Sport Sister Podcast - Season 2, Episode 3

Episode 3 – Creating the right environment for girls: Bethan Woolley and Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox.

Creating the right environment for girls: Bethan Woolley and Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox

Bethan Woolley is National Women & Girls Participation Manager at the FAW, looking to develop all areas of the game to drive and increase participation ensuring equal and accessible opportunities and environments for all. Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox is the Girls’ Engagement and Project Manager at Bloomsbury Football and is changing the game, showing girls in London that their place is on the pitch.

Bethan and Ella-Rose join Natalie Doyle to discuss how to create the right environment for girls’ sports participation to thrive. They discuss involving girls in decision making, puberty, facility considerations and much more in this episode packed full of thought-provoking discussions.

“Every scenario will be different. Everybody’s facility is different. Everybody’s environment is different. The girls will know what they want and it is so important that we listen to them.”

- Bethan Woolley

Read this episode’s transcript

Natalie Doyle:

Welcome to the Sport Sister Podcast, where we bring together professional experts with grassroots pioneers to discuss key topics for grassroots sport.

I’m Natalie Doyle, and in this episode, I’m joined by two women who are doing fantastic things to engage girls in sport.

Bethan Woolley is the FAWs National Women and Girls Participation Manager looking to develop all areas of the game to drive and increase participation. Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox is the girl’s Engagement and Project Manager at Bloomsbury Football and is changing the game, showing girls in London that their place is on the pitch.

These two have got some fantastic experience and some really good, helpful tips for you today, so let’s go see what they have to say.

Ella-Rose and Bethan, thank you so much for giving up your time to talk to me today. We are going to talk about environments and how do we create the right environments for girls, specifically when it comes to participating in sport. I think maybe we might get some people listening now thinking, well, a good environment is a good environment regardless of gender. And in some ways that is the case, but there are also additional considerations for girls. I suppose that’s probably a good place to start.

If I start with you Ella-Rose, what does a right environment for girls look like in your opinion?

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

For me, I think it’s important to start off by saying there’s not one right environment for girls in sport. I think ultimately it’s about meeting the girls where they’re at, looking and talking to them and finding out what that looks like for them and not assuming what they want and what they need. I think it’s clear that that’s not happening at the minute or hasn’t been happening from Women in Sports research. We’ll probably talk a lot more about that because there’s a lot to it. Their research last year that came out on International Women’s Day showing that 43% of girls who would call themselves sporty have been dropping out of sport and falling out of love with it. So I think that it’s clear that the right environment isn’t being created at the minute. I’d like to say that we at Bloomsbury Football are creating that. But I think it is ultimately like I said, about meeting the girls where they’re at and finding out what they want and need.

Natalie Doyle:

Understanding those individual needs is really important, isn’t it? How about you Beth? What would you add to that?

Bethan Woolley:

Especially here at the FAW, it’s been a hot topic for us, especially over the past year we’ve seen huge growth in female participation. You may have seen a stat flying around that we’ve had an increase in our traditional game of 89% since 2018, so we know that the game’s growing. But we do also know, as Ella-Rose mentioned, that there is a dropoff, especially in our teenage age bracket. So how we can look at supporting our girls, our females of all ages in the right environment. So over the past six months, we’ve done a lot of consultation around that. We’ve developed an Environments for Her resource tool as well to support not only our clubs, but also our facilities and ensuring that the facility environment is right, that females feel welcome and that they belong when they’re turning up to sessions. And that sometimes is the first step, right?

In terms of knowing that you feel welcome, knowing that you are supposed to be there, knowing where to go, these are all things that can put women off turning up to participate for the first time. So it’s how we can try and break down some of those barriers. And then also looking at things like on pitch considerations, club cultures etc. as well to ensure that the whole environment, not just the facility is right for our audience to retain and sustain that participation moving forward, really.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, that’s a really interesting point. You mentioned about the teenage age bracket and we all know that’s high risk in terms of girls dropping out of sport. What sort of additional considerations do you think you’d need for that age group when it comes to creating a good environment?

