Whatever the outcome of today’s Women’s Euro final at Wembley, it’s undoubtedly history in the making for the Lionesses, and in turn for English football. A victory would not only be the first major trophy for the England women’s team, but the first football honour for England since 1966.
Should three lionesses on a shirt inspire your daughter to be a “baller,” or if she already run rings around you in the garden, where do you get the ball rolling, locally?
Applications for the forthcoming grassroots seasons end mid-August, so get in quickly,; here’s our guide to kicking off your daughter’s, or son’s football career.
Starting off young, Little Kicker Sessions are held at Devizes Town Football Club, every Thursday from 5pm – 6pm, suitable for ages 3-6 Years. So, Devizes Town Youth Football Club might be your first port of call for the younger ones, but they’re also looking to add to their U15 squad in particular, but girls of all ages are welcome. Girl’s football is relatively new to Devizes Town FC, and needs some support.
Training at Green Lane, new players are welcome at Bishop’s Cannings Youth FC. Spaces are limited for these mixed teams: Under 11 – Typhoons, Under 12 – Scorpions, Under 14’s – Titans, and Under 11 – Spitfires. The Butterflies and Dragonflies Girls teams are for under 12’s and upcoming year 6 and 7 respectively, but enquire as they have a range of ages available. Fridays at 6pm, are training for girl’s teams.
Chatting to three elite young players from Devizes, who are all signed for Swindon Town, Izzy, Cara and Jess, they felt more needed to be done to promote girl’s only leagues locally in comparison to other areas of the UK. Yet this is mainly down to interest. “Football is the fastest growing women’s sport in the UK,” Jess reminded me, but stressed the importance of opportunities for other women’s sports such as hockey and rugby.
On our way to the County Ground to catch a coach to Wembley, they gave surprising examples of how, occasionally friends had felt “bullied” out of mixed teams by the boys, even at the youngest of ages. They seemed, however, happy with their school programs, after I reminded them girl’s simply didn’t do football in school, in my time! But they wished again for better structure to school leagues. Cara lived in Swindon, started her love of football at camps in Dorcan, whereas Jess joined Bishop’s Cannings, and moved to Melksham, where Izzy started. They both spoke highly of Melksham FC, who have a well-established girl’s structure.
Melksham Town Youth Football – Charter Standard Club has an ever-growing girls section, and is represented at all levels from Wildcats, Under 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16s and Under 18s.
Staying in the Sham, Forest Youth are a newcomer to the game, and have U13 mixed and an U14 girl’s team. Ages start from 4 years, find out more, here.
Derry Hill FC is also widely renowned for supporting girls in football throughout their club, in both our girls and mixed teams. They have girls only teams from Year 3 to Year 11 in the 22/23 season and a Wildcats programme for younger girls.
Jess, who has completed seasons at Reading and Bristol, was keen to point out summer camps were equally important for new starters, as teams, praising Future of Football, which runs out of Bowerhill in Melksham. They start with mixed sessions for ages 3-4, continuing up to all ages. You can book free taster sessions online. Sponsored by women’s sports brand, Miss Kick, Jess added they had an all-girls national foundation running since 2018.
If once you’ve found your suitable local team your offspring is still booting goals past you in rapid succession until your fingers are bent backwards, the next stage is applying for trials at the development centres. Look to Swindon Town FC Community Foundation for the best local development centre, and advice on where to go from there, and if you think you’ve got what it takes, Reading, Bristol and Southampton pick their players from this catchment area.
On grassroots level, Cara recommended Highworth and Stratton clubs for girls. The girls are fresh back from a tournament in Barcelona, one of the many perks of playing for Swindon! Swindon FC is one of 72 league clubs with a community programme affiliated to the English Football League Community Trust, delivering sporting and social opportunities to people within their communities.
Founded in 1991, the Foundation delivers football and Multi Sports based programmes within Swindon and the county of Wiltshire, and endeavour to deliver and increase participation for people from 2 – 82 years of age; so even I’m legible, just, if only I could kick a ball in the general direction I intended!
This is the point in time where you’re clocking up the miles and the floor of your banger is filled with those nasty tiny 3G pitch black balls! But you don’t need to travel so far, FC Wiltshire also run a similar development program out of Green Lane, Devizes.
Since Channel 4’s 2017 shocking documentary with Clare Balding, exposing truths behind how the massive popularity of women’s football during the first World War was dwindled when the FA banned it 1921, we understand where this ill-conceived notion that football is a man’s sport came from. Though it was never an act of chauvinism, rather more simply, The FA made no money from it, because the women’s games were fundraising for injured soldiers, only goes to reinforce how totally unjust, not to mention, ironic this old-fashioned and preconceived idea is, and though we’ve some way to go for equality in the ironically dubbed “beautiful game,” we’re at least moving in the right direction.
Today will prove this, as Wembley fills with spectators, young and old, male and female. The girls may’ve wished for better structure in local leagues, but one informed how Marlborough’s girl’s team recently folded, so it’s simply a matter of increasing interest, and this can only be done by the club’s engaging girls and making them feel welcome and appreciated. It’s easy for a club to prioritise boys, as that’s where the profit is, and this must, and so very gradually is, changing.
Will the same level of celebration erupt today, if England win, as it would if the men’s team got even remotely as far the women?! Time will tell; come on Lionesses!
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