Foundation of Light is proudly supporting Girls Football Week by showcasing the opportunities the charity offers to young female players within the sport.
The Foundation offers a unique Player Pathway for boys and girls, from Evening & Weekend sessions through to professional clubs and coach education programmes.
Central to the pathway is the Foundation-run Player Development Squads which has provided dozens of girls with routes into football at all levels including the Sunderland and Gateshead Regional Talent Club, the North East’s elite development centre.
We speak to Megan (14), Orla (13) and Abbey (9), just three of 10 RTC players who have progressed from the PDS, about their journeys in football so far.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO FOOTBALL?
Megan: “I was involved in a lot different sports such as karate, horse riding and swimming but I really wanted to play football. It really liked the competitiveness of it, but my mum wasn’t so sure!
“I tried a lot of different clubs but they didn’t have girls’ teams, or had too many players or just didn’t want me to join.
“Eventually I found a girls’ team to train with – Lowick United – and then started playing for them.”
Orla: “I got interested in football at seven by going to my brother’s games and it looked fun so I decided I wanted to play. I started playing at a boys’ team, Bedlington.
“My dad started a girls’ team and I joined them. Playing against the boys was a lot more physical.”
Abbey: “I started playing football when I was four in the garden with my brother. I went to play for a team called Lambton Lyons boys team at six. It was quite competitive!
“I then joined a girls’ team called Amazons and then Durham County.”
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE FOUNDATION’S PLAYER DEVELOPMENT SQUADS?
Megan: “I went along to a soccer course ran by the Foundation in Berwick and I was asked if I’d like to come down and train with the squads at Harton. I really enjoyed training with the PDS, the coaching and games were really good – a high level.”
Orla: “I went to the Regional Talent Club trials two years but wasn’t selected but the coaches suggested I go to the PDS.”
Abbey: “I tried out for the RTC last season and although I got the first call back but didn’t manage to get through. I then went to the Player Development Squads.”
YOU’RE NOW AT THE SUNDERLAND AND GATESHEAD REGIONAL TALENT CLUB…
Megan: “This summer I came along for the Sunderland and Gateshead Regional Talent Club trials and was lucky enough to be picked.
“It’s amazing here, I love the coaching and when you’re talking to your friends and they ask who you’re playing against this weekend you get to say, ‘We’re playing Manchester United or Manchester City’ and they can’t believe it!
Orla: “I went back to the RTC trials this summer and I got through. The PDS really helped me develop as a player.
“The RTC training is challenging but fun. It’s hard playing against other RTCs but I really enjoy it.”
Abbey: “I came back for the trials in June and got on the team. It’s really good, I love the training. We do shooting, passing, goalkeeper training and work on possession and I really like the fitness tests.
“We play against boys’ teams in the Russell Foster League and it’s a bit competitive like when I played for Lambton Lyons. It makes you a better player.”
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO GIRLS WHO WANT TO GET INTO FOOTBALL?
Megan: “Persevere with what you want to do. If you get knockbacks keep going and find a club that’s right for you and work hard. If you love the game just keep playing.”
11 November 2017