Nine football clubs were represented when their U11's girls seven aside teams, coaches, parents and supporters converged on Peffermill on Sunday 15th March to participate in the 'Season Kick Off Festival' hosted by Girls & Women's Club Development Officer for the South East Region, Karen McConnell.
When asked why the event was being held, Karen explained "This was the second of two U11's girls Kick off Festivals, a festival where we invited all our current U11's seven aside teams just to start the season off with a bit of a fun event.
"It also gives us the opportunity to show all the players, coaches and parents what's expected at this age group in terms off how the pitches should be set up with technical areas and supporters on the opposite side etc."
Karen continued" It also gives us the opportunity to explain the format of the game and show them how the games should be played and start it with a nice, enjoyable event for everyone."
The football kicked off around 9.15am with teams playing each other in a round robin format with games lasting 10 minutes each. The teams represented on the day came from Bonnyrigg Rose Girls FC, Boroughmuir Thistle Whites, Leith Athletic Fc, Linlithgow Rose CFC, Loanhead Miners YFC, North Berwick Colts, Penicuik Athletic YFC and finally Spartans Girls.
The football on display from the girls was very enjoyable with lots of action, saves, goals, and most importantly, lots of smiling faces and after the end of each game the girls showed great sportsmanship lining up and shaking hands with the opposition.
At the start of the event the parents were invited over to the main building for a short 20 minute presentation to explain why games at this age level are trophy free and the benefits of this set up, also importantly how they can best support their daughter's development and enjoyment of the game.
The general consensus from the coaches in attendance was that was a great way to introduce the players to the seven aside format as they transition from playing fours last season. The concept of inviting the parents along and informing them on a personnel level about how they can best contribute to the season ahead was especially something those involved in running the teams bought into.
Bonnyrigg Rose Club Chairman, Peter Innes said "It's a terrific venture especially at this time of the season with hopefully the cold weather leaving us we can get the kids started progressing in developing their football careers.
At Bonnyrigg Rose we have just received our Legacy Status Quality Mark so we are aware we have a high standard to maintain and this is reflected by the girls play today."
Peter continued " We are lucky at Bonnyrigg as we have astro playing pitch which enables us to have parents standing out side in a viewing area which is great because it lets the kids express themselves. If they make a mistake they look at me and I just laugh and tell them not to worry about it.
"We don't have anyone telling them what they are doing wrong. It's about kids doing their own thing and it's ok to make mistakes but its about showing them how they made the mistake and how they can change it and fix it in a positive manner."
This was echoed by Graeme Steel, Head coach of Boroughmuir Thistle Whites when he said "It's a great event, well organised and held at a great facility. It allows them to get onto a decent pitch and of the muddy grass pitches that they are on during the winter. The teams are really enthusiastic and thoroughly enjoying the day."
Graeme continued regarding the parent education "I think it's a excellent idea as it allows coaches to do what they are there to do without the interference of, although well meaning, sometimes its misdirected and it gives the coaches ability to concentrate on the team who are our number one priority."
A enthusiastic Head Coach of Leith Athletic, Eric McEwan was full of praise regarding the event when he said "It's all about the kids and their development and it's good for the girls to come down and play short games and meet some of the teams they will be playing this season. I really think the most important thing is that it's not about playing for points, it's all about their development."
On the parent aspect of the day Eric stated "I think it's great and I have been involved in football for over 19 years and a lot of parents try and coach from the side and sadly last season one of our players left the park in tears because a parent just kept going on at her which is totally unacceptable. Let the coaches coach, the players play and let the parents support in a appositive manner."
Linlithgow Rose Head Coach, David Signorini said "I think today is a great idea and bringing everyone together for a couple of hours is better than having lots of different fixtures."
David continued "I think it is a great idea educating the parents also about the game as at this age it's all about player development and having fun. It is not about competiveness and winning and it took me as a coach a while to learn that and it's good for the parents to learn that straight from the start."
Coach of the other Linlithgow Rose team in attendance, Laurie Boles added "This our first year playing at U11s so we have quite a young team, they are really at the infancy of playing seven aside football. Today is about having fun and getting the shape right and use to the game format."
Again on the parent aspect Laurie stated "It's really important that that communication is there with the parents as sadly one of the biggest obstacles as a coach is having to deal with parents views and opinions. If they have an idea what the game is all about and why we take the girls on these festivals it makes our job as coaches a lot easier and happier as they now have an understanding of what we are trying to achieve."
Peter Frame, Loanhead Miners Club Chairman said "It's a great introductory for the girls at this age level who want to play football and the number is increasing so that's exceptionally good news for the girls game."
Peter continued the support for the parents being taught about the game he stated "It's a great idea as at no matter what level of football unfortunately some parents think they know better but they have to realise foremost to everything else it's about the girls enjoyment, learning and realise nobody's going to be the new Kim Little overnight."
North Berwick Coach Stuart McClean commented "It's absolutely superb because I think the whole ethos of it all is great as it's not too competitive but competitive enough and the girls get a good experience in this robin robin structure which excellent."
Stuart continued with the backing of parent aspect of the day when he said "It's a very good thing and with all the best will in the world parents do not tend to buy in easily with the ethos of the actual club and what you are trying to do.
It's great to try and get the parents switched on to what the clubs and the SFA are trying to do to promote the girls game."
Penicuik Athletic Coach, Robert Young gave his views on the day "This is fantastic and Karen always puts on good festivals and this is the first seven festival we have attended and it's good for the girls to come along and experience it."
The development of having a presentation for the parents on the day was welcomed by Robert as he stated "That is a very good development as unfortunately we have issues ourselves with parents getting a little tetchy on the side lines so having technical areas and parent areas is great and personally I think it is a necessity so I am all for it."
Finally we caught up with Spartans Girls Section Co-ordinator, Rab Aitchison who said "It's great and you can see by the vast numbers here today that its worth while holding events like this and the girls are enjoying themselves and that is what it is all about at the end of the day. It is all about the grassroots game and the continuation and development of the grassroots in the girls game."
When asked about the importance of having the parents educated about the game he replied " I think it is great involving the parents and think we should have this type of event maybe a couple of times a year. We have had a kick off one today and it would be great to maybe have another one half way through the year.
"It is also good for parents to be involved as it might encourage a parent to volunteer in some role with the club or a team which would be great as it is hard to find coaches especially in the girls game."
All the coaches present seemed to agree that the main priority before anything else was that the players enjoyment and fun was paramount when they played football and that they were allowed to develop without any negativity or pressure from the touchline wither that be parents, coaches or other players.
If everyone who attended left at the end of the day taking something positive away with them and learning something new then there is no doubt the event would have achieved its goal and I am sure that was the case.
After everyone had headed home I asked Karen McConnell her thoughts on the day and she replied "I was delighted with both weeks and think when you the photos they will speak for themselves, all the girls had smiles on their faces while they were playing and that is what we are after."
Karen echoed the coaches feelings when she stated "At this age group it is about the girls falling in love with the game and really enjoying themselves and develop without any pressure on results, league tables or winning trophies."
Regarding the parents response to what the SFA were trying to convey Karen was very positive as she explained "The feedback I got from the parents was really good and they really seemed to buy into the concept that in the first few years of the girls development is about their enjoyment and participation."
For further information regarding girls football wither as a player or as a contact Karen.
Tel: 0131 667 8245
Mob: 07506 461 801