Henley Lions FC have been selected by the Football Association to become a Wildcats centre, extending the club’s training sessions to girls aged 5-11. Wildcats clubs offer young girls the chance to play non-competitive football with others their age, and is open to all regardless of experience. To be selected by the Football Association is a huge achievement for Henley Lions FC, who will become the first Wildcats centre for Henley.
The Wildcats initiative was first launched in 2017 to encourage young girls to get involved in football. As Henley Lions coach, Nick Hunt, explains, “Because it’s a girls only programme, it eliminates that fear of playing with boys and panicking about what they can and can’t do. It’s not like joining a club where you have to worry about matches — it’s literally just football sessions for girls who want to play football. Whether they’ve played in their garden with siblings, or whether it’s the first time they’ve ever kicked a ball, it’s created for girls who think, ‘I want to play football’, and we’re here to support that now.”
To become a Wildcats hub, football clubs must go through a careful selection process where the FA assesses things such as the venue and coaches’ experience. Whilst there are over 1,250 Wildcats centres across the country, Henley Lions FC are the first for the Henley area. Nick Hunt said, “We are so chuffed that we can be the ones who can offer this. As a club, we do have girls teams — we have about 40 girls playing with us at the moment — but that’s from about age 11 upwards, and we don’t have anything to support the younger girls so this is perfect.”
The non-competitive football sessions promise to be fun, friendly and confidence boosting for the young girls that take part. Nick stresses that it’s a fantastic way for girls to have a go at football without the added pressure of matches, though a potential competitive team is not off the cards either. “If any of them do enjoy the football and we can bring a group through to create a team, then brilliant,” says Nick. “If not, then we can just support them and they can enjoy turning up and playing football, and that’s equally just as good.”
Henley Lions FC are completing one final assessment module to ensure that they can provide the best Wildcats training experience possible. They are aiming to start up their Wildcats sessions in May, but are registering interest now.
Nick says, “9 out of 10 girls who come along and have a go will stay with us because they will absolutely love it. It is really enjoyable. You just don’t know that you’re going to love it until you give it a go. Everything we do is fun based. We get the smiles on their faces, get the balls at their feet, and they’re just going to have so much fun with it. We’re quite confident that anyone who comes along and tries it will stick with it.”
To register your interest for the Wildcats sessions at Henley Lions FC, contact Nick Hunt via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone: 07920436944.
Images taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.