Opening Football Doors

THE Girls United project is making a massive impact on participation and enthusiasm levels at King Edward VI Community College in Totnes (KEVICC), with 30 different girls already attending sessions in 2019.

Torquay United Community Sports Trust moved in to help fill a gap for the provision of girls football at KEVICC and the result has been a massive jump in numbers, from all age groups, and a realistic hope for the College to start playing competitive fixtures.

TUCST has received a grant from the National League Trust as part of a programme funded by the Wembley National Stadium Trust and we have formulated a project called ‘Girls United’ to achieve the aims of creating female role models, providing more opportunities for women and girls, improving confidence and opening pathways for progression in playing, coaching and working within sport.

“We had girls football at the College for a number of years but we did have a massive drop-out, mainly because of staffing levels, which is a challenge for every School or College,” said Mrs Wright, Head of PE at KEVICC.

“Jamie (TUCST manager Jamie McInnes) and Torquay United volunteered to come in and fill that void, which was great news for us. We used to have an excellent football team but that had dropped away.

“Since this new scheme started, we’ve gone from three or four girls at football club to regularly having 20 students every week. The ages range right through from Year 7 to our A-Level students.

“We had a first fixture last week and, a couple of years ago, we were the County champions. We haven’t had the numbers to enter a tournament of that nature in the past couple of years but the aim now is to get back into regular competitive football.”

It is particularly pleasing for the concept of Girls United that the A-Level students are playing for the same club as the younger age groups, as we look to create positive female role models throughout the project.

One further example of the power of football to influence young minds is 12 year-old Lola Collings, who, unlike many of her female peers, was happy to mix it with the boys on a football pitch, but now delighted to take her competitive spirit into a female football club.

“I have always loved football,” said Lola. “I’ve had a lot of anger in the past and football has helped me get through that.

“I started playing football with the boys in Year 3 and would still play with the boys, but now it is great to have a team with the girls as well.”

Mrs Wright added: “Lola is a bit of an anomaly because, if you asked most of the girls, they would never consider playing football with the boys, which is why it is so great to have a football clubs that is for girls only.

“The coaches have been so good-natured and made it so enjoyable for the girls. The fact is boys have greater access to football and that naturally makes them more advanced, which can be off-putting for the girls.”

Ebony Salomone is a couple of years older than Lola and a player already reaping the benefits of Girls United, as her impressive progress has seen her earmarked as one to watch for the future.

“I’ve always enjoyed football and this club is a great opportunity to play with the girls,” said Ebony. “I’ve never played with a proper team and this is the chance to play in some real games. The drills have been great fun and I feel like my game is improving.”

Mrs Wright added: “Ebony has been playing football since Year 7 and is a very talented player. This has been recognised by Jamie and she has now been identified as a potential future star for the Torquay United Ladies team.”

As well as the great success at KEVICC, the Girls United project also holds weekly sessions at Torquay Academy on Tuesday evenings and a new programme has kicked-off at Brixham College. To find out more about Girls United, please contact 01803 322551 or email admin@torquayunited.com