AFC Leyton Girls maybe in their first year of independence but they have silverwear, they’ve been to see Tanni Grey-Thompson at the House of Lords and they have already recruited over 100 players!

AFC Leyton Girls explain how they started up and what a hit they have been already with their positive approach to not only football but also their players’ teenage lives.

The grassroots girls’ football club in East London was set up with the help of Mark Lucas (founder of Silverfish Media) through his daughter’s interest in playing football.

Once involved, he decided football for girls needed to change and change radically. Mark’s idea was “Born out of a desire to create an equal club where the girls team is not tacked on as an afterthought to a boys club. It needed to be a club with grit and spirit, a team of winners, and through that, change their lives.”

When being a teenager mainly consists of awkwardness, stress and anxiety, AFC Leyton Girls is a place where all that is left at the door and all types of girls come together to play competitive football to make bonds away from school and home.

They can be themselves in a safe and supportive environment. Where their attitude and drive is encouraged instead of being put down and they’re able to win on the pitch when it might feel as though they are losing everywhere else.

Youth clubs are a thing of the past and there are very few safe spaces left for teenage girls, AFC Leyton Girls want them to know there’s room for them at their football club.

Some of the girls visited the House of Lords to talk with Tanni Grey-Thompson, the former British wheelchair racer, parliamentarian and television presenter.The visit came about due to the short film we made, which brought a response from her as she loved the video and asked if the girls wanted to come and discuss the future of British sport.

This opportunity was massive for some of these girls, as it allows to ambition to build where it might had previously dwindled. Lots of these girls come from very difficult backgrounds where government seems so far out of reach, but this trip brings it home. Showing these girls that no matter how small they may feel in comparison, there are people out there that care about what they have to say and that their voice truly does matter.

Silverfish Media research found that 23% of girls were less willing to participate in sports because they felt self-conscious of their image and don’t want to be on show. Furthermore, as girls participation in PE and sport begins to drop at 14, the boys proportion increases. Girls who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem, lower levels of depression and more likely to get better grades in school. This is why we need to encourage girls to get back into sport and make sure parents understand that football is not just a boys’ game.

Whilst making the film we found some fantastically strong characters, who each have great personal stories and who have found solace in football.

At AFC Leyton we try to encourage girls to learn to play football in a specific way. Our ethos is to promote the empowerment of girls and women through sport. To teach them the techniques and attributes of good football players. Not willing them to score individual goals but to enjoy the team play and to allow them to see the power of a collective effort.

Being a grassroots team in a small corner of London, our talent pool is limited which is why we are always looking out for girls that want to play. We will always find the right level / team to allow learning and progress in the sport. It is also important to realise the other benefits of belonging to a Club. The social growth that a young girl will achieve, getting some great experiences both on and off the pitch.

We have an unofficial club motto –Together We Rise – this is the cornerstone of our club and 120 girls will start next season. We are adding an U-9s team as well as U-18 team that will play in the Capital Girls League.

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