Image caption: students from the Forrest Hill College AFL Academy stand in the grandstands of the MCG
Forrest Hill College has teamed up with Melbourne Football Club to create an AFL Academy program offered to female students.
The program provides students with skill development, fitness development, strength and conditioning work and practical work using coaches and facilities provided by the Melbourne Football Club.
The students are given flexibility with their electives, allowing them to specialise in football by providing them with 6-8 additional hours of training each week.
Forrest Hill College principal David Rogers said the program aims to provide students with extra training hours, allowing them to develop their skills beyond the normal club level and giving them the best chance possible to be recognised.
“We’re trying to give women a unique opportunity that doesn’t exist at any other school or any other place that we’re aware of,” he said.
The program also aims to get women into other roles in the industry such coaching, administration, nutrition and sports psychology, which have traditionally been filled by males. To do this, they are creating a more sports oriented curriculum with a heavy focus on subjects such as PE, Biology, Health and VET sport and recreation as well as developing partnerships with universities, such as Deakin University, to improve access for student’s into sports related courses.
While this is a positive step for the future of women’s sport in Australia, David Rogers thinks that there’s still a long way to go.
This program is only one of many positive steps occurring to improve sporting opportunities for women in sport in Australia this year.
In June, the AFL announced the introduction of a National Women’s Competition to kick off in 2017, allowing the best female players in the country to don the AFL jumpers and play on AFL grounds. Eight clubs will be part of the inaugural season including Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle Dockers, GWS Giants, Melbourne and Western Bulldogs.
21-year-old Madeline Keryk plays for Western Bulldogs women’s team. As a junior, Maddy had to play amongst the boys and was the only girl at her club in her under 10s season. Maddy played many successful seasons amongst the boys, but at the age of 15 she was forced to stop playing altogether, due to ban on girls playing with boys past this age.
Luckily for her, she was approached 6 months later to get involved in the youth girls program, which was fairly new and under promoted at the time and was able to start playing again.
Thankful for her opportunity to play with the Western Bulldogs, Maddy is positive about the increasing opportunities for young girls in sport today.
But despite all the great work that is being done, there is still more that needs to be done.
The most positive sign of all is that women in 2016 are feeling more comfortable to be involved than ever before. The number of women and girls playing club football has doubled over the past five years, with 163 new women’s teams being developed in 2015 alone.
It is hoped that this trend will continue into 2017 and that other similar programs will be created to continue to increase the participation of women in sport into the future.