SSE Wildcats has provided “a real buzz in Essex” as it aims to provide girls aged 5-11 with regular inspirational opportunities to have fun, make friends and play in an engaging environment.
Wildcats Centres provide a safe environment where girls who don’t currently play the game can have fun engaging with sport, develop fundamental skills and create foundations for a lifelong love of sport. Each is run in conjunction with local County FAs, utilising qualified coaches and local facilities and Essex reacted positively to the latest Wildcats application ‘window’.
The Year 2 process was completed in late 2017 and 28 new centres were identified in February to plant a seed which starts a real love of the game for local youngsters. Essex County FA Football Development Officer, Emma Burden, recalled: “We ran a workshop before Christmas which was really well attended, with over 30 clubs cramped into the Boardroom at our County Office! All our applications were of a very high standard.”
“It demonstrated each club’s attitude to delivering a quality product. I think there is a real buzz in Essex to get on-board with the programme. Most are starting around April time during FA Girls’ Football Week [Monday 23rd to Sunday 29th April], though some sessions had already started, including Woodham Radars, Trinity Girls and Academy Soccer. They’re really well-attended and the early signs are indicating a growth in our mini-soccer female figures.”
The centres last an initial 16 weeks up to the end of July, with the goal of continuing them indefinitely. They take place on a weekly basis, either after school or at weekends, subject to each local organiser. Essex ran seven SSE Wildcats Centres in Year 1. In Year 2 there are 28, with five continuing from Year 1. Emma is extremely impressed with the innovative ways the Year 2 Centres have employed the SSE Wildcats branding.
She continued: “The aim is for each centre to attract 30 girls each week. I think most Year 1 Wildcats Centres achieved that. The early signs for some of the Year 2 Centres are promising. Trinity in Southend are amongst those showing really good numbers. ‘She Can Play’ have been clever in their use of branding at the facility. All their women’s and girls’ sessions take place on one pitch on a Monday night so they have girls from 15 to 50 taking part in football.”
“Baddow Spartak have also been proactive with stickers and stamps for continuous attendance at sessions. Stanway Rovers have used a mascots and teddies for ‘Player of the Week’. Our new Year 2 SSE Wildcats Centres have set the benchmark very high and are offering incentives for attendance at Pro Path, training tee shirts at C & K Basildon and Buckhurst Hill, plus Forest Glade (pictured, above) have been busy on social media. These are just a few examples.”
According to Emma, SSE Wildcats is important to the future of Essex female football: “It’s just a great introduction to the game. Some girls just want to play with their friends and be involved in some fun, no-pressure games. SSE Wildcats is a great opportunity to introduce them to football without the pressures of immediate fixture programmes. It’s a really positive, enthusiastic environment where fun, friends and fitness are key. Give it a try!”
Click here to find out more about SSE Wildcats. You can also find information by clicking here, interacting with @EssexCountyFA on Twitter using the hashtag #SSEWildcats and by following ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.