Bethan Woolley:

So we’ve just done a second piece of consultation with the teenage age bracket, looking at developing new programs to support those girls that have dropped out or potentially not had the opportunity to play before. And a number of key points came out. They don’t like people watching for fear of judgment more than anything, so ensuring that there’s safe environments, that they feel that they can turn up. And also that some of the girls that maybe haven’t had the opportunity to play at a younger age don’t have confidence in their abilities, don’t have confidence turning up to the session. So it’s about creating a welcoming environment, a friendly environment where they feel that they’re not judged, that nobody’s watching from the sidelines.

A consideration that we put into our resource tools around especially if you’re thinking of a 3G pitch, you’re turning up to a session, your girls are on and afterwards is an open-age men’s football team, and they’re all stood around on the side, they’re kicking balls, they’re shouting, they’re being quite lively. And that can really put off girls that are playing. They no longer want to participate because there’s guys on the side that are approaching the pitch, they’re kicking a ball. They’re pretty much on the pitch on the sidelines. So it’s all things like that around whether there is a space in the facility that the next lot that come on can sit and wait until it’s their time to ensure that the girls have that privacy to play and enjoy the game just as much as everybody else.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

Hmm. I think jumping on that as well, talking about fear of judgment and fear of people watching from the sidelines, that comes at a time for girls where they’re hitting puberty. We’re talking early teenage years into teenagehood. And I think that it’s important to know that we need to be reframing sport for teenage girls. It’s not about continuing the way that it always has been. We need to look at why they’re dropping out, like you said, Beth, and like fear of judgment, fear of not being good enough. And like I said, that comes at a time where there’s new challenges of navigating puberty, like significant physical and emotional changes. And also that feeling of not being good enough sometimes. And I think that’s where we need to step in as women who have been through this and step in and be those role models for those younger girls and start to reframe what sport will look like for them going into their teenage years and adulthood.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, definitely. Ella-Rose, you must have seen that as well when Bethan talks about people hanging around the pitch waiting to come from the next session, we know how hard it is to find facilities in London. So you must always have people hanging around ready to jump onto the next session. Do you find that that is a challenge for your players as well?

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

I mean facilities is a whole other conversation <laugh> of course, facilities are very hard to come by in London, but we’re quite lucky in the way that our sessions run. A lot of our girl sessions are back-to-back with the other age groups, so it’ll be our U9s and 10s followed by U11’s, 12’s, and it’ll sort of look like that. Generally speaking, there are a few sessions of course, where there are older men’s teams hanging around the pitch, only towards the last five minutes, but of course, that can still impact and girls might start to shut down when if they see that happening more and more.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, that’s great as well when you talk about role models, if you can do your sessions back to back and you’ve got the older age groups coming after the younger ones, that’s great for them to see, isn’t it?

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

Certainly, yeah.

Bethan Woolley:

That’s exactly what I was going to say. The visibility there for those girls that are participating to be able to see a full pathway, absolutely helps with the sustainability of participation 100%. So that’s great work from you Ella-Rose.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

Bloomsbury Football, we’re four years old and I think it’s naturally growing. The girl’s side of the program is naturally growing and so that hasn’t been the case the whole time for us. We don’t currently have an U18s, but next year as our U16s go through, it’s just been amazing to see that having those older role models for our U7s, U8s, being able to see all the way up to young women is so good for them, I think.

Natalie Doyle:

If you were working with clubs, for example, who were looking to improve the work that they do in this area around creating the right environment, what are the things that they need to be thinking about? What are the things they need to be considering?

Bethan Woolley:

So for us over here in Wales, as part of the Environments for Her pack, we have a whole section on club culture, so we are working with our clubs to try and ensure that the female sections or the girls within those clubs have a voice and are listened to. And I think that that’s the difference, isn’t it, in having a voice, but ensuring that actually what they’re saying is, being listened to and is being considered. So we try and ensure a one club approach where there is female teams that they’re really embedded within the club culture, that is well on the committee, whether there’s representation, if it’s a senior player or if it’s a female coach or even just a male that is working within the female game that can sit on the committee and ensure that they have input to all of the club’s decisions, that they’re also treated equally.

