Every day thousands of young female footballers across the U.K. share in a common goal — the American dream. For 23-year-old Molly Sharpe, it was no different.
From College scholarships to competitive playing opportunities to professional-level facilities — collegiate football in the United States is a young girl’s paradise.
She went from a small village in Bradford to Barry University in Florida and became one of its most promising talents.
But it wasn’t always a straight path to success. Sharpe’s beginnings in football were largely by chance.
“When I was four years old, I saw a poster up about the local girls’ team whilst me and my mum were on a walk. I thought … I’d like to do that,” Sharpe told Her Football Hub.
Her talents were quickly recognised by former England international Sue Smith.
Smith scouted Sharpe during a local school tournament for Leeds United Ladies.
Sharpe’s time at Leeds was brief. She moved onto Bradford City, before making the move to the United States.
“America has always been such an amazing place to me. I’d spoke to some of my older friends who’d also gone on a scholarship and they said it was the best thing they ever did,” she said.
“As soon as I joined up with Sports Recruiting U.S.A., Jon (head of women’s soccer at S.R.U.S.A.) told me it would be perfect for me.”
Sharpe said Sports Recruiting was instrumental in her journey across the pond.
“They make you a highlights video which is sent out to universities in America, along with your email, so you can chat to coaches,” she said. “They even help you with the S.A.T. test to get into the best schools.”
“Sports Recruiting made it a lot simpler than I thought it was going to be”.
From Dream to Reality for Molly Sharpe
Sharpe’s American dream eventually became a reality in 2015 when she attended Barry University in Miami, Florida.
“It was the most amazing experience,” she said. “If I could go back and do another degree, then I would.”
“I went on my own, without my mum. I was already in a group chat with a lot of the girls already at Barry, so they made me feel really welcome.”
“During preseason in particular it’s difficult to get caught up in missing your family because everything is so fast-paced. So I didn’t miss home as much as I thought I would.”
Being more than 4,000 miles from home also brought changes in playing styles. “One of the things I found really different on the football side is the fitness. Their fitness was really top-level. The speed of the play is also really fast compared to England, where it’s a lot more technical.”
Sharpe also learned that being a student-athlete in the United States isn’t always as glamourous as it’s made out to be.
“They make a big point that you’re a student first and an athlete second,” Sharpe said.
“The NCAA puts rules in place so that if you don’t get a certain G.P.A. (Grade Point Average) you’re not allowed to train or play in games. This makes sure players are keeping on top of their degree.”
But despite the added responsibility of balancing football and study, it didn’t take long for Sharpe to make her mark.
“My freshman year we made it to the Elite 8, which is a big achievement,” she said.
“We won the regional title, and in my senior year, I won the offensive player of the year for the Sunshine State Conference. I was really proud of that.”
The Return Home
At the end of Sharpe’s four years with Barry, she was approached by Durham Women’s Football Club.
They offered her a chance to continue playing, as long as she completed her master’s degree at the university.
She said the chance to move back to England was a “no-brainer.”
Her move back home certainly didn’t hamper the striker’s success on the pitch. Sharpe was an integral part of Durham’s campaign, which saw them narrowly missed out on promotion.
“My time at Durham has been amazing so far, the credit goes to the girls and the coaching staff who have helped me change from the American style of football back to the English style. I’ve been really happy,” she said.
Sharpe is now in the midst of keeping fit and gearing up for the next season, despite the uncertainties as to when this may be.
Regardless of when women’s football makes the long-awaited return back to England, it is clear that Sharpe is staying focused.
With the invaluable experience of playing collegiate football in the United States to her first season at Durham — it’s clear Molly Sharpe will be ready for a fierce promotion battle.