“It’s so important for your mental health” – The power of getting back into team sports

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We spoke to Sharon Boyle of Football Development Office Fingal about what makes team sports so special, and how people can help continue the growth of the women’s game.

ven if you spent much of your younger days on a football pitch, playing basketball or togging out for your local GAA club, life can so often pull you away from being involved in the sport you love. Cheering them on from the stands or in front of a TV is one thing, but it becomes quite another when you are directly involved.

It must be said however, this does not simply extend to players lacing up their boots. Sports clubs require a great number of people to keep things ticking, from social media gurus and business-savvy board managers to coaches and much more besides.

Having been involved at all levels of the game from grassroots to senior international, Dublin native Sharon Boyle fully understands the mutually beneficial nature of joining a football club. As much as you gain from the social aspect of it and physical exercise, the club itself benefits from gaining a new voice to help develop the game.

Sharon says, “I’d like to see more women on boards, at club level. I think that’s really important; we do have some good ideas!

“Some clubs are fantastic with it, but some clubs would be hesitant. Rather than just saying to a volunteer ‘You’re coming in to help, do you want to coach a team?’ they can say ‘no I would like to sit on the board and try to make a difference.’

“Not take over, just make a difference!”

Many of the same benefits that come from playing are just as applicable to everyone else involved in the club. Not only in terms of getting outdoors and building connections with other likeminded people, but also in the sense that it allows you more time to be involved in something you enjoy.

“As a person it’s really important, and it’s so important for your mental health.

“it’s really important, for your own self, taking that time to do a bit of self-care to ease your own mind of whatever is going on. Whether it be at home or in work, it calms the mind getting involved in sport and it’s good as well for exercise,” she says.

Sharon has also played a crucial role in the hugely successful Soccer Sisters programme, which has helped thousands of participants become more involved in the game, you can learn more about the programme here.

Being part of the future of women’s football

As mentioned already, football clubs are about so much more than playing the game. There are always opportunities for people looking to get involved, regardless of what you bring to the table.

The women’s game is certainly on an upward trend, and people like Sharon who have been involved in promoting it over the years are now starting to see the rewards of their efforts. Now is the time to help achieve further success, and Sharon says age should certainly not be a determining factor.

“Everything is out there and everything is visible now. There’s something for the girls whether you’re a four-year-old or a 44-year-old,” she says.

“The sponsors coming in is great to see, because that money will be great to put back in whether it be the grassroots game or the elite side of the game. Without the grassroots, you don’t have elite!

“I’ve worked at grassroots and I’ve worked at elite so I know both sides. It needs to work at the bottom of the pyramid first.”

 Your first port of call should always be your local club, and Sharon says there is no shortage of ways to get involved.

“It’s about recruiting more women to be involved in the women’s game. There are so many programmes, but it’s making that initial connection to get them involved.

“There’s a programme that was started off in Fingal called Pitch Fit for Women, where you do an evening or a morning out in a club. It’s targeted at the parents at the club who might drop their kids, but it’s kind of about the social aspect of playing soccer.

“It’s about getting them funding to be trained up on their PDP 1 or PDP 2 and putting them back into the academy or starting to put them on boards. Because, they might have a degree in business or a degree in social media.

“That programme is a fantastic programme for women to give back into the sport and get involved in the women’s game as well,” she says.

If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved, visit the FAI website here.

As the Official Snack Partner of the Republic of Ireland Women’s National team, at Cadbury they believe that a Player and a Half deserves Support and a Half and are dedicated to supporting Irish women’s grassroots football. Visit your local SPAR to see how you can help Cadbury donate up to €50,000 to grassroots women’s football clubs to make upgrades to facilities where they’re needed most. To be in with a chance of winning funding for your club with ‘Become a Supporter and a Half,’ visit the website here. T&C’s apply.



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