Megan Todd delighted by success of Cambridge United Girls' Development Centres
First year of U's scheme proves popular
One of the teams from the Girls development centre for Cambridge United against Peterborough United at Bottisham Village College sports centre. Picture: Keith Heppell
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“For the first season, it’s grown much bigger than I thought it would.”
Megan Todd’s description may be succinct but it sums up so much about the maiden year of the Cambridge United Girls’ Development Centres.
Last summer, trials were being held for the centres with the hope of getting 100 youngsters involved in a scheme aimed at bridging the gap between grassroots clubs and the Advanced Coaching Centre (ACC).
Twelve months on, the four different venues – Bottisham, Linton, Comberton and Netherhall – have hosted 170 girls, aged from under-seven to under-16s, and with 80 per cent signed up to the programme for next season already.
“It’s been getting quite a good reputation in how we run the programme, the quality and how we’re giving girls the chance and an opportunity,” said Todd, Cambridge United’s GDC programme manager.
“I think that’s made quite a big difference in Cambridge because they have only got their grassroots clubs and then the ACC; we’ve bridged that gap.
“I think the coaches we have are very passionate and it just works really well at the moment.”
Training is held on a Friday night, while during school holidays they have played matches against the likes of Norwich, Peterborough, Colchester and Swindon.
It is not just about playing though, with the aim of giving the older players the chance to experience coaching and leadership volunteering, as Todd explains.
“We’re not creating just players, we’re creating people at the end of the day so we want to offer them opportunities,” she said.
“If a girl goes off to play football at a big club we’d be as happy as if someone went off to university. It’s those values we’re teaching, which I think is why parents, and the kids of course, are very happy with the GDC.”
Players have come from schools or having never played with a club before, and in that instance the GDC is affiliating them with a grassroots side.
“We’ve definitely got more girls playing with grassroots clubs who have come from the GDC,” said Todd.
“It’s safe to say we’re definitely taking a big step forward.
“We’re trying to get more girls playing and keep them in the game as well.
“When we set up no-one knew that Cambridge United was doing a girls’ centre so it was about getting ourselves out there through social media.
“For the first trials, we had 60 one night so it definitely shows there is the demand from girls in Cambridge that want to play more and want to get involved. We want to get us out there a bit more.
“We’re building a pathway at the moment for girls to play their football but also using football as a tool as well to have a successful career. It’s something we’re very strong with in our values at the GDC.”
The success of the development centres has seen Charlotte Crisp appointed as full-time assistant programme manager, after 10 months coaching part-time with the set-up.
The final trial for the GDC this summer is at Bottisham Village College on July 9. For more details email Megan Todd at email@example.com.