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Getting girls into the beautiful game

Abbie Waites (centre) is aiming to get more women into football

Sunderland College has been given FA backing to kick-off a footballing scheme aimed at getting more women onto the pitch.

The Wearside institution has been chosen to run a national pilot which will see 12 women and girls football apprentices appointed by specially selected colleges across the country.

Their role will be to encourage hundreds of women to take-up football related activities in the next year.

Seventeen-year-old Abbie Waites has been appointed by Sunderland College to spearhead its involvement in the FA and Association of Colleges (AoC) Sport funded scheme.

She began her apprenticeship in January and has already had the chance, alongside the college’s sport apprentice Carly Sinclair, to train at St George’s Park National Football Centre, the FA’s £105million facility.

Abbie, who has been playing football since she was six, said: “I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to work at the college with the aim of getting women and girls involved in football, which is such a big part of my life.”

Activities such as soccercise, bubble football, UV football and five-a-side will be organised to promote football to women of all ages, and Abbie will be responsible for recruiting participants from the local community and the college to engage in the programme.

For the scheme to be classed a success, the college must ensure at least 100 women try out the taster sessions and take up football as a result.

Lucy Oliver, the college’s sports development officer, will be overseeing the programme and is confident the pilot will make a positive impact on female football participation rates in the area.

She said: “We are the only college in the region to be running this pilot scheme, so it’s very exciting we’ve been given this opportunity to be at the forefront of encouraging girls and women to take part in sport.

“The profile of ladies football has seen a massive rise in recent years, but we still need to do more to attract girls into the game. The FA has set a target of doubling female participation in football by 2020 and I believe that we can play an instrumental part in this at Sunderland College.”

Linking in to the apprenticeship scheme, the college is also putting the final touches to its brand new women and girls football leadership programme.

Two students have just returned from a training session at Wembley Stadium after they were appointed as English Colleges Football Association (ECFA) Activators, as part of the new FE Football Activator programme.

Lucy added: “Abbie, Carly and our student activators will be helping to launch the new leadership programme. We aim to recruit 15 girls who will be given leadership training so they can help promote football to their female peers through our work in the community. All of these programmes link together and our overarching goal is to give women and girls the confidence to take up new sports.”

Sunderland College has invested heavily in a range of footballing programmes in recent years.

It was appointed by the FA as a Tier One Football Hub in September and is partnering up with Durham FA to help the organisation launch its Women and Girls Football Development Group.

In December, it announced elite soccer company Improtech, headed by former SAFC star Martin Scott, has taken over the running of the college’s Football Development Centre, which gives students the chance to train in the sport while studying.

To get involved in the football pilot, email Lucy Oliver at lucy.oliver@sunderlandcollege.ac.uk or call 0191 5116000 extension 05195.

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