Since the launch of Football Queensland’s Be23Ready initiative on the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ one year to go milestone, over 100 football community members have stepped up to help create inclusive and positive environments for women and girls within our game.
Football Queensland spoke with SWQ Thunder FC’s Be23Ready Women and Girls Ambassador, Melanie Lloyd, to find out more about the programs the club has rolled out to drive participation within their community.
“The aim of my role at the start of the year was to boost female participation because it is dire in our region; lots of other sports are getting big and we are losing numbers, we knew we had to look inside the club first to fix certain things, we had to firstly build a culture within football,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd joined the SWQ Thunder Board earlier this year, heading the Female Football Development portfolio where she has brought in a variety of initiatives to bring exposure to female players and foster an inclusive, welcoming culture within the club, including the successful girls’ mentorship program.
“We sort of came up with the idea that we wanted to do something that involves all of our players a little bit more because we all train at different times, play at different times, so we sort of programmed it with that in mind,” Lloyd said.
“We’ve had extremely good feedback from players and parents, you don’t really realise the impact until you are getting those messages, or you hear parents talking about it after a game.”
Attributing the overall success of the mentor program to the passionate senior women’s team and their excitement to support the next generation of female footballers, Lloyd has been amazed by the positive outcomes the programs have fostered within SWQ Thunder FC.
“Probably the biggest shift we’ve seen is in the culture of the club, it’s actually changed our performances and there’s a shift in everyone’s mindset,” Lloyd said.
“As well as the mentor group we’ve been trying to do a lot of things around the World Cup, firstly through our holiday clinics and football for all ages training sessions where we all get together for one training session as an opportunity to get to know each other and break down some barriers,” Lloyd said.
Notably, last Friday SWQ Thunder FC held a Female Football Seminar where the many young female players who attended had the chance to listen to the stories of influential football figures including Abbey Lloyd (Brisbane Roar), Layla Proctor (Manchester United), Liz Doherty (FQ Academy QAS) and more.
Looking forward to the rest of 2023 and beyond, Lloyd is confident that female participation will increase across the club and region if they continue listening and putting in the effort to boost the sport as a community, and that is what she’ll measure her success by.
“I’ve heard comments that the younger players want to play for the women’s team when they’re older and these are girls who are like 12 or 13; as long as they keep playing, it doesn’t have to be at Thunder and it doesn’t have to be at a high level, but to keep playing, that’s what I think is successful,” Lloyd said
“Long term we hope to just continue to build that so our program stays super strong, not necessarily results wise, but to create an environment where girls want to come to, where they want to grow and learn, that’s success.”