By Kirsty Colbert
Regional soccer in the Eyre Peninsula is embracing its girl power with the introduction of its first all-girl soccer team.
Girls of Steel was created by Whyalla woman and Steel United senior soccer player Kirsty Arbuckle after noticing the lack of female soccer players, not only in Whyalla but the Iron Triangle region.
“Girls of steel was born from the very real gender inequality in soccer in Whyalla,” Kirsty says.
“In 2017 there were 350 plus junior participants of which only 27 were female.”
Kirsty says that these players were dispersed amongst different teams and age groups, but primarily the under 6 and 8 age groups.
This meant that girls were the minority and there was not enough interest for Whyalla to create female select teams.
Kirsty, along with the support of Steel United Soccer club, aimed to target the girls under 10s age group. In this division, teams do not record game scores.
“This will allow the girls to focus on their development and understanding of the game rather than scores,” she says.
Under 10s is also the age at which many girls discontinue their participation in soccer, so it is the team’s hope to retain players and create higher age groups in years to come, with the possibility of an all-female league.
“Whyalla has long been accepting of girls playing soccer, however, little has progressed by way of promoting the female game,” Kirsty says.
“We want to open up opportunities for girls to reach their sporting potential and give them pathways to continue to play the game as adults.”
Kirsty says by introducing girl-only teams at the young age they hoped to create teams in which all players had equal opportunity, and to have girls create a sense of identity as a player part of their team.
She says the club were trying to remove the ‘real and perceived barriers’ to participating in soccer that many girls faced and they were looking forward to seeing strong female representation in the years to come.
The team has garnered the support of the Football Federation of South Australia and the Cumberland United Women’s Soccer Club.
The CUWSC offered to partner with Girls of Steel to help build the game in regional South Australia, whilst the FFSA sent Cristiano Dos Santos to deliver a clinic to the girls to coincide with International Women’s Day.
“The offer of mentorship was very exciting for us,” she says.
“We have been fortunate enough to have a coach from there come and deliver a training session for our girls and teach them the basics of what they needed to know, and teach me some creative ways to implement the basic skills.”
The girls have been training hard twice a week, with many brand new to the sport.
“What started as a little idea has blossomed into a very real opportunity for the girls of Whyalla to develop their skills in soccer and learn to love the game, with 34 players currently in the teams,” Kirsty says.
“I have an empowering approach to training and hope to develop not only successful players but also successful women, and confident women. I want to teach the girls to utilise their strengths and to help them to develop team work skills.”
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