How to get into women’s soccer in the sport

Hear them roar (Picture: Tina Jenner/Supplied)

With the Lionesses scoring freely until Euro 2022, she is the driving force needed to engage more women and girls in football in the UK. Sadly, women make up only 2% of the people who play the sport, according to Jim Law of the Findaplayer website, which helps locate local teams and events.

Reassuringly, though, that number is expected to rise sharply this year, with more than 6,500 active female-only or co-ed games across the country.

Whether competitive or social, there are many reasons to try soccer.

Euro 2022 tournament sponsor Visa commissioned a report on women’s football, Women Thriving On And Off The Pitch, which showed that:

Three quarters of those who play team sports say it has had a positive impact on their business life.

Half of those who play a team sport say that it helps them deal with stress, exhaustion or overwork.

Visa Ambassador Karen Carney MBE, who has 144 caps for England, says: ‘The thing that opened my eyes the most is how transferable skills can be in sport: the ability to work in a team, be adaptable, resilient and hard-working. ‘

Carol Thomas BEM, former England captain and the first female captain to lead England to a European final, is delighted to see the Lionesses’ success inspiring women to take up the sport.

“The success of the Lionesses at Euro 2022 will have inspired not only girls, but also women of all ages,” he says. “It is very important that they have these visible role models to look up to.

‘The starting point is to find a ball and enjoy a kick.

‘Check out local Wildcat Clubs, established clubs and gyms for the sessions that best suit your level. But the main thing is just to enjoy it.

“Nothing compares to sharing the good times with ten other women on the pitch and having them all lean on during the low times.”

To foster visible female role models who will inspire future generations, on and off the pitch, Carol Thomas is working together with LinkedIn, a national sponsor of Uefa Women’s Euro 2022. Follow Carol on LinkedIn and join the conversation #FollowInHerFootsteps

Age shouldn’t be a barrier either. Older women, in particular, are highly unlikely to have ever kicked a ball, raised on a diet of hockey and netball at school. But Karen, a former Arsenal and Chelsea winger, tells them: ‘You can do it!

“For girls and women interested in doing it, it’s never too late,” she says. “The skills you can learn and the friendships you can make by participating in team sports are unmatched,” she adds.

“It can be intimidating to try something new and do something outside of your comfort zone, but take that risk.

‘The practice of sport has many benefits, not only for physical health, but also for mental health.

“Team sports have even been shown to help women succeed in their working lives or with the skills needed to set up a business.”


How to take part

If you’ve never played or are afraid to try something new, Yvonne Harrison, CEO of Women in Football, a leading organization for gender equality in sport, has some advice on how to get involved.

Visit the FA website and contact your county FA to see where you can get a game locally.

Find out when your local club plays/trains and head over to watch and chat if you’re nervous.

For older women, follow Crawley Old Girls on social media to see just how welcoming football can be.

There are many new and fun recreational sessions as part of the Women’s EURO legacy program and through Women In Football.

‘It’s important to have fun’

Put fun first (Image: supplied)

Put fun first (Image: supplied)

Sharon Uka, Operations Executive, and Richard Bron, Head of Development, Barnet Nightingales FC, the district’s first and largest women’s club.

‘It is important to involve more girls and women, partly as a way of building confidence. Football can be seen as a male-dominated industry, but with more visible women in the industry, as players, coaches and broadcasters, this naturally creates a diverse environment, which is better for everyone.

“Creating more accessible urban football clubs is key. We offer free, open training sessions every day for girls ages seven to 12. Working as a team encourages us to be selfless, supportive, empathetic and gives a sense of belonging. Don’t worry if you’ve never played before, the most important thing is that you have fun.’

“I have made some of my best friends through football”

Make friends (Image: Tina Jenner)

Make friends (Image: Tina Jenner)

Stephanie Warren, designer by day, plays for Chesterfield Ladies FC.

“I have played in the team for more than ten years. We are North Derbyshire’s premier women’s and girls’ football club.

‘I started playing football when I was seven years old and a friend from school introduced me to the CLFC. It is a great team sport and offers more than just expanding soccer skills. It’s a great place to express yourself and meet people with similar interests.

“5-a-side football is a good springboard into the sport as it is less result-oriented than a league team. I enjoy the challenge of constantly improving and pushing myself physically and mentally.

I have made some of my best friends through football. Most teams are very welcoming. Now through September it’s key to explore your options.’

‘You don’t even have to run’

Don't worry (Image: supplied)

Don’t worry (Image: supplied)

Amy Oakes, manager of sports and family services, YMCA Newark & ​​Sherwood leads women’s soccer training sessions and the soccer academy at Camp Williams. There are sessions for everyone.

“It has been very encouraging to see the rise in popularity of women’s and women’s football. Participating in a team sport like soccer can be daunting, but it has many benefits, including reduced stress and depression, increased self-esteem, and the development of skills such as leadership, problem-solving, and goal-setting.

‘Plus, you can keep fit in a fun and sociable way. Take a friend if you prefer not to go alone.

‘We offer “walking football” sessions for people looking for a way to enjoy the sport with less impact. Or head to the park with a group of friends for some fun.

‘Football is one of the most affordable sports to play. Camp Williams has clinics dedicated to soccer skills.’

How to get fit for soccer and train like a lioness

The objective is to make women's football visible (Image: Supplied)

The objective is to make women’s football visible (Image: Supplied)

Kelly Smith MBE, who had a 23-year career and made 117 appearances for England, writes: This year’s Euro games have ignited a whole new fan base and raised awareness: if women’s football is visible, the public will see it and more girls will play.

There are seven main physical attributes you need: agility, balance and control, power and strength, speed and endurance. Everyone is different and has different needs, but focus on strengthening your core muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and quads because the stronger you are, the less impact you have on your knee joints.

The exercises to do are lateral band walks, squats, split squats, bench press, kettlebell swings, and treadmill HIIT.

Watch Kelly’s video tutorial and discover soccer lessons at David Lloyd.

You can do it! Faye White MBE, former England and Arsenal captain

Faye White is on the right: Sweden's captain Victoria Svensson and England's captain Faye White (right) compete for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2009 Women's Group C soccer match between Sweden and England in Turku, Finland, on August 31, 2009. AFP PHOTO / LEHTIKUVA / Roni Lehti *** FINLAND OUT *** (Photo credit should read Roni Lehti/AFP via Getty Images)

Have no fear (Image: Roni Lehti/AFP via Getty Images)

“I loved inspiring young girls throughout my career and showing them that women can have just as big dreams in sports as men,” says Faye. ‘From a grassroots level, all primary schools should have girls’ football opportunities, so it becomes second nature for girls to play. It’s not all about winning.

‘It has so many benefits, whether it’s meeting new people or getting in shape. Not everyone enjoys going to the gym. If you ask someone what they love the most, you will always hear that the greatest satisfaction comes from the friendships they make. It doesn’t have to be a seriously competitive game.

‘You can play anywhere if you have two jump shots for the goalposts and a ball. Start local. Check to see if there’s an 11 a side, or five or seven, available for anyone to join in and have fun.’

Sky Mobile is working with Faye to encourage Britons to cheer on their home countries. To find out how you can stay connected and catch all the must-see sports action, visit their website.

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