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Sunday, 31 January 2016 13:06

Mixed youth football in Scotland and beyond

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In October 2016, Sarah Taylor made history by becoming the first female to play top level cricket in Australia since the founding of the league 119 years ago.
While the opportunity for the wicket keeper to compete alongside her male counterparts was seen as pioneering, the same cannot be said about youth football in Scotland where a number of young women are involved in mixed teams.
Current guidelines from the Scottish FA permit mixed teams up until the age of 15. As a result, a high number of girls play with and against boys of a similar age.
Alistair Shaw, coach of Monifieth Ladies 17s, believes his daughter Katie Shaw benefited from playing mixed football between the ages of eight and twelve, describing how the experience helped develop her skills in the game. After leaving boys football, Katie played a key role in the Monifieth Reds U13s side who won their league in 2015 after an impressive undefeated campaign.
Kaite was also awarded a runners-up medal in the Lisa Evans League Cup final in June. Another example of a player competing regularly in a mixed team and returning to the girl’s game is that of Madison Kirkpatrick who recently joined Forfar Farmington FC.
There have been a number of girls plying their trade in the SYFA divisions to great success in recent years. Alyshia Walker famously won the Scottish Cup as the captain of Fauldhouse Foxes at U13 level. Monica Anderson (pictured, above right) was a top performer with Bathgate Vale Pumas as they roared to County Cup success. And Erin Cuthbert recorded a number of local honours playing for Crosshouse BC.
Interestingly, the upper age limit where mixed football is permitted varies greatly between nations, depending on the guidelines outlined by National Associations. Across the border in England, recent changes by the Football Association permit girls to play alongside boys until the age of 18. Rachel Pavlou, National Development Manager for women's football, told the FA website: "Mixed football is an important additional choice to their female only provision".  
Countries which favour an age limit of 15 comparable to the current Scottish guidelines include the Czech Republic and Finland.  It must also be noted that Switzerland allow mixed football until the age of 20, which differs greatly from fellow UEFA members Albania and Slovakia who do not permit the practice at any level.
Overall evidence suggests it may be beneficial for some girls to compete in mixed gender sides. However, the fact the debate is being held indicates a continued desire for young women to spend their free time involved in Scottish youth football.

Iain Proudfoot | YFS East Region Journalist
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