WE have had statewide campaigns to kick stereotypes and "jiggle things up" in moves to encourage more females to move.
When it comes to the grassroots, we need clubs and codes prepared to make a significant culture shift if they are truly serious about getting more women and girls in the game.
Ballarat Soccer Club president Lucy Brennan said greater flexibility in training and really looking at ways to bridge gaps had been vital in building the club's female program.
But there was one core element to change what had for some long been a male-dominated arena.
"It's not just about having a female president. It's about having a committee that value women's opinions and are genuinely keen to see women succeed," Brennan said.
Success could be measured in the strong engagement the club has maintained moving in and out and back into lockdowns this year. This includes a core of new "soccer mums", having a social taste of the game last year and transitioning to joining the open women's team for training.
But success means also looking at the bigger picture.
The club has taken a multi-level approach.
Young players provide a strong base on which to grow the club and develop. This needs pathways within the club and for those who wish to take their game higher, like via the city's representative club Ballarat City.
Brennan and Ballarat and District Soccer Association have also started a project to encourage girls of all backgrounds to get involved in the game - regardless of whether they feel they had the right gear or whether they knew any one else.
There are also opportunities to evolve the club with an older cohort as well, like the soccer mums, in offering a safe and inclusive space to get involved on the pitch. A space to socialise, get fit and importantly laugh.
In looking at female sports participation, these age groups tend to have larger drop-off rates. They are harder to keep involved in sport or recreation of many forms.
Doubt and fear of judgement are big drivers, according to VicHealth's This Girl Can campaign.
Ballarat has an strong record in developing women's sport, particularly in male-dominated arenas like cricket and Australian Rules at junior levels.
Soccer, the World Game known for breaking barriers in culture and language, has been more inconsistent.
The annual Total Girl Soccer Tournament that used to fill pitches across Ballarat had its time and place.
What is important now is for clubs like Ballarat Soccer Club developing a long term view with a place for more women to feel comfortable in the game.
Women's sport at an elite level had been making an unprecedented impact before the pandemic hit. This was translating on our fields.
When the pandemic passes, there will undoubtedly be women and girls bursting to pick up where they left off.
Truly successful clubs will bring in the women and girls who might be unsure whether they are fit enough, good enough, or have the time enough to play. That is what gender inclusion is all about.
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