I know there’s a lot of examples across the country of the women’s team not being able to play on the men’s pitch in case it gets ruined. It’s a grass pitch and it’s all boggy for the next day when the men are playing, right. So ensuring that there’s equal access across the board from the girl’s sections right the way through to open and veterans if that is within the club as well. So I think from us, especially here in Wales, is around ensuring that there’s a one club approach where everybody’s voice is heard and everyone’s treated equally.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

100%. I also think that change needs to continue happening. For us, we need more women in football ultimately, that’s the goal. And I think I feel really privileged in the position that I’m in to be a mixed-race young woman in football working with younger girls similar to me. And I think for them, having more women in football, we know about periods, we know about sports bras, and I think going into that a bit more, we at Bloomsbury Football are giving access to all of our girls to free period products. We partner with Freda, a sustainable period product company essentially to tackle period poverty and period stigma in sport. I think that the conversation is starting to be had around menstrual cycles, menstrual health within sport. For example, Emma Hayes at Chelsea, getting the women to train and track at the same time due to the fact of high rates of ACL injuries happening at certain pit point of your period. And I think having women in those positions of power within football trickles down to impact the players positively.

Natalie Doyle:

Absolutely. Those conversations are inevitably much more likely to happen when you’ve got women who are leading those conversations. And I think that happens from a high level in terms of the work that that you do at the FAW Bethan, but also then down to club level and other organizations like Ella-Rose at Bloomsbury, the conversations that you’ll be having as well. And that’s how the change happens is that you need to be having these conversations at all levels and making sure that you’ve got a group of people who feel empowered and able to start to make those changes happen.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

I would say that that is something that is incredible within women’s football because it’s such a small community and everyone wants to ultimately grow the game. I think there is that connection between grassroots and high-level professional clubs or The FA because we know that we all need to tackle it together, ultimately what The FA can help with on a grassroots level, we can implement their strategies. It’s such a great community of wanting to just grow the women’s game together, which I love <laugh>.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, I think because the numbers are still much smaller than they are on the men’s and boy’s side, the gap between the top and the bottom, if you like, is much smaller and I think you end up getting a lot of people who have been involved at various parts of the pathway previously and understand it better. And I think that’s probably where it enables women’s football and women’s sport to make those changes. Probably that change can be quicker than it can on the men’s and boys side.

So I want to get into a little bit more about both of your particular experiences. Can you give me some positive examples either from organizations you’re involved in yourself or that you’ve seen, of other clubs and organizations who are doing this really well, who you think that that environment that they’re creating is exactly the sort of thing that we’re looking for, and you would maybe use them as an example of best practice to other clubs who wanted to learn from them. Obviously Bloomsbury!

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

Yeah, of course. I’ve been in my role for about eight months now, so just at that pivotal moment in history as the Lionesses brought it home last summer and it’s been incredible helping the girls know that their place is on the pitch with us. Especially from our standpoint, inner city girls who potentially don’t have that access to football as they would in other places. So being in the place that we’re at, at Bloomsbury, having a 75 strong Girls Academy ranging from U7s to U16s and it’s constantly growing, is just so incredible. And the way that we’re creating that environment for our girls is through having lead coaches who are women. We do have a few men in the girls side, but having female coaches, female role models for them to look up to, them knowing ultimately that their coaches understand them and understand what they’re going through can help them, bringing period products, like I said to sessions. We’ve had some sports bar fittings with Nike helping them from that Chloe Kelly moment knowing the importance of the sports bra, what it can do for them and make them feel more confident on the pitch.

So ultimately what we are doing is creating that environment by having these role models and having this on and off the pitch help so that they know that their place is on the pitch, that everyone belongs playing football with us. Like I said, no one’s priced out of playing which is something that I’m so proud to say that we do at Bloomsbury. So yeah, every single girl is playing if they want to be.

