A lot has been spokenabout influence during this years Women’s World Cup. A new generation of millions of girls being able to watch via TV, internet and live games, setting their sporting imaginations alight and fuelling their dreams to participate in this global sport, dominated by men.
A lot was also said after the tumultuous England v Cameroon game, about the negative influence and potential damage the actions of certain players could cause. Phil Neville the England manager, said: “There are young girls that are playing all over the world that are seeing that behaviour. For me, it’s not right.”
Yet I doubt the behaviour of the Cameroon players actually had any detrimental affect on whether or not girls will start or continue playing football. As someone who has worked with children professionally for over 20 years, I know from experience that children generally see the good side of things. They may not fully understand why a player spits at or elbows their opposition; they already know that that is not a normal thing to do and would soon be told by their coach (or parent) to not repeat it. Yes, there are exceptions to this, there always is, but they are few and far between.
The greatest single positive influence of this World Cup is surely the access to games being watched. The knock-on effect is simple: more girls will start playing football because they have seen someone of the same gender playing it. I’m not a psychologist and can’t explain why (maybe someone else can?), but something happens inside of us when a person of our gender does something notable that gets our attention.One older lady on Twitter even admittedshe was 35 years old and the likes of StephHoughton were making herwant to play, let alone young girls!
Chris Evert – Wimbledon 1980
I remember watching Chris Evert-Lloyd the female tennis player in the 80’s and being inspired to use a double-handed back hand, simply because she was my favourite player. My high school PE teacher had taught meto use a single-handed back hand, but for me it was double or nothing, purely because of my role-model. Yet if I had not seen her play via TV, I would have never been influenced in the way I was.
But when I was even younger, a child of 4 years old, I already liked football and wanted to be a professional. At the time I didn’t know that the women’s football existed and thought only men could be professional. So I quickly gave up on my ambition – something I regret to this day.But what ifI was 4 years old now – watching the likes of Ellen White, MorganRapinoe, Vivianne Miedema etc beating their opponents? What ifgirl’s teams existed that I could have joined in my town? What ifwomen’s football had been shown on TV? What if women’s football hadnot been banned for 50 years in Englandand more in other countries?
There was a tweet postedby BBC 5 Live Sport (a UK radio station) after England’s quarter final victory, saying:
“For all the women who never got the chance. For all the young girls who were told they couldn’t. For all the generations of females who missed out. The Lionesses – you are inspiring a nation and bringing so much joy to those who love the game.”
This World Cup has had record audience figures for women’s football in the UK, which means more and more girls are now being inspired, purely through the power of TV. In Europe record sell-out attendances are now becoming commonplace for league and national games.As the quality of women’s football improves, so does the level of support and so does the all-important exposure through the media. This then produces a wonderful knock-on effect for us coaches.
Girls Playing Football
The knock-on effect will mean more girls (and maybe boys as well) wanting to play: greater participation will mean more clubs are started or existing ones expanded. There will then be a need formore coachesand there will be more roles for us to choose from.
But here’s an important point: coaches arguably have the potential to make or break this rise in girl’s/ women’s football. It’s a new challenge for us: an unprecedented influx of beginners and those who want to try out football. Are we able to embrace this, to encourage those who are maybe not so good, to keep playing? We will have a broader selection of players to choose from, more fixtures, more tournaments– more hours and work to put in. The demands on us may be like nothing we have ever experienced before. We’ve been wanting this to happen, so let’s be ready!
If we can then maintain the players and help keep them in the sport, even if their ability is not so good (participation is key), the number of coaching opportunities in higher levels will also increase. For us, the knock-on effect will mean more roles, professionally not just voluntarily; there will be more opportunitiesfor us to progress professionally.
For sure there are other determining factors – investment being one of them, but the base of the pyramid is about to enlarge and we need to be ready, be equipped and be as inspired as these bright eyed, over enthusiastic little ones will be, to ensure the knock-on effect continuesfor years to come.
Author: Joanne Stuckey is a coach from the UK who is now Football coach to U6 – U17’s in Fortaleza, Brasil as a volunteer.