SSE Wildcats Gives Girls the Perfect Start in Football
Essex can now boast 53 SSE Wildcats opportunities taking place in the county as The FA’s participation initiative, created to provide girls aged 5-11 with the opportunity to give football a try, is now set to welcome over 20,000 participants nationwide.
Following a recent round of applications, more than 1,250 SSE Wildcats Centres across England are now offering regular opportunities for girls to play football on a weekly basis. 20 centres renewed their license in Essex for Year Three and many more started for the first time, displaying a real appetite to get involved within the programme.
Essex County FA Development Officer, Emma Burden, believes it’s crucial that girls get involved in the game from an early age: “Historically, many girls were missing out on a large part of their development in the younger years and coming into the game at Under 10s with no prior experience. Many boys start playing when they are five or six.”
“SSE Wildcats addresses this by offering a female-friendly environment for individuals to get some exposure to the ‘Fundamental Movement Skills’. We have been fortunate that our proactive grassroots football clubs, coaching companies in Essex and our Football League clubs and Football in the Community schemes are really keen to get on board.”
She also explains that becoming a Wildcats Centre carries a great deal of prestige: “The initiative is sponsored by SSE and, once centres have been approved, branded banners and bibs are allocated. The initiative is a ‘blue chip’ FA programme which is striving to increase participation within girls’ football. Each had to go through a lengthy application process.”
“This required them to demonstrate their commitment to child protection and health and safety. Once each centre was approved, coaches then attended a localised training opportunity with FA Coach Mentors. Each centre being visible on The FA portal means parents looking for a quality programme now have access to session details via a simple search.”
The initiative provides organised sessions in a fun and engaging environment and The FA’s Caroline Hulme, added: “We are delighted that numbers continue to grow. Crucially, the sessions are focused on having fun and making friends, which are the really important factors in Wildcats. We want to help girls grow in confidence, develop social skills and enjoy being active through football.”
To find your local SSE Wildcats centre, visit www.thefa.com/SSEWildcats. Local Essex-based information is also shared here, by following @EssexCountyFA on Twitter and by searching for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.
Wildcats in Essex: 2Worlds Ltd, Active Newham, Basildon Boys & Girls Club FC, Basildon Soccability FC, Bowers in the Community, Braintree Futsal Club, Brentwood Youth AFC (pictured above), Broomfield FC, Chelmsford City FC, Community Iron, Dunmow Rhodes YFC, Essex EPD, Essex Professional Coaching, Forest Crusaders Futsal, Great Danes YFC, Harlow Town FC, Hawkwell Athletic FC, Hutton FC, Junior Red Star YFC, May & Baker Eastbrook Community FC, Oyster FC, Ridgeway Rovers FC, Rochford Town Sports & Social Club, Saffron Walden PSG FC, West Ham Foundation
SSE Wildcats and Mental Health
We all know playing football and being active has great physical benefits for kids - it strengthens bones and muscles and reduces the risk of obesity and diseases such as diabetes. But did you know it’s great for mental health, too? Here are four reasons why SSE Wildcats sessions are good for your child’s wellbeing:
1. It Makes Them Happy: Exercise releases feel-good hormones known as endorphins which make us feel happy, so your children will get a mood boost just by coming to a Wildcats session.
2. It Prevents the Risk of Depression in Childhood: Those mood-boosting effects aren’t short term. Researchers think being active could protect against the development of childhood depression.
3. It Improves Concentration Levels: An hour of group exercise a day boosts children’s concentration levels even when they’re not playing, according to research from the University of Illinois.
4. It Reduces Stress: Children who take part in exercise are better at coping with stressful situations such as public speaking and tests than those who are more sedentary.
case study: buckhurst hill fc
Buckhurst Hill’s Wildcats were invited to parade around the Wembley pitch before the FA Women’s Cup Final, marking an incredible milestone since their sessions began. Craig Sherrin has been instrumental in the centre’s development. Here he shares his advice…
“We started with 15 girls - mainly friends of my daughters or sisters from existing boys’ teams, with a few friends joining in. It’s been a long process but recently, at training, we topped our best ever attendance of 53 girls. The numbers gradually built up through visiting schools, brownie groups and school tournaments, but the majority is through social media and word of mouth.”
“This season we entered two girls’ teams into a majority boys-only league, playing down a year and, luckily, with a league committee with the right philosophy on development, we play roughly seven games and they move teams up and down where required. We can’t speak highly enough of the Brentwood Community Football Alliance Youth League and their forward-thinking approach.”
“What’s worked really well for us is inclusion and making them feel part of the club. We try to bring in female coaches. One other big thing is training tops. Stick the girls’ initials on them, the club badge and, of course, Wildcats logos. When a new girl turns up to train they’re always asking when they can get one! Three years down the line, we have 65 names for training each week!”