Village club went from having no girl's teams to playing at the home of football courtesy of the SSE Wildcats programme
Club wanted to offer girls football teams for the first time and found the SSE Wildcats programme the perfect way to get started
Lea Sports PSG is a thriving village club with a wide range of teams all the way from Under 7 through to Veterans. With roots going back to 1973, the club started as a place for newly qualified Junior School teachers to play in Luton before expanding to include a youth setup and relocating across county borders to its current site in Pirton.
Seeing the dramatic growth in the female game, the club recognised that it was missing a significant opportunity by not offering dedicated female teams. Apart from a brief spell with a Women's team in the mid-nineties, the club had little experience in this area and so were looking for a way to build an offering from scratch.
Providing young girls with the opportunity to play
The club heard about the SSE Wildcats programme, which is a key element of The FA's mission to double girls' participation by 2020. SSE Wildcats Girls' Football Centres are designed to provide young girls with regular opportunities to play football and take part in organised sessions in a fun and engaging environment.
The SSE Wildcats programme offers volunteers extensive advice in setting up and running a successful centre, along with funding and resources to support its delivery. This includes practical help with kit and equipment, as well as branding and promotional support to help ensure the sessions are well attended.
The centres are accessible for all, running on a weekly basis either after school or at weekends, utilising qualified coaches and local facilities. They provide a safe environment where girls with no football experience can have fun whilst engaging with the sport, developing fundamental skills and meeting new friends along the way.
Becoming a Wildcats Football Centre
In late 2017 Lea Sports PSG applied to run an SSE Wildcats Girls Football Centre, and having been approved began offering sessions in April 2018. Over the course of the next few months these grew to include 27 participants, providing many of them with a chance to try football for the first time and the club a way to test local demand for girl's teams.
As a result of this success Lea Sports are planning to run an SSE Wildcats Centre again in 2019 and expect to add new girl's only teams to their club in the near future. As well as giving the club a new opportunity to grow, local girls have also had the chance to develop their love of football and make their dreams come true, courtesy of a very special trip.
Part of the Wildcats programme is to offer those taking part the chance to enjoy some ‘Money Can't Buy' experiences. Out of over 900 centres taking part this year, Lea Sports were chosen to make a once in a life trip to the home of football, with the girls getting to play on the hallowed Wembley turf and meet an England legend.
Want to get involved?
We are now looking for even more organisations to take part and deliver SSE Wildcats Centres in 2019. To find out more and to apply follow the link below:
We think that running an SSE Wildcats Centre is a fantastic way to add girl's football to your club, expand your existing girl's section, or just to give girls the opportunity to play.
But you don't have to take our word for it - we asked Catherine Cardy of Lea Sports PSG about their experience of setting up and running a centre:
Wildcats Q&A with Lea Sports PSG:
What made your club want to apply to become a Wildcats Centre?
As an established football club with over 10 teams from age 6 through to adult, although we had included girls in our youth teams, we did not have any exclusive girls teams.
What have been the positives of being a Wildcats Centre?
Taking girls from zero football experience to thoroughly enjoying being part of a team, highly motivated and developing some great skills has been fantastic.
We also enlisted the help of a local sixth former student who is a great role model to the children. As well as seeing the children's confidence grow, it's been lovely to see Madeline grow in confidence and now register for her Level 1 qualification.
Would you recommend other clubs applying to become a centre?
Yes, absolutely. The application process was very straightforward and the benefits to the girls (and our already existing football club) have been fantastic and totally rewarding. We have been well supported by the county FA and the SSE centre.
We were also lucky enough to have reaped numerous additional rewards, including a trip to Wembley to play on the pitch, kit for all the girls and free tickets to Walking with Dinosaurs.
What advice would you give to a club to get the best out of their Wildcats centre?
Take the time to set it up properly. You need to think through all the logistics - timings, day of week, and targeting girls via suitable avenues - in our case local Primary school. Check potential clashes with other after school or weekend clubs, enough adult supervision etc.
Establish the admin side of things carefully to ensure all the girls are registered properly etc. and ensure you have committed members of staff to coach the Wildcats.