Bethan Woolley:

I think from us, we’re in such a key moment of development and growth in Wales. The growth that we are seeing currently, is far bigger and wider than it has ever been before. We’ve got more girls playing at the younger age groups and continuing through. We’ve introduced U19s leagues in both North and South Wales as well to continue that pathway. We are always continually developing our female coaching workforce as well and just ensuring that every girl has an opportunity, as Ella-Rose said, no matter whether that’s in school, out of school, whether they want to do that recreationally, whether they want to compete. It is just around ensuring that there’s environments for everybody in all different aspects of the game as well, so volunteering and not just necessarily having to be on the pitch or coaching.

There’s so many other roles in football and that’s what we’re trying to get across to our teenage audience at the moment. There’s marketing, there’s journalism, there’s physios, there’s sport scientists, and analysis. So through our Be Football mentoring program that we’ve just introduced at the FAW as well, is for young females that are looking for a career in football. And we are just offering support in terms of the different roles, how they can potentially get involved and allowing them that experience really to partner up with some fantastic female role models across the country as well to really elevate the women’s game and show that young girls that it’s not just about playing football. There’s so many opportunities out there for women and girls across the whole football landscape, and just trying to reiterate that all the way through, all the way down to primary school to allow them the understanding of football is a key development tool no matter what. Whether you just turn up to a couple of sessions, you’re going to get so many life skills out of that as well that can help with your development moving forward.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

I would just jump in as well and say that additionally, they need to be seeing other girls playing not just from their club but across the board in their area locally to them. And something that I’m proud to say we’re a part of at Bloomsbury Football and also pioneered, is the Girls Super League which week in, week out we’re seeing 480 girls who are registered to this league, 19 clubs from across north central London. And I think for our players playing against six, seven other girl’s clubs regularly, building that community is so integral to continuing playing football. Not only within your club do you need that community, but seeing other girls who are from other parts of your city, other backgrounds, it’s just so exciting seeing so many girls on the pitch, hundreds every week and the venue’s accessible so that as many girls as possible can get there with their parents or by themselves if they’re old enough. And I think having initiatives like that, like creating a girls-only league is just beyond obvious. We need that. And so the girls super league is such an outstanding example of that.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, it’s about expanding people’s horizons, isn’t it, and showing them, like you said Bethan, around other opportunities for careers in sport and also about, like you say, seeing other teams in action. So it’s not just the people that you see all the time that you know are engaged in football, it’s showing you that there’s hundreds of other girls who are doing exactly the same thing and showing that anything is possible in terms of those opportunities they can have.

Bethan Woolley:

Absolutely. And I think the key message and a key important factor to take in, is that it’s never too late. We’re seeing a huge increase in women’s walking football and women’s veterans football, of that missed generation that never had the opportunity to play when they were younger. And it’s never too late to pick up a ball or to get involved in any capacity. If you want a change in career and football’s where you want to take it, it’s never too late whether you want to pick up a ball and try and play for the first time, or if you want to volunteer at your grassroots club. There’s so many opportunities for everybody across the whole women and girls landscape and it’s a really exciting time to be involved in women’s football as well. And I think, we’ll all agree, especially with the success of the Lionesses at the moment, which pains me to say.

It absolutely helps, and those role models are key because especially when I was growing up, and I’m sure you’d both say the same, there wasn’t as many accessible role models in female football, whereas now there’s hundreds. And it might just be like Ella-Rose said, the local women’s senior team that’s in your community, or it could be the elite national team as well. So it’s such an exciting time for women and girls football.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

I would say as well that the women’s football community is such a safe space. I think looking at it right next to the men’s game, going and watching a game is a completely different experience. And I think it’s knowing that we’re talking about on-pitch opportunities, but ultimately creating that whole holistic football community off the pitch as well where people, if they can see the opportunities, maybe if they want to work in the game or if they just want to watch the game and enjoy going along with their mates having a nice time watching the football that’s super exciting. I also want to add, it’s incredible the role models that these girls have. I do think there’s, in terms of the Lionesses, it’s important to note that there is a disparity for certain players.

