SiP 18 – Garston Ladies FC

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Garston Ladies FC

Garston Ladies FC was formed in 1996 as Garston Girls. We joined forces with Everett Ladies in 2002 and have since gone from strength-to-strength, growing rapidly to become one of the biggest all-female grassroots clubs in the country.

We’re just coming to the end of another successful season for the club and we’re already looking forward to next season – our 23rd. The 2017-2018 season has seen the club reach three County Cup Finals (at Under 12, Under 15 and Under 16) and with a month or so to go, we’re still in contention for a number of league titles. We’re hoping for more of the same next year.

The phenomenal growth in women’s football over the past ten years has undoubtedly played a major part in the growth of Garston Ladies. Much of our focus has been on building a solid base at the younger age groups and developing a pathway for players to progress within our club, while at the same time, helping the more ambitious players to seek opportunities outside the grassroots game. A number of our players have gone on to play for Watford Ladies and other semi-professional teams.

We have gained an excellent reputation in the local community and have been recognised for this both by Watford Borough Council and by the Hertfordshire FA. As a grassroots club, we strongly believe in the idea of football for all; we don’t turn players away and we never hold trials.

The biggest challenge we’ve faced over the past few years is one of capacity; with 25 teams and more than 300 players on our books, we’ve now reached a point at which it’s difficult for us to continue growing. We don’t own our own ground, and although we have an excellent relationship with our hosts, Bushey Sports Club, this means that we have to share the facilities with other clubs – and even other sports.

Our winter midweek training sessions are held at five different locations around the Watford/Bushey area which can lead to some of our teams becoming quite isolated and goes against our ‘one club’ philosophy.

A particular issue faced by most women’s football clubs is one of player retention, with many girls deciding to give up the game, particularly as they enter their teenage years. This was one of the main reasons behind the appointment of our Development Officers, whose brief is to provide assistance and support both to players and coaches.

Although we have been successful in securing a number of grants, we are almost entirely dependent on our players’ monthly subs to finance the day-to-day running of the club. We are extremely grateful to Top Golf for their continuing sponsorship which allows us to provide training kit for all of our players, and to our individual teams’ sponsors who ensure that all of our players look their best on match days. We don’t aim to make a profit and any surplus that we do make is ploughed back into the club to provide all our teams with enough balls, bibs and training cones.

We actively encourage parents to get involved with the club; all of our Club Officials are volunteers and most of them are parents of current or former Garston Ladies players. We are also always looking to recruit new coaches.

As an FA Charter Standard Club we are fully compliant with the FA’s Safeguarding requirements; Child Protection is something that we take very seriously at Garston Ladies and we are committed to ensuring that everyone who works with children at the club possesses the necessary qualifications.

We actively support the FA’s Respect Campaign and we won’t tolerate inappropriate behaviour from any of our players, coaches or parents. Girls’ football has a reputation for being played in a friendly but competitive atmosphere and we’re proud of the part that we play in that. And we’re determined that it will stay that way.

As the women’s game continues to grow in this country we don’t expect to see any drop-off in the number of girls wanting to join Garston Ladies. Our challenge is to provide football for as many girls and women as possible and we want to see more and more girls carrying on to play football at adult level. We currently have two senior teams and our aim is to expand on that over the next five years.

But we also want to keep doing the things that we do well. Success can be measured in a number of ways; it’s not all about winning trophies. A nine-year old going home with a smile on her face and telling her friends at school the next day, is every bit as important to us as an 18-year old lifting the County Cup. As a grassroots club, we can experience the best of both worlds.

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