How can I get excited about football?
Football has been with me all my life. I used to play with my school friends on the lawn behind the house. We met almost every afternoon and the focus was not on the competition, but on the joy of exercise and the joint venture. For many years I wasn't allowed to play in a club myself. However, a few girls who were enthusiastic about football got together at my school at the time, so we founded a school team. That was something very special, because actually only the boys played football. Even when we didn't train regularly, we competed against other school teams. So we lost most of the games, but I only have positive memories of that time. For example, the away trips were very special experiences in which we did something together as a team.
The “official” team photo from that time is still in my photo album today. I was then very happy when I was finally allowed to play in a football club. Back then we had a great team with whom we did a lot of activities outside of the football club. Even today I have a close friendship with many of my teammates from back then. During my studies I got my soccer coaching certificate and trained a junior team with a former teammate and good friend. I didn't take it for granted what the many volunteer trainers and supervisors were doing in the club and wanted to give something back and get involved too. In addition to the sporting goals, it was very important to me that the phrase “We are a team!” Doesn't just remain an empty phrase. The young people should learn that everyone is an indispensable part of the team and that goals can only be achieved together. It is important that everyone takes responsibility. In the meantime, many of my players at the time have obtained their own coaching license and are now training their own junior teams. I learned many years ago that it is worthwhile to introduce young people to becoming a coach. Ultimately, this is the only way clubs can survive. My own experiences as a player and coach have shown me how valuable a team sport like football can be for personal development.
So I was very happy that after my studies in 2009 I was given the opportunity to coordinate an associated project of the Laureus project “Kicking Girls”. Since 2014 I've been active with the “Kicking Girls” myself. My tasks included and still include the development and supervision of individual project locations. I work with football clubs, elementary and secondary schools, municipalities, ministries, football associations and circles. This diversity in particular makes my work attractive and exciting. This gives me a very good impression of how many levels the project is having a positive effect. I find the joy of elementary school girls particularly impressive when they take part in a tournament. They play with so much enthusiasm and fun and in the end they are so happy about their medal, even if they didn't take first place. When I'm at school weeks later, I see the trophies from the tournaments in the school showcase, which otherwise only had prizes from the boys. And I see how proud the girls are of what they have achieved and that their achievements are also recognized.
Several school administrators have already told me that the girls of the football club, after some time of practicing, also claim the youth-dominated football pitch in the playground for themselves. In many places there are now girls' football breaks during which boys are not allowed to play or girls and boys play football together. According to the school management, it would previously have been inconceivable that girls would so confidently claim this room for themselves. However, the transition of these girls to the football club is still a major challenge and needs to be actively supported. In the course of the project I got to know many committed clubs that actively take care of the primary school groups and the girls. A number of teams have already been formed from these working groups. In this way, the surrounding sports clubs are gaining young talent and are also benefiting from the project.
From my experience I can say that the “Kicking Girls” project gives many girls access to football who otherwise would hardly have had a chance to participate in sports due to their social background.
Katharina Althoff is a full-time employee in the “Kicking Girls” project. After completing her sports studies, she initially headed an associated project in 2009 and has been active with the “Kicking Girls” since 2014. As a long-time active player and coach of a junior team, she knows about the importance of football as a sport for girls.
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On June 12, 2015
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