Football defender Millie Bright has proven to be an integral part of both the Chelsea Women’s squad and the Lioness’. Having not taken the typical route into the sport, Bright’s dreams of horse riding took a change of direction when she turned 16 and realised that football may be a serious career path. Fast forward 12 years, Millie has won three league titles with Chelsea Women’s FC and represented the Lioness’ in the Euro’s and the World Cup. Named England’s Young Player of the Year in 2016, Millie has exceeded expectations and is a powerhouse within the defence. From her morning routine to how she enjoys her downtime and her fave snack, here’s the inside scoop from football superstar Millie Bright.

How do you start each day?
I wake up at around 6:45 am – I have the same alarm no matter what time I’m in training because I’m very much a routine person – and let the dogs outside for a run-around. I then have a coffee, walk the dogs and then I head off for training and that’s me out for the day.

Was being a professional footballer always a dream of yours?
Not to start with. As a kid growing up, my family always had horses – we still have them now. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I was older, I was quite indecisive. Like my granddad always says, ‘you’re either 100% or you’re not’ so I’d think, ‘oh no I can’t commit to that because I’m not 100%!’. 

I decided to go to college because I thought I might want to be a police officer, but it just didn’t work out. At this point, I was playing semi-pro for Doncaster which I absolutely loved. Once I got to sign with Doncaster at around 16, that’s when I really started to get serious about football; but even then, it wasn’t professional. When I was growing up it didn’t seem like a possibility to be a professional footballer because it wasn’t very accessible, but that was my passion and I wanted to be the best. On the other hand, I was working full time as a groom on a dressage yard… so I was kind of leading two different lives.

When Chelsea approached me, my decision was made. With football being a short career, you’ve got to take that moment, and I will go back to the horses once I eventually retire. Growing up it wasn’t known that you could be a professional footballer if you were a girl, but I’d like to think now that for younger girls and boys growing up – and I say boys because we want to inspire everyone, it’s an option for them to say at 8 or 10 years’ old ‘I want to be a professional footballer”.

It’s nice to see we have changed the game so far already and it’s going to progress even more.

Aside from matches and (football) training, are there any forms of exercise/wellness activities you like to do?
I like to go on a lot of hikes, especially with the dogs.  We’ve got some lovely areas in Surrey to go and explore.

In terms of activities, a lot of the ones I want to do I’m not allowed to do because of football! If I was, I’ve always loved water sports. Wakeboarding is something I used to do as a kid, but can’t be doing that in contract, as its too dangerous. Snowboarding is another… and I have always wanted to get tennis lessons!

What are your coping mechanisms for dealing with pressure or pre-match nerves?
I think, for me, it’s knowing that I have done everything that is required of me to perform at that top level in the lead-up. I must tick every box, every single day, whether that is nutrition, training, exercises, or injury prevention. If I have done all of that every day in the lead-up, I should be in the best possible position coming into game day and then it’s just about performing. If I ever tried to cut corners, I would feel guilty that I haven’t prepared properly.

Another thing that works for me is sending my partner, Levi, three aims for the game ahead of running on the pitch. These might be on the ball, off the ball or leadership, and then we have a discussion after the game about them. I think it works because it is really easy to get emotional and put yourself down after a bad game, but someone removed from the game, looking from the outside can see a completely different picture. That is my way of staying focused on the game. I have always said ‘focus on the game not the occasion’. Games like being at the Emirates on Sunday (5th September) was quite an intense one for some players. It was amazing to have the fans back.

What is your destress tool?
Spending time with family and friends. Otherwise, just going home and sitting with the dogs. If anyone struggles being home alone – my partner and I are sometimes apart as he is in Jersey working – dogs are the best thing to go home to. If you’ve had a bad day and open the door, they know no other way than to greet you by barking and getting all excited – and it instantly takes your mind off it. Everyone says its cliché to just get a dog, but they honestly are the best thing ever.

I also like to do a lot of painting, it’s quite therapeutic and it enables me to switch off… but nine times out of 10 it is just being with the dogs and going for a walk.

What’s your go-to snack to keep you fuelled throughout the day?
My go-to snack would be Whitworths SHOTS, either the Toffee and Pecan or the Fruity Biscuit. They’re a super nutritious and convenient snack to carry around, you can literally just put them in your back pocket. They’re easy to access at training especially if I’m in a rush or even at home for an energy boost and they now come in 100% recyclable packaging, so it ticks the sustainable box, which, for me, is very important. They really are my go-to goodness.

Which one momentous moment in your life are you most proud of?
My first one would be signing my professional contract. It’s a moment that I never thought was possible. For me and my family that was a really big moment. 

My second would be my debut for England. It was incredible and a bit of a rollercoaster as everything happened so quickly.

And… just to add one more, playing in the Euros in 2017 as my first major tournament, would be another one. Again, it was a whirlwind. I made my debut in September 2016 and then the next summer I’m playing in a major tournament. That whole journey was surreal really. 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your professional career?
The failures. That’s in terms of losing in finals, more so, than just one moment. It’s a collective of all the times when you knew you could’ve done better, and you didn’t. Definitely the Euros when we lost in the semi-final, the World Cup semi-final and the Champions League final for Chelsea all stand out. It’s not one moment for me but those moments where we were so close yet so far away. It’s just fine margins so these are definitely things you hold onto as a player and that you want to correct in the future.

How do you feel the FA can create more equality within football?
I think they have been doing really well to be honest. All of the work that they are currently doing and the new scheme they have put in place to encourage more people to get involved from all different areas across England I think is huge. It’s a great starting point but they still need to push on from that. Keep doing what they’re doing. I think just raising the awareness for football and making sure it is accessible for everyone. Put in 110% to get people involved from different areas. Reminding people that they can get involved no matter where they’re from and no matter where their area is. I definitely think that is the starting point and I’m excited to see the improvement in the next couple of years. 

What bit of advice would you give to young girls aspiring to become professional footballers?
If you’re not already involved, then 100% get involved. If you, for some reason, can’t see the accessibility to the game, then ask people – whether that is a player that is already playing or schools. With the scheme, it should be accessible now, so people should be able to ask their teacher and say, ‘I’d like to play football, where can I get involved?’. If you don’t know, ask. Give it 100% and always make sure you’re enjoying it.

Millie Bright, footballer for Chelsea and England, is working with Whitworths SHOTs on their Go-To Goodness campaign. Whitworths SHOTS are now fully recyclable and come in a variety of flavour combinations, are low in calories and are perfect for on the go. They’re available at leading supermarkets for £2 for a pack of four.

Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images for British Olympic Association