Magnuson Ford Mariners FC is launching an innovative new program to foster a love for the game of soccer in female athletes.
The initiative is known as Sisters in Soccer. It’s a support system to encourage girls to achieve their potential on the field, and then to continue in the sport for a lifetime, be it as players, coaches or officials.
“One of the historical criticisms of the club has been the perceived attention on the male side of the club, to the detriment of the female side,” Mariners technical director Ian Knight said. “That’s something I wanted to correct, and make sure that everyone involved feels they’re a big part of what we do.”
To that end, Sisters in Soccer takes a three-pronged approach. The first component is the “buddy and mentor” phase, which groups all the club’s female teams in pairs – one older, one younger. Players from the older team will help run a training session with the younger team once a month, and the younger players will attend one of the older team’s practices on a monthly basis.
“External links will come from UFV, where we’ll have some of their players come in to mentor our older teams,” Knight noted.
The second component is a website, sistersinsoccer.ca, designed to be a hub for girls soccer in Abbotsford. The distinguishing feature is the “Ask an expert” section, where players can email questions to panelists.
The experts include Sophie Schmidt, a Mariners product who won Olympic bronze with the Canadian national women’s team; Jesse Symons, head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC girls elite program; Jessica Kenny, a physiotherapist at Sport & Spine; and Stephanie Rudnisky, the development co-ordinator with the Canadian Blind Sports Association.
The program’s third component is a series of female-specific events, including summer training camps, tournaments, and clinics for coaches and referees.
At the Sisters in Soccer launch event last week, BC Soccer’s Markus Reinkens said the program was the “first of its kind in B.C.”
“We believe this pilot program is a great example of improving female development initiatives and one that can be a great model for other clubs across the province,” he said.