After the Lionesses’ stunning win at Euro 2022, interest in women’s football has exploded. We asked Oxted Womens Football Club’s player/coach Natalie Bradbury to introduce her team, and get them to explain why it is vital that females of all ages are able to play:
“The women's team is new to Oxted & District FC, joining mid-season last year. We’ve been made to feel very welcome, attending the end-of-season medal ceremony, where our midfield heroine Clare Dudfield was voted Player of the Year (based on friendlies, and games played with our previous club) and she also takes the captaincy for this coming season. Aimee Stone, our solid right-back, takes the vice-captain position.”
Over to the rest of the players:
Why should girls be encouraged to play football?
It is great socially: you can meet and make new friends, bonding over a love of the sport.
Because girls already love watching, supporting and discussing football: playing it is just an extension of something they’re already passionate about.
Football is easy, cheap and versatile – all you need is a ball and you can play anywhere.
Everyone can play: everyone has skills that fit a football position. Small but fast? Winger. Strong and solid? Defender. Tall and better with your hands than your feet? Goalkeeper.
What are the benefits of being part of a team?
Being a part of a fantastic club like Oxted gives you an identity!
It's a place where we all come together to enjoy football and be part of a team.
Being part of a team helps improve communication, team work, leadership, confidence and resilience skills.
Having teammates to boost morale and support you is definitely of benefit to mental health, as is the fresh air and exercise.
What needs to happen to get the women's game to the same level as the men's?
Everyone needs to take women and girls playing football seriously and give their support. The more involvement there is, the more funding we should get: on a large scale this can lead to all sorts of positives, such as more research on female anatomy, technical support to help monitor performance, rehabilitation programmes etc.
There needs to be the same investment in women’s football at grassroots level. Clubs without women's teams need to look at creating them, clubs with women's teams need to give them the same investment, resources, facilities, level of passion and dedication to winning as they give to the men’s.
We need to normalise girls playing football. Children learning that football is not just a male sport is a massive step forward. Football is for everyone.
It would be great if the WSL didn't play at the same time as grassroots, as at the moment women who play can't go and watch their local teams.
At grassroots, we need more people wanting to be coaches and managers, more girls’ teams with progression to academies or bigger clubs, support for girls from low socio-economic backgrounds to help them travel to clubs if they are scouted, and more representation for black and ethnic minority girls who want to play.
PE departments should offer the same extracurricular opportunities for both girls and boys, and all female PE teachers should receive coaching to a standard where they feel comfortable to deliver football lessons to all students.
Follow the team on Instagram: @oxtedwfc.
Look out for more from OWFC, as well as the new AFC Whyteleafe women’s team, in future editions!
(Above: Oxted Womens Football Club)