Women's Football

This is Women's Sport Week 2016 and I am a woman in sport.

For a long time now I have wanted to try football.

As you grow up in Scotland, the message is that football belongs to men. This indoctrination happens early. Every guy I know played football on school grass and in muddy parks since they were old enough to run, even if they aren't particularly into it as adults. At secondary school it is already too late. The boys have a huge training advantage- they know the rules, they have had endless informal practise hours, they've been encouraged to learn the teams and care about 'the beautiful game'. Then when it is offered to everyone as a sport at secondary school level it is in the same bracket as other traditionally ‘male sports’. The more feminine sports (dance, volleyball, and hockey) are not in that bracket. As a result young women chose the dance bracket. Even if, like me, they hated dance. They want to be with their friends and they do not want to suck at something. As a result 12 young football players are male for every 1 female player. It’s much less divided in the US - 48% of youth players are female. This may actually arise as an effect of football (or 'soccer')'s comparatively short history in the states- it hasn't been taken as gospel for decades that football is a man's sport.

Now as an adult I know many men who are incredibly enthusiastic about football. Near-fanatical sometimes. They celebrate their team's successes, mourn their losses, and keep an obscure list of facts and statistics in working memory. I know some women who watch the World Cup and a few interested in local teams. Personally I don't usually enjoy watching sports, even running, so don't watch anything but the World Cup. But I have always wanted to try actually playing football. After a bit of online research and gearing my courage I headed to a local women's training league at Firhill Leisure Centre, which was beginner-friendly.

I'm so glad I did- it was really, truly enjoyable. As they had two beginners we started with a warm up then some basic ball control; walking then running around a circle keeping the ball under control with small foot touches. We then practised making controlled passes to one another, with dominant and non-dominant feet and with more or less strength. Then we made passes to the whole group under pressure with another player running towards you as you passed the ball. They gradually added more pressure and more motion to these group passes. That game also works really well as a way to memorise names as they yell for players who are about to receive! We finished with 20 minutes of 5-a-side play. I didn't score but I was pretty happy with my ability to charge up and down the pitch, although I need to be able to turn much more quickly.

Right now women’s football is a smaller world than men’s, both professionally and casually. I hope that elite women’s football will continue to grow as funding and sponsorships increase and the events receive more media coverage. Right now women's professional football is comparatively lowly paid (the highest paid England team member makes less in a year than her male equivalents make in a week). The current defence is that women's football is less watched. But this argument is circular- news media doesn't report on it, TV channels do not broadcast it, thus less people watch it, thus news media reports on it less... and so on ad-infinutum.

However more than anything I hope that the average girl, average woman feels that football as a sport is open to them. That it’s something you can try and if you enjoy it you can keep trying. I hope that parents invite their kid for a kick about in the garden even if that kid is a girl. I hope we learn that sports don't really have a gender and you should try any that take your fancy.

Post written by Scallywag and published on Scallywag Sprints on 04/20/16


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