BY SAM SMITH
Girls’ football on the up in South London thanks to coach
An amateur South London football club are taking steps to make football more inclusive for girls. Brixistane Football Club was formed in 2015 with the aim of providing children of all abilities with the opportunity to play football
The club, founded by head coach Patricio Sanchez, initially began with just half a dozen male players, but has already expanded to having around 45 players in just over two years.
Mr Sanchez, a Sports Studies graduate from Southampton University, said: “When I played football in my youth I was quite a big player but very technical, however, I always ended up on the sideline.”
He disagrees that this is the correct way for a young footballer to develop and has built what he describes as the “ethos” of Brixistane based on the complete opposite: fun and enjoyment.
“Anyone who does not go along with our ethos is not accepted at the club,” insists Mr Sanchez.
Brixistane are now starting free Sunday training for girls aged seven to 12 in a “fun, friendly and enjoyable environment” at Brockwell Park in Lambeth, an idea that was initiated when Mr Sanchez visited Hawaii and California on a university trip to coach football. He felt that the quality of women’s football was much better in both places than in England because it is more inclusive.
“I noticed that the girls were much better,” he said. “Women’s football is played more and is viewed more as a sport which I believe helps.”
He said he wanted to bring the love for women’s football in Hawaii and California back to England.
Mr Sanchez noticed the increase in participants among boys at Brixistane and decided to build a girls’ team with the help of participants from Corpus Christi primary school, where he was a teacher.
He said: “We were doing well with numbers (in the boys team) so I invited some girls to training around July last year.
“I gave out leaflets at school and a few turned up. We initially started with eight to 10 girls and I do it completely for free.”
Mr Sanchez’s voluntary work with Brixistane’s girls can only go so far and he is hoping the Football Association will back the club’s plans to build a girls’ team by funding equipment, pointing to the “keen” nature of the girls as a reason to continue.
Mr Sanchez said: “It would be nice to get a bit of payment from the FA but I’m on board with that (doing voluntary work).
“There is a big demand for the training sessions among the girls. We had to stop during the winter period due to the cold but the parents were constantly asking when we would start up again, which shows that the girls are just as keen as the boys are,” said Mr Sanchez.
He describes himself as a “passionate” coach having been coaching football for the past seven years, gaining multiple coaching badges including levels one and two in both FA coaching and the FA youth module, while also holding qualifications in futsal coaching.
Mr Sanchez plays football himself every Sunday morning but refuses to rest afterwards, instead choosing to head to Brockwell Park to coach the girls.
He insists: “I could quite easily go home after my own game on a Sunday to rest but I’m just too passionate.”
Sanchez possesses the kind of genuine enthusiasm that should encourage South London girls to attend his sessions. Brixistane’s long-term ambition is to have competitive teams for girls aged seven to 12.
The boys already have three teams: two at under-11s level and a single under-12s group, and they each compete in the London county Saturday youth football league. Mr Sanchez foresees the girls competing at a similar level soon, but points to a lack of leagues and advertising as a potential barrier.
He said: “Eventually we would like to have a core group of girls competing and playing in a girls’ league.
“There is a lot of football for girls aged 14 upwards but that is the general age that some people tend to drop out of football. I would like to get them playing in a league on a Sunday, maybe even have other teams coming to play friendlies at Brockwell Park. I just want to get girls to know that there are opportunities to train here. I have good equipment and training. They can come to have fun and make friends.”
Mr Sanchez not only calls on other clubs to be more inclusive for girls, but also wants his fellow coaches to be in football for the correct reasons. He criticises coaches who only choose to develop the best players and leave out others, a philosophy perhaps developed in reminiscence of standing on the sideline during his youth.
Mr Sanchez wants fair playing and coaching time for the current crop of young players in South London and across the rest of England.
He said: “It would be great to see more clubs including girls but you also have to be in football for the correct nature of the game. Sadly enough, you have a lot of coaches who are not in football for the development of the kids. They have that one girl who they want to develop and make better while others do not develop as much, and if you’re in football for that then you’re in it for the wrong reasons.”
South London girls can attend Mr Sanchez’s training sessions between 1.30pm and 2.30pm every Sunday morning at Brockwell Park free of charge.
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