April 25th signalled the start of the FA’s first Girls Football Week of 2016 and I was chuffed to be asked to mark the occasion by writing about the setting up of the new girls team at Quarry Rovers.
Football is now the most participated female team sport in the country, surpassing those more traditionally seen as “girls sports” by some distance. In 1993 there were approximately 10,400 females playing in affiliated league and cup competitions in the UK; that figure has since risen to around 150,000 and there are more than a million girls playing kickabout football too. The game has come a huge way and now receives more support than ever from both local and the national Football Associations.
The growing popularity of the Women’s Super League, coupled with the stunning display from England at the World Cup in Canada last year where viewing figures got very close to 2.5 million for their semi-final, is evidence that everyone is (finally) pulling in the same direction.
Since becoming acutely aware that I’d probably missed the boat in becoming a professional footballer myself, I became very interested in coaching and in particular coaching girls football. I contacted Quarry Rovers and started helping out with the Under 11 girls team towards the end of 2015. Rob let me shadow and help him and I enjoyed every session and match I was involved in, even when it was freezing cold and raining heavily. I even got some refereeing experiencing too. The club itself has a fantastic community feel about it which is credit to all those involved in its running, and it gave me the motivation to get my first coaching badge under my belt and become an FA Qualified Coach.
When the opportunity arose to set up a new girls team and I was asked if I was interested in managing it, I was very happy to say yes. The club ran taster sessions for under 9s at a local school and there was a lot of interest. I then began running sessions for the girls on April 13th and started with 16! What a fantastic number. And there are still more girls interested.
The sessions involve working on basic skills such as passing, shooting, dribbling, tackling and movement whilst also developing teamwork, communication and social skills. More than anything though, I want the girls to have fun and enjoy themselves as they play. Enjoying playing football is what will help them progress the most and it’s clear that a lot of the girls love the sport already.
One thing I will always try and do is ask the girls lots of questions about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and why they’re doing it. It’s key that they understand each stage and appreciate why they pass with that part of the foot in that situation or why it’s important they move into that position at that time. So far I’ve been really impressed with both their knowledge and their ability. I think we’ll have a good squad when the new season comes round!
Due to the number of girls in the team it’s good to have some help. I have support from Rob’s daughter, Natalia, who is a good young footballer herself and also have support from two female Brookes University students – as part of the club’s link with the University. It’s great to have female coaches for the girls to look up to.
The club now has training sessions for three age-groups: under 13s, under 11s and under 9s. Over the coming years we’re hoping to see more girls teams set up at the club offering even more opportunities to girls who want to play football for a club that is at the heart of the community.