A common theme that is prevalent among elite female athletes is their desire to give back to their sporting community and help to usher through the next generation of athletes.
One such athlete is the Melbourne Football Club’s Katherine Smith. ‘Smitty’ as she is known in footy circles, is the force behind Girls Footy Australia, an organisation designed to develop and educate talented young female footballers.
We sat down with Smitty for in depth chat about her latest endeavour.
What motivated you to start Girls Footy Australia?
There is a sister program called Girls Basketball Australia that provides junior female basketballers an opportunity to better their performance through high intensity programs and with elite coaches. The Co-Founder of 'Girls Basketball Australia' Peter Kotaridis came to me with the idea of creating Girls Footy Australia and I jumped at it. We believed we could create a program that is dedicated to improving junior female footballers and assisting them on their football journeys to achieve their goals.
One of our big focuses was about coaches, we decided to get coaches who are all AFLW players so our athletes can also be mentored by experienced coaches who can provide the girls with instant feedback. We proudly announced Pepa Randal from GWS, Sarah Lampard from Melbourne and Brit Bonnici from Collingwood as coaches and will shortly announce a few more.
The other main focus was what types of programs we wanted to run and what would be most effective. We decided that holiday camps and eight-week academies would have the most impact at this stage. Since May we have run two holiday camps, one eight-week academy and most recently The Combine. This has allowed us to work with some amazing young footballers and give them the tools to succeed.
With these programs our major aim is to improve the basic skills of our athletes as a lot of young female footballers are yet to be taught the correct techniques. We focus on kicking and different types of kicking techniques, offensive skills such as ground balls and contested marking, defensive skills such as tacking and spoiling all with the aim to provide the girls with knowledge about the technique, how the skill can be utilised to beat their opponent and of course how to protect themselves. After learning the basic techniques we challenge our athletes to implement them into game like scenarios and introduce concepts of football such as ball movement, creating space and forward line entries.
What are your goals for Girls Footy Australia?
Our goal for Girls Footy Australia is to impact as many young female footballers as possible and provide them with the skills and knowledge to be their best.
We are really excited to announce our new partnership with Base Sports Group who will take our athletes through correct warm up protocols and injury prevention before each session as well as athletic testing. This partnership is allowing us to reach a new area of Victoria, Bayside and influence some more junior female footballers.
Equally as exciting is having Chyloe Kurdas from Own Journey on board to take the girls through interactive sessions around growth mindset, goal setting and other wellbeing sessions. This has allowed us to create a holistic program that not only influences the athletes football skills but fitness and their off-field preparation.
We see Girls Footy Australia as a stepping-stone for young female footballers to achieve their goals. Our aim is to set up Girls Footy Australia programs all across Victoria to provide opportunities for all young female footballers to improve and reach their full potential. Long term, we not only want Girls Footy Australia to have programs running all across Victoria but also across Australia. We would love to set up a program in all states of Australia to ensure as many girls are allowed the opportunity to not only learn from AFLW players but to be given all the tools they need to succeed.
Tell us a bit more about the The Combine.
The Combine was created to give young female footballers an opportunity to better their football and everything that comes with it. We decided to make this event a celebration and reward for some fantastic young footballers from across Victoria.
We selected 30 girls who were either the top-end of their local club, involved in TAC Cup or School Sport Victoria and also Under 18 state players. This was also a very exciting day for Girls Footy Australia as it showed the recent partnership with Base Sports Group and involvement with Own Journey to create a holistic football program for our athletes.
They day started off with each athlete receiving a pack including a Lululemon singlet and a pair of New Balance runners, the athletes were over the moon and it was a great way to kick off an amazing day. Following this, the athletes had a session with Chyloe Kurdas from Own Journey about “The mindset to make it”. Chyloe took the athletes and parents through an interactive session on growth mindset and self-talk, this was a very empowering session for the athletes and provided them with the tools to further develop their passion of football.
Up next was the athletic testing run by Base Sports Group. The athletes tested their 10 metre and 20 metre sprint, vertical jump and agility. Each athlete walked away from the testing with a detailed review of their results including averages of the day and information about each test, allowing them to learn from their experience and improve.
We finished The Combine off with a high intensity football session run by myself and Sarah Lampard from the Melbourne Football Club. We focused on kicking, taking the athletes through the basics to improve their techniques and then we put them through their paces with some decision making by foot. The athletes were taught a few new tips and tricks to give them an edge on their competition in ground balls, contested marking, tackling and spoiling.
We will be running another Combine over the school holidays and any young female footballer is able to register. We are really excited to give more young female footballers the chance to better themselves with a holistic football program. The link to the holiday program is: www.girlsfooty.com.au/thecombine
Photos: @she.scores / @prolabprojects