I grew up in the US and got into football because I have two older brothers. When they were kicking the ball around the garden, I was always trying to join in. Even though I was the little sister, they didn’t make it easy – and it made me faster and tougher.
By high school, I was playing for England at youth level, and I would fly back and forth between the US every few months. I then attended Dartmouth College where I played Division One level for four years.
When I left Dartmouth, I had the opportunity to play professionally in the US or to work in finance on Wall Street. Up until that point in my life, football had been everything – and the idea of going into finance was different and exciting. So, I took three years off from football and went to Wall Street.
I found many parallels between football and finance, such as prioritising, time-management, working with a team and being a leader. In finance, like football, the rest of the team also depends on you to get it right when under pressure.
As a goalkeeper, you are used to dealing with sudden pressure – and the fast-paced environment of finance is a lot like being on the pitch. People are shouting down the phones at you, you are shouting to people on your team; all while listening, relaying, and assessing a rapidly changing situation.
When I was involved in sales and trading, one of the favoured pastimes was to bet on sport. One day, there was a She Believes Cup game between USA and England. I had played with many of that England side – Jordan Nobbs, Alex Greenwood, Nikita Parris – from my time in the youth team.
I thought: ‘If I had gone down a different career path, then maybe I could have been playing there?’
As my career in finance was progressing, I got to a point where I thought: ‘Do I lock in and commit to this? Or do I go and pursue football?’ Up until that point, I had missed playing a lot. I didn’t want to have any regrets.
So, at 24 years old, I made the decision to return to football. It was nerve-wracking because I hadn’t played for three years, and I was competing with players who had continued their career or were fresh out of university in the US.
“As a goalkeeper, you are used to dealing with sudden pressure – and the fast-paced environment of finance is a lot like being on the pitch”— by Tatiana Saunders
I was worried I would potentially leave my career in finance and not get picked up by a team, and then I wouldn’t know what to do. But I went for it. I had a trial in Iceland in January 2018, was successful, and started the Icelandic season that same April.
When I did make that transition back into playing professionally, it did not feel like a big adjustment because I still had that discipline. When I was in finance, I had to be at my desk at 7am. That meant I was getting up at 4am to go to the gym, do a full day of work, come home, make dinner, go to bed, and do it all again.
Since Iceland, I have also played in France, and I am now in my third year playing professionally in England. I am excited to now be starting at Durham.
I do not know if I will return to Wall Street. Ideally, I would like to combine the knowledge I gained from my MBA with knowledge of the most important issues affecting the world which my generation will need to address, such as climate change, the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the social divide, not only between north and south, but also within our own societies.
Whenever I speak to younger players, I emphasise the importance of education. As a footballer, you can only play for a certain number of years and if you are unfortunate to have a serious injury, that time can be even shorter.
You need to have other options, a Plan B. I approached Durham because it is a club that promotes academics along with sport and therefore enables its players to have other options after football.