They don’t see players that look like themselves which in terms of race, there is that gap at the minute that we do need to try and fill. And hopefully, with the work that we are doing, we’re creating future Lionesses at Bloomsbury Football <laugh>.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, I jotted that down as well Ella-Rose as something that I wanted to talk about because that is something that’s been raised now that there’s an increased spotlight on the Lionesses, it does highlight that there isn’t diversity within the team that you would hope for. But I know that there are steps being taken to hopefully address that. Do you see that hopefully having a positive impact in terms of your efforts to engage more girls that hopefully when you look at Lauren James for example, who’s recently come into the team, as you start to get better diversity through the Lionesses, hopefully that will help with you engaging girls, especially in London where there’s such great diversity across the city?

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

Yeah, of course. Lauren James was our last night winning player of the tournament. We’ve got to give her that shout out to Lauren James for doing that. But yeah, of course, it’s something that I do remain positive about. I think with all of the efforts going on, with the spotlight on the issue means that there is going to change with the work that clubs like we are doing, like Football Beyond Borders, Bloomsbury Football, Girls United, the work that we’re all doing is really pushing out the boat, encouraging people from all backgrounds, inner-city girls who might not otherwise have access to getting on the pitch. Of course, all of that work that we are doing is pushing out the boat. But I think ultimately we just need to keep striving and know that it’s not going to change overnight, but hopefully in five years time, the Lionesses team will be more diverse so that young black and mixed race girls can see themselves in that team. And that’s just going to continue increasing diversity when young girls see themselves in the team.

Bethan Woolley:

I think as well, it’s really important to note that although there might not be the representation in the national teams, there are some amazing champions within the local communities as well. We’ve got some fantastic role models, female role models that are working in these diverse areas that are really pushing female football across a whole range of diverse communities. And they’re just as powerful and just as important as those that are on the international stage as well. And a credit to the work that some of our female champions are doing in those local communities. And again, the same to you Ella-Rose, because without those people on the ground and those role models really in the local communities, it would be a completely different story, you know, so we’re starting to see change and hopefully, it continues to grow.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, absolutely. I wanted to pick up on something else that you mentioned earlier, Bethan, around the work you do at the FAW around Environments for Her and thinking about facilities and what the considerations might be for girls in that respect. Could you tell us a little bit more about that piece of work?

Bethan Woolley:

Yeah, absolutely. Environments for Her is split up into four key areas. We look at facilities and environment, club culture, which I’ve already touched on. We look at on-pitch considerations as well, looking at different abilities and levels and then also mixed teams. So mixed football here in Wales is up to age 16 and I believe in England up to 18 right?

So looking at how we include females within our mixed team environments, but also then considering facilities and changing facilities for mixed teams. So as part of our facilities theme, an element of that pack, we look at a host of different things. So for changing facilities being one, ensuring that there is changing facilities available for the girls ensuring that there are toilets with locks on, for instance, sanitary bins in toilets, right?

Whether there’s private changing areas for those that may culturally need to change in private or those that, in terms of body confidence just want to take themselves off and change as well. Also looking at things like visibility, accessibility, so ensuring that there’s imagery of females up on the walls. If it’s your clubhouse and it’s not just the men’s team, making sure that the girls feel really welcome, that it’s a safe environment. So things for example, ensuring that the walk back to the car park is lit up right and it’s not dark and the girls aren’t feeling scared trying to find their parents at the end of the game or their lift, whoever’s picking them up. There’s a whole host of things that we touch on. Again, things like who’s watching?

