Keeping Girls in the Game

Manningham United Blues is a football club who are leading the way in gender equality. We had a chat with committee member Natalie Moccero, who let us in on some of the club’s secrets when it comes to retaining girls and women in their football program. Read more below!

Tell us a little about Manningham United Blues and your role in the club.

My role at the club started as a parent and team manager for my daughters U8s team. This year I joined the committee.

As part of the committee, I have focused on two major things: (1) Creating an energy at the club that is fun and inclusive, so that everyone feels welcome; players, parents, siblings, grandparents and also our visiting teams, and (2) how we can leverage this passion and energy to provide more for our members by increasing revenue through fundraising, grants and sponsorship. I have recognised that our girls and women provide a unique opportunity to showcase brands that support women’s sport.

How do you support the women and girls in your club?

Earlier this year we recognised that in order to grow and retain the number of female footballers, we need to do things differently. We listened to the girls and worked with them to make change. Did we get it right every time? No, we didn't, but we also didn't give up. We not only needed to provide the girls and women with the same opportunities and love as the boys and men, but we also needed to understand what girls and women want, is often different. What will keep girls not just at our club, but playing sport as they get older?

For our more senior players the things that were important were changing our kit to have women's cut tops and getting rid of our white shorts and replacing them with black. For our younger girls it meant trying to keep them in their friendship groups, providing opportunities for team building through dinners after training, which also provided parents with an opportunity to connect and socialise.

We needed to make a statement that said our club is serious about girls and women. We want to be a destination club for families, and that means girls and women too. In 2022 we launched our inaugural Female Football Shield. We wanted to create connections between our Miniroo girls and the senior women and really show all our female footballers that we were "United Through Football".  The energy at Pettys Reserve that day for the shield was amazing. The music was pumping, our Miniroos girls walked our seniors onto the pitch and the Mayor opened the day.

We are really focused on making sure that we are giving the women all those things that the men at the club take for granted: playing and training on our brand-new synthetic pitches, weekly team dinners, NPL level coaching, live game recording, dedicated team physio, strength and conditioning sessions and lots of support.

What has been the response from the players? Has the club been successful since these changes have been made?

The response has been amazing from our members, with a huge increase in female footballers in 2022. You only have to walk around the club to notice the energy and vibe is different. Manningham United are a supportive family and our players are bringing their friends.

We were recently recognised by Football Victoria as having grown female football participation in 2022, more than any other Victorian Community Club. More importantly, the changes we have made in 2022 have created momentum and energy we can all feel. People want to be a part of it, and they want to be part of our club.

With the FIFA Women's World Cup on the horizon, what would you like your club, and football in general, to achieve by then? What about in the next 10 years?

The FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia is exciting and many of our teams are going along to support the Matildas. We are hopeful the focus and excitement that is created will help show girls around the country they can play football too.

In 2023 MUBFC are looking to nearly double the number of female teams from 2022. The focus created from the Women’s World Cup will create momentum for even greater growth in 2024. That being said, we won't sit back and hope that the growth comes, we will continue to change and evolve to hit our club targets.

Manningham is leading the way in gender equity in football - what advice do you have for other clubs to follow in your footsteps?

Listen to your players and parents. What is important to them, what changes do they want to see, and what isn't working?

You can't do everything - pick 1 or 2 things and start making change. You may not be able to address every piece of feedback, just do what you can, because every little bit makes a difference.

Communicate regularly - tell your members the changes that you are making and why. Get feedback along the way and where possible get their feedback and buy-in on the possible solutions.

Monday 5 December, 2022

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