Eleven-year-old Eve has been a keen gymnast for five years, competing with East Surrey Acrobatics squad for the past four years. She joined the YMCA East Surrey Football Club two years ago at the start of our football programme and is now a member of our first competitive girls’ football team.
Mum and gymnastics coach, Louise, says:
“Eve has learned a lot from her involvement in both gymnastics and football and the effect on her confidence has been positive.”
“In the Acrobatics squad, she has to perform to her best abilities in front of a crowd and has been lucky enough to have enjoyed some early successes. She’s also had times when things haven’t gone her way and she’s had to learn from the mistakes she’s made.”
“Sport is enormously important in providing children with a sociable outlet and healthy exercise, where they can enjoy a shared interest and be around people who promote a positive attitude towards body image.”
In the past year, over 30 girls aged 7-12 have had the opportunity to experience football in the fun and friendly environment of our football sessions and holiday camps, run by an FA Level 3 licensed Coach.
Mike Roberts, YMCA Recreation and Sports Manager, says:
“The introduction into sport from an early age has numerous benefits, both on a young person’s physical and mental health.”
“For girls, in particular, having access to girls’ specific recreational opportunities and having pathways into progressing into competitive sport can only be of benefit to encourage more to participate.”
The recent success of England’s Lionesses in the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro Championship has inspired a whole generation of young girls who want to follow in their footsteps.
“You can never underestimate the impact of role models within any sport,” says Mike.
“Athletes who inspire on and off the pitch, track or court can provide the model to further a young person’s aspirations and encourage a healthy relationship between education and physical activity. These role models provide a ripple effect down to grassroots level, in young people trying new sports and setting new targets in existing sports.”
“It is so important that young girls are provided with the same opportunities that are available for young boys. To see the development of our team of girls as they progress from recreational classes with limited football experience to now playing competitive matches has me bursting with pride.”
Louise says that Mike is an excellent role model himself for the children he teaches and inspires.
“He is so positive and encouraging,” she says. “He wants everyone to enjoy sport – regardless of their background, with no discrimination between male and female, age or ability – and he’s passionate about women’s football.”
The rising popularity of women’s football has led to gender issues being tackled right across society and, by 2024, the FA wants every primary school-aged girl to have equal access to football in schools and clubs.
“In the beginning, I had to prove myself before anyone would pass to me when I played in a mixed team,” says Eve. “Now, the boys know that I can play and I’m just as good as they are.”
“Football Club is exciting and scoring goals is cool. Football and gymnastics are both brilliant and they have taught me a lot about teamwork.”
“When I grow up, I want to be a footballer because playing sport makes me really happy.”