If you’re walking the streets of Wollongong and see a significant rise in the number of children kicking soccer balls, don’t be concerned.
This is simply the goal of Football South Coast and Sydney FC’s football schools program, a collaboration between the two organisations to introduce primary school students to football.
The program hopes to turn an initial introduction with the sport into long-term competitive involvement. The man in charge of the initiative, Sydney FC’s community football manager, and former Wollongong Wolves star, Paul Reid, said the early feedback from parents and children is overwhelmingly positive.
“There are a lot of kids already playing football, but we found at schools there are a lot of kids that aren’t playing on the weekend,” Reid said. “If we can introduce them to football, that’s the start of the process for developing a love for playing football.
“The first step is to get the kids playing on the weekend for their local club and then they’ll start developing a love for playing football and they’ll be lifelong supporters of football.
“We’ve received some really good feedback. We want the kids to be playing football as much as possible, I know the parents really enjoy it and from all reports the kids really get a lot out of the programs.”
The program has been underway for over a year, with 12 schools getting involved and FSC looking to gain interest from many more within the region. Schools that have engaged in the program include Dapto Primary School, Woonona High School and St Pius X Catholic Primary School.
Reid said the regular introductory skills sessions are the perfect opportunity for children to receive their first taste of the sport in a relaxed, pressure-free environment. In addition, the initiative has a particular focus on girls.
“We want as many girls as possible to be playing football. Girls football is really growing, obviously more boys play football at the moment, but we want to get to the stage where there’s a lot more girls playing than there are at the minute.”