Is it a safe space for the girls to train? Where are our parents when we’re picking them up, where are our drop-off zones? There’s a whole host of things that I could go into detail about, but one of the main things that we touch on is around period products. I know Ella-Rose has already touched on it as well, but ensuring that it’s not a taboo subject with our coaches, with our parents, with our safeguarding, whoever it is that is looking after the girls at that time, but ensuring that there are products that are accessible, whether they’re in the kit bag, whether there’s a safe space, whether the facilities have them available. But again, ensuring that that is across both the girls-only game and the mixed team game as well, ensuring that everybody feels comfortable to have those conversations. And if a player asks to go to the toilet, it’s absolutely fine for them to go and do that. We have a whole host of considerations that we’ve tried to address and hope that we’ve supported our clubs and teams to make that facility environment as accessible and as welcoming for all females.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

I would say that those considerations also come from us, as women being where we’re at, otherwise, the changes haven’t happened until now for a reason, because men have been in these positions. And I think that, like I said before it’s such a privileged position to be in at this moment of time in women’s football in the women’s game and being able to put your finger on these issues being like, why aren’t there any lights on this street? Why are they training here? Like that’s dangerous for them to be training here in the winter and it isn’t a safe way to get to the main road to get their bus, or why don’t they have period products? This is really important to make them feel like they have access to the pitch all year round, all month long.

And also on that as well, something that’s really important is the language that we use around the women’s game and I think for a lot of men in football, it’s second nature. You think of a footballer, he, him, his football, his shinpads, and what I’m doing just being in this world is really pointing my finger when someone says him. I’m like, what about her though? <laugh>, What about ‘her’? Or ‘they’ sort of encompasses everyone. And it’s just sort of sticking your nose out and being like, actually let’s include her in this narrative, even if it’s just from talking about football in general. Why is it just him? Why is it just he, why are you thinking of a man when you think of a footballer? and just being a bit confrontational. I mean, it’s not confrontational, it needs to be said, but it’s quite enjoyable sometimes seeing people squirm a little bit <laugh>.

Natalie Doyle:

Definitely. We had a conversation about that on a previous episode where we talked about women in leadership and it’s about feeling confident enough to stand up and have those conversations and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It just becomes part of almost like a habit, doesn’t it? You just keep being willing to call out that sort of thing. So people don’t generally mind. I don’t think people are trying to be offensive. I think it’s just second nature that they say automatically, but it’s flagging it and starting to bring that into people’s consciousness.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

Exactly.

Bethan Woolley:

In terms of being able to challenge it, we did a piece around what spectators are saying on the sidelines, whether that’s parents and or especially in our mixed team environment, so, “She’s quite good for a girl”. Actually, right, she’s just quite good. Yeah, she’s a good player and trying to share some of the language that should be used as a big piece as well around ladies teams and women’s teams. I know a lot of clubs now are changing that narrative and that language they’re using to women because actually the women don’t want to be called ladies, and I know a host of clubs have changed that, but we have looked at a piece around language and what has been said on the sidelines and actually sharing some of this insight with our clubs so that they know to challenge it and it’s okay to be challenged because we’re supporting them, we’re backing our girls and that’s what we want to see really.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

And it has been great seeing how receptive people are to it. Of course, it might be uncomfortable the first few times that they’re corrected, but ultimately, knowing that you don’t know everything and with everything that’s gone on in the women’s game, on the women’s side of things, it’s all relatively new. We’re all still learning in terms of it being banned. It’s not been that long since women have been playing internationally, so I think we all know that we are learning and there’s so much space to grow, space to learn, space to develop and it’s great seeing that come from men as well as women in football.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah. That openness to learn is really important. I think what’s really good as well, just going back to the facilities point, is lots of those changes as well, Bethan, that you mentioned don’t require a huge amount of investment. It’s just about getting people to think about, have a little walk around your facility, look at what is okay and what probably needs improving. It’s almost like a checklist, isn’t it? These are the things that you should be looking at and just see which ones you’ve got and which ones you don’t. And to raise a budget to do those things, like adding in locks or sanitary bins or period products isn’t something that should require too much of a budget for a club.

Bethan Woolley:

No, absolutely. And as part of our Environments for Her series, we deliver workshops and as part of that workshop, we have an action plan. So we provide hints and tips to our clubs. For example, the sanitary bins, the locks and if they’re not on the facilities, you can actually just go to the facility and ask why. And more likely than not, they will then add that to the facility and there should be sanitary bins in facility toilets if the girls and women are using it. So more often than not, they will look at that problem for you and solve it. But where they don’t, there’s obviously opportunities to put products, for example, in your kit bag, which are very low cost. But it’s the small things that can make a huge difference.

