Local Football Club Tackles Gender Imbalance
The South Belfast club are matching grant money awarded from Belfast City Council’s ‘Support for Sport Large Development fund’, aimed at promoting the development of sports within the Belfast Area, either through the growth of existing clubs or through projects aimed at encouraging people to take up sporting activity.
Rosario YFC have already a significant presence in the girls’ game within Belfast and the number of female teams have increased from one to eight in the space of three seasons. A push within management saw four experienced boys’ coaches being moved into the girls’ section to assist with player and coach training as well as overseeing matches.
However, female representation still lags behind and they want to increase the number of female coaches in order to encourage more girls to join, ensure their girls don’t follow their peers away from physical exercise in their teens and nudge all players to consider a place on in the coaching team one day.
The money is earmarked to entice more females to ‘try out’ the sport and boost the numbers of women volunteering for coaching positions. The funding will provide 5 professional coaches, for the senior women’s team as well as the under 17, 15, 13, 11 and 9 teams. Rosario, supported by Belfast City Council, aim to have 160 female players and coaches participating in the program which runs from this November until March next year.
The professional coaches will lead the coaching sessions while teaching the volunteer coaches how to prepare and carry out their own sessions. The grant will also cover the costs of the new coaches attaining their badges.
Research from Women in Sport and Youth Sport Trust suggests that only 56% of girls recognise that being physically active is important compared to 71% of boys. They also found that the pivotal age at which girls start to lose interest in sport is just 7-years-old. One way to address this is to encourage more female role models within the sporting sector and show young girls that lifelong involvement in physical activity is as ‘normal’ for women as it is for men.
If the girls were looking for any more inspiration, they need only look to the club Chairperson. Ciara Boyes took over the role in 2017 and became one of only a handful of female chairpersons in the UK or Ireland. She recognises a gender imbalance within the club and fully supports the committee’s proactive approach in addressing it.
She explains, “We have almost 200 people regularly volunteering for our club, but the majority of female volunteers are in administration roles. While we appreciate their contribution and could not survive without them, we need to ask why 14% of our members are female, yet only 5% of our coaches are, and what we can do to redress this imbalance.”
Ciara believes that by encouraging more women into coaching roles the club will attract more women and girls into the club and these girls will be more likely to play longer and volunteer as coaches down the line. However, while women’s football is more successful than ever before, the pool of local women with experience in the sport is still low because, traditionally, girls were not encouraged onto the pitch. As a result the majority of women feel they have nothing to offer as a coach.
She said, “Many of the female coaches we already have are very skilled. Some have represented Northern Ireland, some have played competitively in the US and Canada, but unfortunately the number of women in Belfast who have played football at any level is so low that finding women with the experience to give them the confidence to coach is rare. With this in mind, we have set about starting with the basics and training our coaches from scratch.”
“An increased female presence will demonstrate our commitment to female soccer and this project, targeting new female coaches, will provide role models to the existing female members and any new female members joining as a result of the kick start taster sessions planned,” she added.
Rosario are working in tandem with the Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA) in providing breast screening workshops, cervical cancer awareness workshops and bowel cancer screening workshops. The club’s actions will be closely monitored and assessed by a Queens University Belfast intern who is studying the different approaches to encouraging female participation in women’s football.
For any other details please contact Susan Clarke on 07812566186.