BY ROB McCARRY

As women’s football flourishes in Scotland, the beautiful game is booming across all levels and opportunities for girls are greater than ever. This is  thanks, in no small part, to the dedication and hard work of the Scottish Football Association who have helped encourage the creation of leagues, tournaments, facilities and training dedicated to the development of our female athletes.

Corrie Campbell is the club development officer for girls and women in the west of Scotland and has witnessed an increase in participation and interest from the ground up. I was able to talk to her about the growth of football in her area and a new series of festivals for young women taking place every Sunday across her region.

“My current role is to interact with the clubs in my area to increase the capacity for girls and women to become involved in an organised set-up and 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 and now the number of clubs has climbed to 23 whilst player registration is nearly 1000. 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; the only football on the television was men’s, but a key factor in growth has been promotion of girls only environments coupled with the success of our women footballers.

“Going into clubs and schools and promoting a girls-only environment had a very positive impact. Obviously for those who are comfortable playing with boys we aren’t looking to change that but 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 and been helpful in changing attitudes of some parents who, in the pas,t had only ever seen mixed football and developed some negative perceptions.”

Another factor has been a focus on developing interest as early as possible, with considerable drop off in participation in all sports expected during the teenage years as children develop other interests it’s important that awareness is developed from primary school age.

“We’ve looked in to all kinds of statistics all over the world and the unfortunate truth is children stop participating in sport so 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 SFA 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 so it’s important people and clubs realise the benefits of engaging with the surrounding area because a parent might bring then their son down for a match and see that there is a chance for their daughter to play. 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 and now we have up to 80 girls playing either 4 vs 4 at under-9 or 7vs7 at under-11 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.”

At the moment these festivals are taking place on Sundays in the region between 10am-11am for the under-9’s and 11:15am-12:15pm for under-11’s and if you wish to enter a team or find out where the next one is happening please contact corrie.campbell@scottishfa.co.uk to find out more.

Follow Rob on Twitter @mccarry85

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