By Martin Lee of Bradley Stoke Youth FC (BSYFC).
Girls’ football started in BSYFC back in 2009, to increase the opportunities for girls to play football within the local area. At that time, there was a lack of girls-only teams and most girls were having to play in mixed teams to allow them to develop their football skills and participate in matches. So, in the summer of 2009, the first girls-only football sessions were started at the club in preparation for entering a team into the Bristol Girls’ League and hence starting the girls’ section of the club. The attendance was really good and highlighted the need for girls’ football sessions and teams.
Fast forward to September 2017 and BSYFC now has U10, U12, U14, U15 and U16 girls’ teams playing in the Bristol Girls’ League and also a development squad of U8 players. Friday night is girls-only training night at the club, where over 100 girls participate in football coaching sessions within their various age groups. The club has come a long way since it started. The FA has just released its strategy for women’s and girls’ football 2017-2020 with one of the key areas being the aim to double female participation in the game. Perhaps we should invite the FA to pop along and see what BSYFC is doing to achieve our growth!
This does raise the interesting question of how do you attract female players to the game and retain them? Of course there is word of mouth. where current players invite friends to come along and try out football. Also, parents often chat in the playground, so again, that will get the word around about the club and what we are doing. However, this will only increase growth in a small way.
In practice, the growth at BSYFC has been achieved through a range of community programs that the club runs…
The School Link Programme
This programme started in 2007 and sees FA-qualified coaches go into 14 local schools and coach every Year 1 class at each school. This means many girls then have the opportunity to experience football, maybe for the first time. They become interested in the sport and then want to join a club to continue the activity outside of school. Then, through getting to know the coaches, attending BSYFC is an easy first step for them.
The School Enrichment Programme
This programme started in 2005 and has developed into the club providing football coaching at one school for all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children, which again means girls have exposure to football from an early age and therefore are attracted to football rather than other sports.
The Football Festival
This event started in 2006 and has grown to involving 14 schools. A team from each school takes part in a tournament at the Bradley Stoke Community Festival in June each year, with a mixture of boys and girls of Year 1 age.
The UWE Children’s University Programme
In May 2017, BSYFC became an approved learning centre for the Children’s University and can officially stamp any child’s learning passport when attending activities at the club.
All these programmes are focused on fun, friendly and safe sessions where the children can develop and grow at their own pace. The key end goal is enjoyment; this attracts and retains players.
In 2015, the club created the first Bradley Stoke ladies’ football team. The team was started due to the club’s then-U16 girls team needing a ladies’ team to join to allow them to continue to play football. The club went on a promotional drive to attract players for the new team and had their first training session in May 2015. Again, the attendance was good and highlighted the need for ladies’ football opportunities in the town. So with seven players from the previous U16 girls’ team and a host of new players, the team entered the Gloucestershire County Women’s Football League, the focus again being on fun, friendly and safe football coaching sessions. The ladies’ team currently has three FA-qualified Level 2 coaches and a goal keeping coach, which ensure the players receive quality coaching to develop their football skills. The squad size is currently at 25 players. We are well on the way to forming another team for next season, which would be great for the club.
The club’s current U16 girls have all been invited to join the ladies’ squad when they reach 16 years of age (some are already training with the ladies). The manager and coaching staff of both the U16 girls and the ladies’ team are the same people and therefore the transition from youth football to adult football will be much easier for the younger players. Also, to ensure the girls and ladies integrate well together, the two teams played each other in a friendly match in September, which worked really well highlighting the number of players at this age range in the club.
Many organisations get caught up in data collection and data analysis of what makes things successful and actually never get to do anything. The tip really is to give it a try, work hard, never say that is impossible, focus on the important stuff, make things fun and enjoyable, ensure a safe environment to allow players to grow, constantly change and adapt, and always smile no matter what is happening around you.
So, the future for women’s and girls’ football at BSYFC is looking very strong, but we still have a long way to go. We would like more female coaches at the club and we would like more females involved in the running of the club. One third of the club’s total players are now female and we would like to see the same ratio within the coaching staff.
BSYFC is a FA Charter Standard Community Club. If you are interested in becoming a coach, player, volunteer or sponsor, please contact Martin Lee at email@example.com
Photo: BSYFC U16 Girls’ and Ladies’ squads 2017
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