We believe that you enjoyed reading our November blog. As part our December edition, we had an opportunity to catch up with Ruth Johnson, our Resources and Information Worker and Women and Girls’ Football Worker. She has been integral part of the team at FURD. She also coaches the women and girls football session that happens on Tuesday at The U- Mix Centre . Here is a quick read about our ‘Tuesday turn-up-and-play’ women and girls football session.
Since 2013, FURD has been running a free turn-up-and-play football session every Tuesday between 6-7 pm at the U-Mix Centre for women and girls, and over 140 people have been part of this programme.
Share with our readers about-how it all started ?
It actually started with me and a couple of colleagues and friends looking enviously at the men and boys playing football on the beautiful new surface(3G football pitch at the U-Mix centre ) and wondering whether we were too old or whether we could still manage a kick about if we were gentle with each other! Another friend said she’d just had her first ever game of football in her 40s and was hooked but didn’t know where she could go to learn to play. So we tried offering a football session during our existing girls’ youth club slot on Tuesdays, and soon found we had a wonderfully diverse group of women and girls of different ages and ethnicity all playing and laughing together.
Why this session? and What makes it different from other regular football sessions?
We’ve tried to make it as inclusive as possible – it’s free, as we don’t want cost to be a barrier. We’ve particularly tried to attract people who aren’t playing regular league football and groups that are particularly under-represented in football. That includes older women, BME(Black and Ethnic Minority ) women and girls, and those who find it hard to access clubs for various reasons including financial reasons. We don’t insist on conventional football kit and have had several Muslim players playing in hijabs and abayas. We get an unusually diverse mix of people which also helps achieve one of FURD’s aims of bringing people together to break down barriers and contribute to community cohesion.
What is your contribution as a youth worker or a football coach to the girls?
Although I started the female football sessions as a volunteer, it soon became apparent that there was a job to do as a number of people were soon asking my advice about how to get involved in football at various levels. FURD paid for me to take my Level 1 coaching badge. After a year, we got some funding from the FA/Mars Just Play fund, and later from BBC Children in Need. This funding enabled me to work for 3 or 4 hours a week.
Now we’ve started a separate session on Saturday mornings for 7-15-year-olds as we found some of them don’t attend the 6:00pm session over winter when it’s dark. Sadly, many parents worry about their daughters being out after dark. I look out for other opportunities for our players to play or watch football – we’ve entered a number of tournaments, had a women’s team in a 5-a-side league last year, and taken several groups of girls to their first Sheffield United match when the club has kindly offered us free tickets.
Share with us about Footballing Stories that you have come across during these sessions that FURD is making an impact in the society.
We’ve been proud to be part of the growth in football opportunities for female ‘veterans’ – usually classed as over 35s. There have long been opportunities for men of this age to play, but so far little for women. On 19th April 2015 we held what might have been the first tournament for women aged 35+. Four teams played in the 6-a-side competition with a total of 28 women taking part. Nine of the participants were over the age of 50, with the oldest being 61. Each team was allowed to field one younger player, meaning the total age range was 17 to 61. Some of the spectators present were there to watch their grandmas play football. Players were encouraged to sign up as individuals and teams were then allocated with an even age distribution in each side.
In March 2016 we entered the first national female veterans’ 5-a-side tournament to be held as part of the FA People’s Cup. 6 teams entered, we made it to the final, won very nice medals and featured in a BBC film about the tournament! We like to think this helped inspire others to get involved as in 2017 about 20 teams entered and we were knocked out in the group stage. We also had teams in the adult and under-14s categories.
Also in March 2016 we held a female football festival with a series of sporting, educational and cultural events including film screenings, talks and taster sessions.
Several of our players have taken their first steps into, or back into, football at our easy-going sessions and moved into more competitive football when their confidence and fitness has improved. We’ve developed links with AFC Unity, an alternative women’s football club playing in a local league, and so far seven of our players have progressed to play for them. Five of them are still involved including three who are defying age stereotypes by playing open-age league football in their 40s and 50s.
Among our younger players, one is now playing for Sheffield United under-15s and another is working as a football coach after doing lots of voluntary work for us.
We are always pleased to welcome new players of any age and ability – please get in touch, or just come along to our sessions.
For more information about this programme contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concept: Sijo Joseph