LUCY Brennan sees so much opportunity to encourage more women onto the pitch in the game she loves - even during a pandemic.
The 25-year-old Ballarat Soccer Club president says the social aspect of sport and promoting inclusion is fundamental in breaking barriers to women being more active.
Female training numbers at the club were strong when restrictions eased with about 20 in the open women's group and almost 40 in junior ranks. Brennan said it was a good learning experience and challenge to build such engagement back under lockdowns, regardless of not knowing when they might be able to train or play together once more.
A feature of the open women's squad this year has been a small band of "soccer mums" - women who took part in a social kick and basics skills program last year. Brennan has also recruited from parents of the under-16 girls team she coaches and the original goal was for them to train with the senior team and gain confidence to possibly play this season.
Flexibility and fostering a culture of no judgement have been the basis for Brennan in keeping players together on and off the field.
"It's a real testament to the women that they support each other and want to be friends. Women love to chat, so it could just be posting what they've been doing today," Brennan said.
"We're working on the things that when training is up and running, training sessions will be designed around what players want. It's important it's not all about the coach. For example, have a session not be all about fitness but some fun as well or allowing time for a chat.
"We want women to go home and feel they have done something fun and just for them."
It's important it's not all about the coach. For example, have a session not be all about fitness but some fun as well or allowing time for a chat.Lucy Brennan, Ballarat Soccer Club president
Women's competing life commitments has been one of the biggest barriers to regular participation in team sport, the club identified. Brennan said the the club was open to making sessions flexible, knowing other things could pop up on short notice for players.
In doing so, Brennan hoped to create an environment women felt excited about and one they tried to make work with as many sessions as they could.
Brennan grew up playing soccer and has taken her game to the state league with Sebastopol Vikings. She has seen the women's game boom and drop in Ballarat.
Brennan said there tended to be more obvious traditional participation paths for females in sports like netball and tennis. Ballarat Soccer Club, working with Ballarat District Soccer Association, was working hard for women to see their code as a option and maybe inspire other sports to change their approach.
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