As part of the #RoadtoWEuros22 – we’re running a series of spotlight articles around the people involved in growing and shaping the female game across London.
These include coaches and referees, club officials, elite players, schools leads, and male allies to the game in London.
On #LetGirlsPlay day – we kick off with Nick Miller, strategic lead for Southfields Academy and the Wandsworth FA Girls Football Schools Partnership.
I’m the School Games Organiser based at Southfields Academy in Wandsworth, coordinating the interschool events for the borough leading into the London Youth Games, and also the Panathlon Lead Inclusion Officer for central London, a Youth Sport Trust initiative which advocates opportunities for young persons with SEND. Three years ago, I took on the strategic lead role for Wandsworth in a pilot for the FA Girls Football in Schools Partnership, but was focusing on girls football for a good while before that.
I’ve got a wide brief, but the girls football work sits across all my roles which works quite well.
How has the programme grown & developed to its current position? What challenges have there been?
We’ve always run summer festivals, and autumn festivals for the older girls, plus futsal. We ran a summer league for a while and also a World Cup focus. We’ll be doing the same for the Women’s Euros this summer. AFC Wimbledon deliver a number of projects around the secondary school age group, so we support with those too. We managed to continue throughout Covid, but the strategic side was difficult.
We currently work with more primary schools so always get a higher uptake with that age group. We’ve seen a massive increase in the level of football girls are playing at Years 5 and above. It’s incredible to see the increase in numbers. You can see when they come along to our events that they’ve got a bit of experience! We’re fortunate at Southfields having a lot of external users such as Fulham, Chelsea, AFC Wimbledon and also a few local teams – there are a lot of girls coming along, and although it’s still not at the level of the boys – it’s great to see. We support the girls to become leaders – it’s become a great network of young people.
We also run the Wandsworth Girls District team – holding the trials and training here, I support and promote that to all our girls, although don’t run that one myself… it’s run by Richard Siaw (Balham FC) and has been a great success.
How does football improve your life & the lives of your participants?
There’s a camaraderie, a nice team ethic. Although they’re obviously quite competitive when they come to events, but it feels like there’s a lot of unity amongst the girls. Because it’s a smaller network we’re able to get to know the girls a bit more – we can point them in the right direction and to the right club if needed, and also towards leadership opportunities. We also link up with the London FA team, promoting courses to females. We find that sport - all sport - is quite liberating for females – when they get the same opportunities as boys – it’s like a burden is lifted – they enjoy it, they really love it. It’s a good opportunity for them to get out, do some fitness, enjoy the social side.
Nick, AFC Wimbledon staff, Wandsworth Young Leaders
It’s great to get the younger girls down to WSL/WCL matches at proper stadiums – now AFC Wimbledon are back at Plough Lane we take the girls there sometimes. Kasha Petit coaches at AFC Wimbledon and delivers a lot of our schools activities – she also plays for QPR Ladies, which is great for the girls to see her playing at that level.
‘It’s been great to provide a fun and engaging festivals for young girls to come and enjoy football.
AFC Wimbledon have partnered with Wandsworth school games over the past few years to keep engaging girls, creating pathways through football, and recruiting the next female leaders through the support of the FA and their Girls Football Schools Partnership programme’.
Kasha Petit. Female Development and Inclusion Officer, AFC Wimbledon Foundation
What’s next in your packed agenda?!
We’re running a #LetGirlsPlay festival for Years 5 and 6 with Chelsea, and a number of our schools network around Putney, Battersea, Tooting are doing activities on and around the 9th including a new league which is now up and running.
#LetGirlsPlay Biggest Ever Football Session takes place on Wednesday 9th March
For the Women’s Euros we’re doing a whole week of activities starting 11th July – an inclusive festival with Panathlon for Years 3 and 4, a Year 5 and 6 festival, and a secondary after school festival – we’ll definitely have at least four events during that week, and we’ve also got the opportunity to do an FA PE course so we’ll try to fit that in too! We’ll also run our Year 5 district trials during that week as well. We’ll use other resources around the WEuros – not just pure football activity – so we’ll give the schools flags and kits of the participating countries, perhaps we’ll run a poetry competition too.
Many thanks for answering all our questions Nick – it’s been great to capture some of your story, and please keep up your great work!
Have you or someone you know taken a stand to make a difference for girls to have equal access to football in school?
The FA and Barclays want to recognise those who are breaking down barriers and giving girls the chance to play football in the school curriculum, at breaktime, after school – wherever, whenever they want!
We need your help to tell us who they are.
The nominations window is open from 21st February – 21st March and nominations can be made here.