Levelling the playing field: how to get girls into football
The World Cup can be hugely inspiring for children, but it's harder to know how to nurture an ongoing enthusiasm for the game in girls, when there are so few visible female role models.
Enter Arsenal Ladies and England star Alex Scott, one of the most decorated players in women's football, who took part in a Q&A on this very subject with us last year. From it, we've compiled a handy guide to engaging girls in the beautiful game.
31 Girls' Centres of Excellence in the UK
70,584 audience members for Team GB's 1-0 victory over Brazil at Wembley during the London 2012 Olympics - a record
8 teams in the Women's Super League
£20,000+ salary that can be paid to four players in a WSL team
Start 'em young
Alex says: "I loved playing when I was a young girl and found it didn't matter who I played with. Just kicking a ball about in the garden or park on a regular basis is a great way of developing small children's abilities until they're old enough to join a team.
"That's how I learnt to play and luckily when I was eight, Arsenal spotted me so I went straight into their system."
Take an interest
Alex says: "Ask about how well your daughter is doing. My mum was brilliant with me when I was young; she didn't push me but always encouraged and supported me, took me to training and games and watched me, which really helped me."
Play against the boys
Alex says: "Under FA rules, it is possible to play mixed football up until the age of 14 when the development of boys and girls physical attributes really do start to change. Your local county FA will be able to help you find your daughter a club or team not too far away from where you live, including mixed teams."
Don't get disheartened
Alex says: "I came through a Centre of Excellence at Arsenal, and from then to now the change in and development of women's football has been massive. There are so many different pathways for girls to be involved and have access to the top facilities and coaches, and we are lucky the FA has invested a lot of money into girls' football in this country - hopefully this will pay off in the near future with the production of great players through the centres into the national team.
Be their role model
Alex says: "My mum was and still is a huge inspiration to me. Not once did she try to make me change my mind or direction in life when all I wanted to do was play football. She's been there to support me through my achievements and rejections and I think she is a phenomenal woman who inspires me to always want to do better."
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