Although lots of females have taken part in many different sports across the UK for numerous years, only now are most starting to get the wider public awareness and media visibility they deserve.
There is noticeably so much more women's sport being shown on TV in the UK, with more people now watching it than ever before, and for longer periods of time too, according to a recent research study by The Women's Sport Trust. They found over 15 million watched three minutes or more of coverage during January, February and March of this year, a record for the first quarter of a year, beating the previous record total of just over 10 million in 2019.
Viewing figures for women's sports including rugby, cricket and golf are growing well, and football is leading the way, with women’s football being one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK both for participation and spectating. This has been further accelerated no doubt by regular live games and highlights shows of The Women's Super League now being shown on BBC One and BBC Two, as well as on Sky Sports.
Just this week Newcastle United Women had a huge crowd of over 22,000 attend their first match at St James’ Park to watch them play Alnwick Town's Ladies in the fourth-tier of women’s English football. In Europe a world record crowd for a women's football match of over 91,000 attended the Camp Nou at the end of March this year for Barcelona’s Women's Champions League match versus Wolfsburg.
With the Women's Euro 2022 being held in England this summer, and the England team already selling out their group game at the 74,000+ capacity Old Trafford, momentum is gathering at a rapid pace and shows no signs of slowing any time soon.
And all this visibility is feeding down into children's football with young girls now having more and more role models who they can aspire to and try to emulate, along with more opportunities to get involved in playing.
There are dedicated girls teams and leagues all over the country and the FA's WiIdcats initiative which launched in 2017 for girls aged from 5 to 11 years old, supports FA qualified coaches in offering 'non-competitive football for girls who want to give it a go for the very first time or want to play with other girls their own age'.
The FA have also just unveiled plans to grow their existing talent programme for women’s football to more than double the number of players to 4,200 by the end of the 2023-24 season with up to 70 Girls’ Emerging Talent Centres across the country for girls aged 8 to 16.
As a foundation phase football coach who initially started in coaching at Under 6 age group, and coached a mixed gender team for 4 seasons, I've also seen the benefits for both girls and boys in an integrated approach, especially at these younger ages. The girls in the team seem to develop greater confidence more quickly, principally in terms of coping with the more physical aspects of playing, and the boys seem to have a natural respect for girls in the team with the majority see them as just another teammate.
Where they prefer to play, and who with is always an individual choice, and always best wherever the child is more comfortable. It's understandable that some prefer to play in girls only environments, especially when first getting started, and some also get to a point where they want to focus on girls football going forward too.
Hopefully in the coming years the imbalance in the UK can continue to close and more girls will continue to participate in football as they get older with the professional game further growing and flourishing.
#ChildrensFootball. 💚 ⚽ #LetThemPlay