Essex County FA Football Development Officer Emma Burden believes the 29 new local ‘SSE Wildcats Girls’ Football Centres’ which are about to be launched will: “plant a seed which starts a real love of the game for our youngsters.”
SSE Wildcats aims to provide regular inspirational opportunities for girls aged 5-11 to have fun, make friends and play in an engaging environment. An application process has just been completed and the sessions will start on different dates throughout April, lasting an initial 16 weeks, with the goal of continuing them indefinitely. They’ll take place on a weekly basis, either after school or at weekends, subject to each local organiser.
The centres have been established in partnership with SSE, supporters of girls’ football participation. Emma is excited about the launch, explaining: “SSE Wildcats is a fantastic way of getting a really positive first introduction to football for our young females who might be thinking about playing but need a localised playing opportunity.”
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 centre is run in conjunction with local County FAs, utilising qualified coaches and local facilities to offer girls a local location where they can get involved.
Emma was delighted with the response of Essex clubs to the application window during the New Year, reacting: “The applications were of a really high standard. Everyone demonstrated a real commitment and passion become SSE Wildcats to help support with the development of a girls section within their setup. The successful applicants now receive £900 of funding in two instalments, branding and exposure, plus 30 footballs and other resources.”
“The branding is targeted at girls in an attractive and glossy manner and it gives clubs visibility that they ordinarily might not get via The FA portal and exposure via the County FA website and social media. Statistically the numbers nationally are not comparable for 5-11-year-old girls accessing football opportunities in comparison to boys.”
“From a national and county perspective the number of girls involved in the game at this age group is not strong enough. We need to address that by offering a fun, friendly programme which ensures the first experience of football for a young female player is inspiring and positive. We need to ensure we plant a seed which starts a real love of the game for our youngsters.”
200 centres were established nationwide in 2017 and a further 800 will be in place for 2018. Emma says a lot was learned from last year’s sessions, which have already left a legacy: “We had seven clubs in the first year of SSE Wildcats. Most, if not all of the sessions have continued to date. Baddow Spartak were extremely successful, working in partnership with Michael Richardson Football Academy (MRFA) to affiliate four teams.”
“Their Wildcats sessions continue to date. She Can Play also had huge numbers and those sessions are also still going. Stanway Rovers affiliated two teams as a consequence of the success of the programme and Leigh Ramblers Wildcats also continues, with girls involved in sessions and holiday camps! Colchester United continue to deliver their sessions on Monday evenings, with ever-growing numbers.”
Applicants needed to ensure they have policies in place and an appropriate number of qualified staff. The programme also encourages the involvement of female coaches - a key strand within the Essex County FA strategy. “We had a great turnout at our Wildcats Workshop in December and I think 29 Centres is a reflection of the attitude of clubs today who want to embrace all areas of football,” Emma continued. “We look forward to working with each centre!”
To find out more about SSE Wildcats, please visit www.fa-sse-fund.com. You can also find information here, by interacting with @EssexCountyFA on Twitter using the hashtag #SSEWildcats and by following ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.