As women’s football grows in Scotland, opportunities for girls to partake in the sport are more abundant than ever.
Corrie Campbell, as Club Development Officer for girls and women football in the west of Scotland, has witnessed an increase in participation and interest from the ground up.
“My current role is to interact with the clubs in my area to increase the capacity for girls and women become involved in an organised set-up. In the time I’ve been here the growth in that area has been significant.
“When I started (in October 2011) there were only eight clubs in this region and around 420 registered players. Now, the number of clubs has climbed to 23 whilst nearly 1000 players are now registered.
“We’re very keen to work with clubs who are looking to develop a girls section and I’ve found that more and more clubs are looking to move more in the direction of their community than be run solely for the benefit of boys.”
In the past the only chance for girls to play was with boys and the only football on the television men’s. However, a key factor in growth has been the promotion of girls-only environments coupled with the success of our women footballers.
“Going into clubs and schools and promoting a girls-only environment has had a very positive impact. Obviously, for those who are comfortable playing with boys we aren’t looking to change that. However, the creation of single gender groups has proved useful for those who don’t enjoy mixed football and would rather play and learn amongst their peers.
“The coverage of performance level athletes at national level and amongst national youth teams has also provided our young women with some fantastic role models. It has been helpful in changing attitudes of some parents who in the past had only ever seen mixed football and developed some negative perceptions.”
Another factor has been a focus on developing interest as early as possible.
Wary of a potential drop-off in participation as players reach their teenage years, the approach adopted has been to attract players to the game at an early age so that playing football becomes naturally and enjoyable throughout someone’s life.
“We’ve looked in to all kinds of statistics all over the world and the unfortunate truth is children stop participating in sport as much in their teenage years so we’ve been very keen to create a broad base to work from and alert as many young people as early as possible to the benefits in the sport.
The hope is that having a positive experience and developing key skills early will help to develop a love and passion for the game that keeps them interested throughout their lives.”
There is a real focus at the Scottish FA on the development of community clubs and for those clubs to support everyone in their area to nurture their enthusiasm and talent of all who are looking to get involved in the sport from the very young to the very old and people of all abilities as detailed in the One National Plan that was launched only a few years ago and is already helping to change opinions.
“At the end of the day there are only going to be a small percentage of clubs that will reach the top level. It’s important people and clubs realise the benefits of engaging with the surrounding area since it opens up avenues for young players."
“Clubs all want to be big within their communities nowadays and if people see that they offer opportunities for those with disabilities, girls and women it represents a massive change in how that club is perceived.”
“When I arrived in this role there were no activities available for young girls, no festivals and not even anywhere for them to play. Now we have up to 80 girls playing either 4-a-side at Under-9 or 7-a-side at Under-11’s at the festivals we run and clubs are bringing new teams every month. At the moment the venues for these tournaments are rotating around the west of Scotland but I’m hopeful in the future we can have a dedicated venue within each local authority to give more youngsters the chance to play.”