly respect and trust. It will cause you so much heart ache.

I would like to say to you to care less, show less loyalty, don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, but actually this is what defines you as a person….don’t change. Be remembered for the person you are not just what you achieve.

You won’t have any idea at this time that you will have the confidence to become a PE teacher. I know right, talking in front of 30 teenagers every hour every day, scary huh?

Believe it or not, it’s what you will do until this day. You love sport and you will not be able to rely on football to support you financially. And it this profession that leads you to your soul mate, the person who will support every crazy decision you make.

Your husband, the father of your beautiful children. CHILDREN! Yes children! You will think that starting a family will be the end of you, the end of football, you won’t even consider this.

It may not happen at the best time but it is absolutely the best thing that happens to you. Your children will be your world, your drive, your reason for everything you do. Don’t be afraid, it will make you stronger both physically and mentally and give you a true purpose in life.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MAY 19: Shelly Proven with her young child after winning the Womens Cup Final match between Southampton FC and Oxford pictured at AFC Totten on May 19, 2019 in Southampton, England. (Photo by James Bridle - Southampton FC/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Provan with her daughter Evie at Snows Stadium (Photo: James Bridle).

This leads me to here. No I’m not at The Dell, this is St Mary’s, Southampton’s new Stadium, it’s pretty decent hey?

Strangely you start and finish your playing career at Southampton. Well, that’s not exactly true. You are 36 now and you’re not quite finished yet.

There will be many teams in between but your heart leads you back to your home city and it’s the best decision you could have made.

So I am here now hoping that these small nuggets of advice will make you the best version of Shelly you can be.

You’ve got this!

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