'Growing up, people just thought I was a tomboy but it shouldn’t be like that' – Stephanie Roche is on a mission to make sport inclusive

Ireland striker Stephanie Roche says “it’s time to move on” from the FAI fiasco which blighted the domestic soccer scene in recent weeks.

The 30-year-old, who recently arrived home after finishing a season with CF Florentina, followed the story of the expenditure of former CEO John Delaney and says it’s “crazy” that fans have still not been given answers.

“Obviously it’s gotten to a stage now where I feel the best thing is to move on,” she told Independent.ie today.

“A lot of people have made their feelings clear in relation to John Delaney. A lot of fans wanted the questions to be answered and to know where the money was going, particularly in relation to League Of Ireland, it’s a bit crazy when no questions are being answered.”

“I think that’s enraged fans here that there’s been no questions answered and I think now it’s time to move on.”

The striker, who set up an inclusive coaching company aimed at both boys and girls, has a long-term dream to set up a girls academy to foster emerging talent from primary school level.

“My long-term goal is to be able to help young girls and women in sport. We’re trying to do a range of different programs in Hollypark and Good Shepherd schools in Dublin at the moment; we’re working with after-school programs with them, and we’ve over 100 students signed up between those two.”

“It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time, last year being out injured I put a lot of time into it.”

“It’s for players of all ages from six to 14, boys and girls. We’ve had girls who play for the club in their area, and girls who’ve never played before. No matter what, at least they’re out and about in the fresh air and enjoying themselves.” 

“For me personally growing up, people would have just thought I was a tomboy but it shouldn’t be like that.”

Stephanie says that though she’s been offered a contract with CF Florentina for next season, she’s taking the summer to review her options.

“The season finished last week so I’m home now for a few weeks. I’m taking a couple of weeks for a breather, they’ve asked me to sign for the next season so now I’m just waiting to clear the head and I’m hoping to have a few things to choose from within a few weeks and then decide.”

“Right now I’m as invested as I possibly can be in my career, I’ve managed to get to all the camps so far. My plan for the next few years is to play as much as I can; I enjoy coaching; I love being around kids, I love encouraging kids to be in the sport that I love. That’ll be my main goal after my own career.”

Launching this year’s Hell and Back challenges, which will take place in Killruddery Estate in Wicklow in June, Stephanie said the only way to tackle the high drop off rate among girls in sport in teenage years is to foster their talent at primary school age.

“The goal is for the kids to enjoy it and to stay involved in sport. For girls in particular the drop-off for girls is usually around 12 or 13 years of age, that’s when girls are not wanting to play anymore. The key is to go into primary schools and start early.”

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