On the 28 November Scottish FA club development officer for girls and women’s football, Finella Annand, travelled over to Orkney to support the success of their newly formed 5-aside women’s winter football league.
The league came about after Orkney Women’s FC tried to think of ways to boost participation rates in their squad.
Team sport is extremely popular in Orkney and the football team was struggling to compete with established sports such as netball and hockey when recruiting players during the summer months.
The new five aside winter league has been a massive success and given women a chance to come and play football in a fun, but competitive environment, on a regular basis.
“The league ran like clockwork and all the players showed real commitment and a competitive spirit in the games," said Finella.
"It was fantastic to see so many new players turn out to play in Orkney, and there have definitely been many talented players hiding until now.
"The initiative has worked so well in increasing participation rates and bringing the club together that I hope to use this success to inspire other rural, and island teams, to roll out the ‘Orkney Model’."
Such has the success of the league been that participation rates in football have grown from around 12 women to over 50 women in a few short weeks. These women play under the banner of Orkney FC and are split into teams with experienced players taking on the role of captain and being responsible for the management of their teams.
The driving force behind this success story has been head coach of Orkney Women FC, Dave Macpherson, who since being involved in the women’s game, has taken the team to new heights and increased the popularity of the sport on the Island immensely.
He has ambitious plans to run a seven aside league over the spring months which will enable Orkney to have a select, 11 aside squad. This select squad will travel to the regional league activity, and compete against other women’s teams from the Highlands and Islands.
Dave was quick to praise the commitment and leadership skills of his players, and had the following to say on the success of the league,
“I have found through running this league, particularly in the area of encouraging and promoting women's football in the county, is this simple truth: have something in place for them and they will come. Give them a sense of 'ownership' over it and they will take up that responsibility, willingly and with great enthusiasm."
Each 5 aside captain has been empowered by taking on more responsibility, with one player going out of her way to obtain sponsorship for a set of strips for the whole squad.
The league is definitely competitive, but underneath that friendly rivalry there is a fantastic club spirit, that will undoubtedly push Orkney Women’s Football Club on to bigger and better things.
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