Huddle is a brand new FAW Trust initiative, aimed at getting more girls playing football. It’s a 10 to 12 week programme that engages girls with the sport through fun, football related activities and games. Huddle is open to all girls between 5 and 12 years old and has been specifically developed to ‘create confidence, find friendships and give girls a great football experience’. The first phase of this programme has been rolled out this September, with 23 clubs across Wales taking part. The idea is to run the programme twice a year, with the second phase due to start in the spring.
“There is no pressure to play competitively. If the Huddle programme is all they want to do, then we will be launching it again in the spring so they will have 2 opportunities a year. But we are quite confident that once the girls have felt comfortable playing football in this environment then they will want to go on to find a club”.
“For phase 2 we are hoping to double the number of clubs taking part. Some of the teams running Huddle at the moment have got no girls team and at the end they can either start a team or signpost to another established team. We want to make sure that if the girls feel confident in a girls only environment, then this option is available to them”. Katy Evans, Football development manager for FAW Trust, explained to us.
Talycopa AFC Girls
Swansea based Talycopa AFC are one of the teams taking part in the initial phase of The Huddle. The session are held at Play Football, Swansea every Wednesday from 6-7pm and will run all the way up until 27th November.
We went along last week, with Amelia, who plays for Ystradgynlais Girls U9s, to see what the club are doing for girls football and to find out what happens in these sessions.
When we arrived, Amelia went straight over to get started and was welcomed instantly. Although she does play football, she didn’t know anyone there, but this didn’t seem to make any difference. All the girls got involved from the start and were having fun, playing games and practicing their ball control skills. The girls all looked really confident and comfortable when taking part and I was surprised to learn that they were all new to football and not already part of the club. Amelia’s favourite game was one where different coloured cones were named after famous teams. When the coach called out a team, they had to dribble the ball to the matching cone. It was a lively game and all of the girls looked like they were really getting into it.
Working hard to grow girls football
Whist the girls were playing this I had a chat with a couple of the coaches. Adrian, Talycopa Girls U16s and Ashley, Talycopa Girls U9s.
“In the Swansea area, Talycopa are the only team doing this. Most of the girls here today are all brand new to football. The aim is to give girls a chance to see if they like football. After it hopefully we can find out where they live and signpost them to a local team. If there isn’t a local team then they are welcome to come to Talycopa because we’ve got all age teams, it’s a fantastic club. We are hoping next to get a Talycopa Ladies team so there is somewhere for the girls who want to continue after junior football, to progress to”. Adrian explained.
“Talycopa are a fantastic club for girls. They have worked really hard to get all the age groups that they have. They’ve got a got a gold accreditation and there are only 2 teams who are gold accredited in Swansea; Mumbles and Talycopa”, added Ashley.
Getting more girls involved
As well as the 4 male coaches there, volunteering their time to support Huddle, there were also female coaches helping out with the football activities. Adrian told us;
“There are 2 girls here helping out from U16 team. Georgia wants to coach when she is 16, so we are looking to set up a small team for her. We want more female coaches. Most of the coaches of the girls teams are blokes. We really want to encourage more women and girls. There is a lot of funding from FAW for supporting girls and women into refereeing and coaching and it is really important for the female game. Female referees are now reffing mixed games and you can actually start refereeing younger than 16. The more ladies and girls we can get involved the better”.
Towards the end of the session the girls were put into two teams for a game of football. The teams were both mixed ages and abilities and it was really nice to see the older girls on the team, helping and encouraging the younger ones.
Inspiring the younger generation
As the session neared its end I caught up with Georgia and Lara, who play for Talycopa U16 Girls. They told me why they had offered to help out with this programme. For Georgia it was the ideal opportunity to help her on her way to coaching her own team and inspire the next generation of female footballers;
“I have a big interest in football, I like watching it and playing it. I am in the process of starting my own U8 girls team and so helping with Huddle was a good opportunity to gain some experience. In all the time I have played have never had a female coach. I think it’s important to give the girls someone to look up to who is the same gender. We look up to male footballers a lot so having female icons would be much better for young girls and would make them want to play more. This programme is really important. When it’s an all girls team it makes them feel more comfortable. I have always played for all girls teams, I wouldn’t have the confidence to play for a mixed team”.
Lara also wanted to provide the young girls trying it out for the first time, some female support and encouragement.
“I’ve never been coached by a female either and I think it could have made a big difference to my confidence. I wanted to volunteer for this because football has always revolved around boys playing. I think it’s really good that teams are encouraging more girls to do it, so I wanted to help out to encourage girls to join”.
An 8 year old’s perspective
As the session came to an end all of the girls reluctantly stopped playing and got ready to head home. Red faced but with big smiles, the girls really seemed to have enjoyed themselves. This is what Amelia had to say about her experience;
“There were some different games that I hadn’t played before, not just football. It didn’t even feel like we were playing football some of the time. I really enjoyed the different games. At the end we played a match and our team won, I scored 2 goals”.
“I enjoyed the session. I didn’t know anyone but it didn’t matter. We didn’t even have a chance to talk, we were too busy playing. It didn’t feel weird not knowing anyone and the coaches made us all feel welcome”.
“I would really like to go again. It was nice having older girls coaching, that’s not something that happens at our football club. I am glad it was just girls playing, if there were boys I don’t think I would have felt so good doing it”.
Want to read more about how female football is developing in Neath Port Talbot and Swansea? Take a look at our article on Afan Lido FC and their new Ladies and Girls section.