The Irish FA Foundation, in partnership with Electric Ireland, has launched a new programme aimed at boosting football participation numbers among girls aged four to seven.
Shooting Stars will create participation opportunities across Northern Ireland as well as hubs of girls’ football coaching excellence.
The overarching aim is to have coaching hubs in all 11 council areas over the next two to three years. These hubs will deliver age appropriate coaching for players aged four to seven and upskill coaches by working with local clubs, equipping each club to build their player pathway.
The Electric Ireland-backed programme is expected to create 2000 hours of football in its first year – and build from there.
Going forward Shooting Stars will form the first part of the Irish FA Foundation’s girls’ player pathway pyramid. It is basically the first step in getting young girls into the game and potentially their first step towards a professional career in football.
The programme, which is being run by Irish FA Foundation Girls Participation Officers Clare Carson and Lauren Moore, is also aligned with the Irish FA Foundation’s Let Them Play youth football strategy and a new Let Her Play strategy which is currently being finalised.
Clare McAllister, Residential Manager for Electric Ireland NI, said: “We’re delighted to support Shooting Stars as part of our overall sponsorship of women’s football in Northern Ireland.
“We have seen the powerful impact the Electric Ireland Game Changers campaign, in partnership with the IFA, is having on local female football with a 25% increase in participation levels since last year.
“Our aim is to continue to inspire the next generation of female footballers and support the ambitious outreach to get more women playing football. This new programme is a huge step towards reaching this goal and creating more game changing moments for our next generation of gamechangers.”
The Electric Ireland Shooting Stars programme stems from research and benchmarking by UEFA which showed that, compared to other European countries, there is currently a very low level of football participation among girls aged four to seven in Northern Ireland.
At present only three established clubs here cater for girls aged six to seven, while none provide coaching for those aged four to five. The benchmarking identified a need to start girls playing football at a younger age.
The first Shooting Stars sessions will be rolled out in the following areas:
Olympia Leisure Centre, Belfast – every Thursday (4-5pm) for six weeks, starting on 25 October;
Foyle Arena, Derry-Londonderry – every Monday (4-5pm) for four weeks, starting on 12 November;
Dungiven Sports Complex – every Wednesday (4-5pm) for six weeks, starting on 24 October (excluding 31 Oct);
Bangor Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex – every Monday (4-5pm) for six weeks, starting on 22 October.
For more information, including fees for the courses, log on to www.irishfa.com/shootingstars.
View gallery below for pictures from the launch event.