Kicking Girls Visit Fun Direction in Dublin !
Last week I was honoured with a visit to Dublin from a group of co-ordinators and coaches representing the Kicking Girls project from Germany. Having looked around Europe last year to learn from any projects specifically delivering sport to young girls, the only one I found was Kicking Girls. I made contact with it’s national co-ordinator Bastian Kuhlmann exactly 12 months ago and from the start he was extremely helpful, both interested in and keen to help me with Fun Direction. I spent two excellent days last March viewing the project in Essen and Osnabruck and had already identified October’s Ireland vs Germany UEFA 2016 qualifier as the right opportunity to repay the hospitality shown to me. With the big game last Thursday night, my Kicking Girls friends were able to attend all 3 of my weekly activities which run weekly on Thursdays and Fridays.
Kicking Girls tagline translates as “Football Without Offsides – Creating Opportunities for Girls through Football “. Professor Ulf Gebken from the University of Oldenburg founded the project in 2006 in a few local schools and his words best explain the idea behind the project:
Football unites people with different cultural and social backgrounds – it attracts boys and girls… Quoting Nelson Mandela, it has the “power to change the world because it speaks to youth in a language they understand”… Democratic societies depend on active participation and cannot afford to exclude large parts of their population… a need to breakdown cultural and social barriers and create common spaces… football is a great social tool to do so…enabling people to participate and shape their own futures.
The Kicking Girls project now reaches over 3,000 girls (age 6-8) weekly in 60 German cities through local partnerships and is backed by the International charity Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the German Football Association amongst others. The disadvantaged areas within which Kicking Girls work have a high proportion of non-national residents so over 60% of the girls on the project come from an immigrant background. The project has 4 simple elements:
- Football classes once each week after-school
- Tournaments within cities 3 times a year
- Qualifying junior female coaches aged 14-17
- Short day-camps on school holidays
What struck me from first finding out about the project was how similar it’s aims were to mine with Fun Direction. In Ireland, we have slightly more scope to incorporate multiple sports into our project, particularly with our national games of Camogie and Gaelic Football. While football is the game I have played and coached predominantly for 35 years, I have very fond memories of also playing our national sports in school and I recognise the benefits of a multi-sport experience for young children. The fact is that young German girls in areas of disadvantage face many of the same obstacles around sports participation that young girls in Ireland do. The key to both projects is providing girls with opportunities at an age where acquiring fundamental movement skills and a love of participation can have a life-lasting positive impact.
Last week’s International matches coincided with UEFA’s FARE week (Football Against Racism in Europe) saying “No to discrimination and yes to equality”. With the support of the Football Association of Ireland’s Intercultural Co-ordinator Des Tomlinson, our O’Connells School activity on the day of the international game was a designated FARE event where the girls received t-shirts and red cards against racism while also exchanging wristbands. The FAI also kindly gave us tickets to the game for our Kicking Girls visitors and some lucky girls and parents from our 3 Fun Direction venues. We’re very proud to say parents of the girls attending our O’Connells weekly activity have come to Ireland from 8 different countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. Each week these girls demonstrate the power of sport in making friends and creating common interests while having lots of fun and developing important skills !
I also have to thank the German coaches Katharina, Nadia and Yashem for rolling up their sleeves and coaching the 50 girls who attended last week in O’Connells School, Darndale and East Wall, all done with a smile on their face ! They introduced us to a number of new fun games which we will be revisiting in coming months ! The founder and co-ordinators, Ulf, Bastian and Hannes Teetz come from a sports science background and have developed a programme to facilitate fundamental movement skills that can be delivered by their coaches throughout Germany, many of whom are young and / or volunteers.
I will be attending the Kicking Girls annual conference in 2 weeks time in Frankfurt hosted by the German FA (DFB) where I hope to meet many of Kicking Girls coaches, partner organisations and funders. Plans for further co-operation in 2016 include a Kicking Girls coaching seminar in Dublin to qualify young female Irish coaches to participate in coaching young girls in new venues where we would like to expand Fun Direction. We also believe there is an opportunity to host an International “blitz” where young girls from our projects in a number of European countries get the chance to experience a different country through sport.
Exciting time ahead for me and the Fun Direction girls !
Founder , Project Fun Direction