Thom Stone prepares the Havant & Waterlooville Girls for a match by demonstrating the formation they will be playing using cones.

Havant & Waterlooville U13 Girls | Chapter One: Starting From Scratch

How do you go about creating a brand new girls football team? This was the big question that Thom and I were asking ourselves when decided that we wanted to move from adult ladies football to girls youth football. 

We both had a background in boys youth football for many years prior to getting involved in ladies football. Thom had spent three years coaching with Havant and Waterlooville Youth FC and knew that it was a well run club with a good heart. We knew that they had no representation at girls football at any age group so we approached them to see if they were interested. They welcomed us with open arms and have been hugely supportive ever since.

In an attempt to find players we put flyers out around local schools, our club’s home pitch and shared posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We were chuffed to bits when we had five girls come to the first training session. Fast forward six weeks to mid-August and we’ve managed to accrue a team of girls who were all eligible to play in an under 13’s side, with many being young enough to play in younger age groups also.

Our first friendly match was against Romsey Town Youth. It finished 3-2 to Romsey but not bad considering it was our first match. Thom and I were really chuffed with what we saw! It was clear that the team were very raw as many had never previously played for a team and this was their first experience of a competitive match. Their attitude and enthusiasm was first class. They showed signs that with a bit of patience and time to learn and gain experience then they have the potential to be a top class side.

Havant & Waterlooville Girls U13s team photo after their very first friendly against Romsey Town

Photo: Stuart Barker

As the new season approached, we were placed into the Hampshire Girls Youth Football League County Division. This seemed an odd choice for such a new side as the other sides in the league were historically quite strong. In order to measure where we were in comparison to the other sides in that league, we arranged a friendly against Portsmouth In The Community. Putting it politely, the two teams couldn’t have been further apart. Portsmouth contained girls who had clearly been playing together for years and they ruthlessly put 18 passed us without reply. After a conversation with the league’s committee, it as agreed that we would participate in the Eastern Divison which was a much more suitable environment for the girls to develop.

Our first two league fixtures were against Gosport Youth and Eastleigh, two sides that will be looking to finish top of the league come next May. It was a baptism of fire but I relish the challenge. It forced the girls to quickly learn what sort of levels they should be working towards if they want to be successful. Both games finished with victories to our opposition, but that doesn’t tell the story of the games. I’m not suggesting that we deserved a draw or should have even won those games, but in each fixture there were clear signs of development from the girls, individually and collectively.

The girls prepare to take on Eastleigh Girls Blue at Front Lawn. Photo: Stuart Barker

Our goalkeeper, Katie, has received three out of four player of the match awards so far this season. Thom and I made sure that we have protected time for goalkeeping training at each session and Katie has responded brilliantly to the work we’ve been doing. She absorbs information like a sponge and if she stays in girls football then I believe that she would be able to play at a high level within women’s football.

It wasn’t only the girls learning, Thom and I were learning more about our players with each match and each training session. We originally set out with a 3-5-1 formation but this was leaving us exposed on the break. Players who’d broken forward weren’t tracking back quick enough and this is how we were conceding the majority of goals. We made the decision to move to a 3-3-2 formation with three central midfielders to win the ball and allow the forwards to concentrate on providing width. This formation simplified the game. The message was “win the ball quickly” by putting more bodies in the middle and “put the pressure on the opposition defenders by getting the ball to the forwards quickly.”

It has been lovely to see the girls bonding and having fun together. As coaches, we couldn’t do this without the support of the parents and ours have been first class! I can see that our first victory is on the horizon. If you don’t want to wait until chapter two to see how we get on in our next fixture then you can follow us on Twitter @HavantGirlsFC.

Stuart Barker
hellosince71@gmail.com