Tuesday, September 03, 2019

These girls are having fun at training with Portlaoise AFC

THIS season will see Portlaoise AFC celebrate their fifth year of girls soccer at Rossleighan Park. It’s been a fantastic journey, not without it’s bumps of course.
From day one the plan would be fully focused on the well-being and development of each player. Before a ball was kicked, we knew that player retention would be a key aspect to maintaining a natural progression.
Rossleighan Park would be the place where they would have fun, be safe, feel included and furthermore, it would be an environment that instigated creativity and learning, a place where fixed mind sets become growth mindsets.
The girls’ first year was in the Portlaoise Academy. This is where they would learn their trade before stepping into a more competitive environment in the Midlands Schoolboy/Schoolgirl League. In that second year we took all 16 girls and entered a league at under-14.
Our team comprised of two 13 year olds, six 12 year olds, six 11 year olds and remaining girls were aged 10. It was a huge learning curve. It was hard starting off, but the learning process would be in full effect for the next few years.
During the third year, more girls began to flow into the Academy system with an age range between seven and 10. In this year three more girls joined the U/14 set up and a real sense of team spirit and responsibility began to develop.
The introduction of an U/16 team arrived in our fourth year with many of our academy graduates moving into the U/14 set up. Just last year the numbers of girls at Portlaoise AFC was at 83 as the club introduced an U/12 team to the MSL.
Getting the right coaches and the right people involved has been vital to the progression of the girls’ section of the club. Quantity hasn’t been accommodated for quality.
Dave, Joe, Jimmy, Maria and Paul have put in a lot hours. All of these coaches bring a blend of life, work and in game experiences and education to the training ground. It’s not easy being a teenager in these times and coaching positions are voluntary, but there is no better feeling than knowing that you can make positive changes to a young girls life.
The first group of girls back in 2014 are now aged 16 and 12 of the those girls are still at the club. One of them is now playing in the U/17 Women’s National League for Peamount.
Just last May the U/16 girls made the shield final only to fall at the last hurdle to Bealnamulla, while the U/12s lost their shield final in the dying minutes in an agonisingly close game against the Swans.
The signs are there that these girls are maturing both on and off the pitch and success is not far off.
Girls soccer at Portlaoise is more than soccer, it is an education whereby players can learn skills to challenge themselves outside of training. It’s about development and not the game result.
Here’s to another fantastic five years ahead and beyond.

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