We had one conversation that was raised in one of our focus groups about an individual going to the toilet, and there not being a sanitary bin. And then the embarrassment of then having to walk out into the changing rooms with the product, hidden in their sleeve to then put it in the bin in front of the team. And those are all things that can put off our participants that we may not consider on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a huge thing for some of our participants and can really put them off coming back and continuing to play.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

And also we’re talking about this low cost and yeah, it’s a low cost financially, but also any cost at all that stops that 43% of sporty girls dropping out of sport, it just doesn’t compare <laugh>.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah. It’s easier for a club to absorb that cost than it is for individuals to absorb that cost, especially with the current cost of living crisis and the additional pressures that puts on people.

Okay. I’m starting to be aware of time. I feel like there’s so many things that I want to ask more about, but I’m going to ask you to focus your brains now and think about if we have clubs or organizations listening to this who want to make improvements, and we’ve given so many fantastic tips already, what would be your top tip that you think they could do in terms of improving their environment for girls? Preferably one that we haven’t talked about yet.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

I would say that it’s super important to look at what the spectrum of engagement is. Like, why are these girls engaging with football? With sport? And I think that is the number one question that a club has to ask to be able to create that right environment. We can know that they need period products. We can know that they need support finding sports bras in their size. But ultimately the girls coming up now, are a different generation to us. It’s knowing what they need might be different to what we needed at that time. Of course, as the general things, like I said, periods, sports, bras, creating that good environment, but ultimately what do you need to be asking them? I think that’s what I’d say is number one.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, that’s a really good point, isn’t it? I think Bethan, you mentioned it earlier around capturing the voice of girls, but it’s also around making sure that, what do you do with that information once you’ve got it? There’s no point asking them what they want and then you file it away somewhere never to be actioned on. How do you take that insight that you get from talking to the girls and make it have a really positive impact?

Bethan Woolley:

Yes. That was going to be my key point, is to listen. Listen to the girls and there’ll be things that they come up with that we haven’t even considered. And every scenario will be different. Everybody’s facility is different, everybody’s environment is different. The girls will know what they want and it is so important that we listen to them. And it might even be as simple as listening to what they want to be delivered as part of the session. It might be that they want a bit of social time at the end of the session or at the start of the session. It might be the facilities aren’t right or it might be that they don’t feel safe turning up to the session. It could be anything, but listen to what the girls want because that is the only way that they’re going to turn up and enjoy it because you are essentially then delivering what they want and what they want to see. So yeah, in terms of my key hint and my key tip it would be just to listen to the girls. Really listen as well and allow them the opportunity to feedback into what your sessions and what your environment really looks like.

Natalie Doyle:

Yeah, that seems like a really good point to end on, because I could listen to you two and all your fantastic advice for a long time, I think. So thank you so much for giving up your time today. I think there’s some really great actionable advice for people who are listening from that conversation. And I will also link in the show notes to the various things that we’ve talked about around research and the resources that you have available through the work you’re doing at the FAW Bethan. That’ll all be in the show notes so people can go and check it out afterwards as well. But thank you very much for giving up your time.

Bethan Woolley:

Thank you.

Ella-Rose McCourt-Cox:

Thank you so much for having us.

Natalie Doyle:

I loved that chat with Bethan and Ella-Rose. They had so much variety to the things that they were bringing to the conversation. Culture, consultation and listening to the girls, facilities, role models, the importance of conversations around puberty and periods, diversity and how that maybe needs to be improved across the board, the differences between engaging young girls and teenage girls. Just some fantastic advice from them both. I really enjoyed that conversation. I hope you did as well. As I said, all of the links to everything that they talked about will be in the show notes, so please check that out if you want to learn more about Environments for Her and the work of Bloomsbury Football.

We’ll be back again soon with some more great guests. If you’ve enjoyed listening to this season and this episode, then please review and share the podcast wherever you can. It’d be great to help other people to find what we’re doing. We’ll speak to you soon.

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