KATHERINE Smith is helping young girls kick goals.
An already notable individual in the world of women’s football, having played for the Melbourne Demons in the AFL Womens, Ms Smith is now lending her expertise to primary and early high school aged girls through a brand new organisation, Girls Footy Australia.
The new initiative operates out of the eastern suburbs and has training sessions at Kingswood College in Box Hill South, where Smith attended school and received many football accolades.
The group aims to provide a safe environment in which junior girls can learn the basics of football.
“For us it’s really important that we’re teaching junior girls the fundamentals, we find that a lot of coaches don’t know how to provide a program specifically for young girls.”
“During training sessions, coaches often don’t have time to follow up on the basic ideas, so girls can get left behind.”
To help rectify this, Mrs Smith is the primary coach, but also has help from Pepa Randall and Sarah Lampard, who are also Melbourne players.
In the future, Girls Footy Australia is planning further sessions for more advanced players too.
“During term two, our over 11 years old sessions will be in the hope that they already know the basics; they’ll be taking their game to the next level and becoming as elite as possible.” Said Ms Smith
“It’ll be about teaching girls to take those basic skills and apply them in high pressure, match like situations.”
Girls Footy Australia is an offshoot of Girls Basketball Australia, a similar program run by Peter Kotaridis.
Ms Smith had done some coaching there before the idea came from Mr Kotaridis to expand into football. The move came off the back of the first AFL Womens season.
“I’ve been really pleased by the level of interest, since we’ve only been on the internet for three weeks. On Tuesday we had 18 new girls turn up” said Mrs Smith.
Shaun Wynn, a parent of a child attending Girls Footy Australia, has been very impressed with the program so far.
“It’s great that they can bond with other girls and play with other girls.” Said Mr Wynn
“I think the names, the connection to the AFL W players, is really encouraging.”
Josie Ryan, another parent, echoed similar sentiment.
“I sort of feel like my generation missed out, so I like the fact that it’s finally being acknowledged, women enjoy football not just as spectators but as participants.” Said Ms Ryan.
“She (her daughter) just likes being out and being shouty on the field. She can do that here, she doesn’t feel like she can do that at school, with all the boys around.”
Girls Footy Australia continues sessions over the Easter school break.