Over 300 girls descended on Hartpury College this week to take part in a free FA Girls’ Football Festival, aimed at increasing and retaining girls’ participation in the game. The event was the third festival of 2015 and was organised through the support of the Gloucestershire County FA.
Girls aged between five and 16 years from various schools across the county were invited to test their skills in a range of activities combining football, fun and music. The festivals are a joint initiative by The FA and Continental Tyres, providing an exciting, interactive football experience for both those new to the game and regular players.
FA approved coaches led the event, with a number of FA staff and volunteers on hand to help out and referee. Sessions from the FA Skills team and Cheltenham Town FC included skills and drills, interactive games, mini matches and the ContiWarmUp Programme - the coaching programme from Continental Tyres endorsed by the FA.
Girls also chatted and enjoyed a kick-about with Mary Earps and Christie Murray from FA Women’s Super League (WSL) 1 side Bristol Academy Women. The two ladies were on hand to discuss life as a semi-professional female footballer and give advice on how to get involved in the game.
Of the festival, Goalkeeper Earps said: “It’s been fantastic, there are lots of lovely, enthusiastic girls here who clearly love football. To see them kicking a ball around in the sun and learning some new skills is great.
“The festival has a bit of everything for everyone with a speed cage, shoot outs and matches to hair braiding and face painthing. The festivals are a great opportunity for the girls to just enjoy the sport. This is exactly what I would have loved to do at their age.”
Murray continued: “Hopefully, if they have a positive experience here, they’ll find that it’s something they want to pursue. We had nothing like this when I was young so I’m pretty jealous that they’ve got this but it’s excellent to see how much they’re enjoying it.”
Polly Fildes, Women’s Football National Project Officer for the FA, said: “Today has seen a fantastic FA Girls’ Football Festival take place in the sun at Hartpury College.
“We had 36 schools take part today and getting this many girls attending the events shows the emphasis and commitment that the FA and Continental Tyres put into getting the message out that football isn’t just for boys.”
“Mary and Christie have been a real inspiration to the girls today and the variety of activities on offer has been great. At the festival, there are a number of exciting football-based activities, such as a speed cage and agility testing, on offer, as well as goalkeeping, refereeing and striking workshops. We also incorporate face painting, hair braiding and music to show that whatever your involvement in the sport, there is something for everyone. Our overall goal is to get all the girls that attend interested in, and playing, the beautiful game.”
In addition to the activities available on the day, all festival attendees received a free ticket to a match at their local FA WSL club. Bristol’s next game is on 25 April 2015 against Notts County Ladies at 6:30pm in Stoke Gifford Stadium. As well as this, attendees will get free child tickets for all WSL home games with a full paying adult
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