Jill Ellis would tag along when her brother and his friends played football near their Longwood Avenue home in Cowplain.
Occasionally they would let her join in. When the numbers permitted, mind.
These days the former Padnell Junior School pupil is head coach of an international team ranked number two in the world.
Behind Germany, her USA side are one of the favourites to win the Women’s World Cup in Canada.
After topping Group D, the States tonight face Columbia seeking a quarter-final place.
For Ellis, it represents another step closer to the goal she set about achieving upon her appointment to the top job in May 2014.
Impressive progress for the ex-striker who spent 10 years in Cowplain before leaving in 1981.
Paul, her brother, said: ‘My dad was in the Royal Marines and stationed all over the place.
‘Myself and Jill were born in Kent, then one day my parents bought a house in Cowplain so we grew up there from a young age.
‘I recently came back and got lost, I could not believe how much it had changed!
‘Jill was a good athlete, she ran track and played netball and hockey for Cowplain Community School and whenever we messed about up the park would tag along.
‘We used to play on the playing fields at Padnell School, while where we used to live there was this circular area of grass we used to play football and cricket on.
‘I competed at a pretty good level, representing Hampshire at county level and also turning out for Horndean. I would also go to Pompey matches.
‘Jill was good as well, a striker, and always had that interest in football.
‘I left Cowplain when I was 17 after joining the Royal Marines, while Jill went to America with my parents in 1981.
‘My dad coached the Navy side and the Combined Services and also did a lot of work for the Football Association. Then after 22 years his time was up and he left the Marines.
‘A group offered him the chance to open a football academy in Virginia.
‘Jill left England with them – at the age of 14.’
Ellis got involved in coaching while taking a Masters degree at the North Carolina State University, becoming assistant coach.
It was a role she would also serve at Maryland University and then Virginia University.
Next up was a head coach role at Illinois, yet her association with the national team has stretched to 15 years
Paul added: ‘Getting them ready for the World Cup is a huge challenge, the media attention is massive over here. We are very proud.’