“I’m still chasing my dreams…” – Hannah Baptise

Posted: 13th of August 2019 by Parisha

When London based footballer, Hannah Baptiste, had her confidence knocked; she found that helping and inspiring young people, had the same effect on her.

I started playing football at the age of 4; growing up in London with 3 older brothers, I didn’t have much choice. At the age of 12 while playing as the only girl on my primary school team and in the league, I got scouted by Charlton Athletic Girls. I stayed at Charlton for 2 years, before moving to Fulham FC girls centre of excellence. I played at Fulham for one season before being dropped, I was heartbroken. I felt unwanted, not good enough and compared myself to others.

This was the start of me allowing other people’s words and decisions to define me and my abilities. On the way home from hearing the news from Fulham, my dad finally broke the awkward silence and asked me; ‘what's next baby girl what do you want to do’. At that moment, giving up on my dreams felt like the only option.

I knew after a few days, I couldn’t give up. So as the new season approached, I went back to Charlton on a six-week trial. I remember my dad saying to me on our way there; if this doesn’t work out then maybe you’ll have to stop chasing football for good. If there was one person on this earth, I needed to keep believing in me, it was my dad. After a week of playing for my life, the coach at Charlton had signed me.

Little did I know that the next adventure I would embark on, would be one of the highlights of my life so far. Last summer I signed up to do Camp America and got placed at a camp in California, called Mt Crags, Gilmore and Wilderness. It was one of the most incredible and life-changing experiences. After enduring a lot in life and having a hectic year before camp; this was the perfect place for me to rediscover and appreciate my inner strength.

It might sound strange but in the short nine weeks I was there, I learnt so much about myself and picked up so many skills. It has made me see the world from a completely different perspective. I was blessed enough to work with children from a variety of different backgrounds; making them feel valued and trying my best to inspire them. Seeing the impact I had on the kids, even if it was the smallest of gestures; was extremely rewarding.

The young people I worked with had a huge impact and left an imprint on my heart too. One camper called Bella, will always stay with me. She had such a strong and determined persona but also had a caring side, which I saw throughout the weeks. Just getting to know her was a real blessing.

During a long and challenging hike, that Bella had previously not had the courage to take part in and had finally agreed to do, she accidently got hit in the face by a rock above her. She started crying hysterically, saying that she wanted to give up and go back. I kept reassuring her that she is strong, fearless and can do anything she puts her mind too. I kept repeating myself and before we knew it, Bella had stopped crying and we continued going up the mountain; eventually we made it to the top.

She pushed down all the pain and emotion she was feeling and made it back down the mountain, where I took her to the nurse. I told her she was a warrior and that I was extremely proud of her, even though she felt like giving up. This is just one of the many amazing and life changing stories that I experienced while I was at camp. I am so grateful for stories like these and the blessing these young people were in my life.

Being in this environment, helping the kids conquer their fears every day and seeing them achieve their goals; has inspired me to believe in myself and believe that I can do whatever I put my mind to. It is such a safe place where everyone understands that no one’s perfect and we all make mistakes, but you aren’t judged for them. My previous feelings of being defined by other people’s words, slowly dissipated. I realised that I was stronger than I thought, and it gave me the courage to keep striving for what I want in life.

I’m still chasing my dreams, but I’m no longer chasing approval from others. I know that I’ll have set backs and things might not always go my way, but camp has made me such a strong and brave person; and I believe I can achieve anything I set my mind to. And if I fail? Well at least I will have pushed myself and tried. My advice if you feel knocked down, go to camp. It is such an incredible experience and has such an impact on you; you’ll come out of it ready to take on the world!


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