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Coach Juan: An 8-week play-by-play

Have a look at Coach Wonjoon - aka Profe Juan's blog, there is a week-by-week account of his time at Girls United Bacalar. Very real account, written in a great way.

UEFA Women's Euros - my opinions...

With the large following of the Women’s Euros and the growing media presence of Women’s football following the successes of the 2015 World Cup, women’s football is beginning to gain worldwide recognition and respect. Women’s football is currently trending on twitter on a regular basis and this, amidst the excitement of the UEFA Women’s Euros has had me thinking about the wider values that are showcased through sport.

As a female athlete myself I have seen first hand the different recognition that is given to men and women and ever since a young age have been made to think that I could never be as good or as skilful as a male athlete in my sport. There is nothing to say a woman cannot be as tactical or as skilful as a male player but there continuously seems to be this separation of men’s and women’s sports as totally different entities. Jessica Ennis-Hill has always been my sporting inspiration, just as others are inspired by the likes of England captain Steph Houghton or the #Lionesses, for many boys Ronaldo or Messi are of course some of the biggest inspirations. These sporting figures and inspirations to many however do not receive equal recognition for their talents, which they’re so admired for. These inequalities have been highlighted and debated in the media in the run up to and during the Euro’s. The wage gap in football for example highlights this; Steph Houghton’s yearly earnings are less than Wayne Rooney’s weekly salary, yet they are both England captains and significant individual club players. These figures set the standards and more importantly imply that female sports and sportswomen themselves are of ‘less value’. The values that we set in professional sports are ones that young children aspire to and results in the belief that girls can’t possibly be as good as boys.

This poses the question of why there needs to be a label that separates men’s football from women’s at all? There has become this need to clarify that it is “the women’s football” on TV rather than just football (naturally the men’s game). The use of these phrases make sense when talking about the Women’s Euros or the Men’s world cup as these events are played on separate occasions, but our aim should be to reach a point where we don’t have to use “women’s sport” as a separate term. Of course steps are being made to make professional sport more equal and to grant similar air times to men’s and women’s sport, but these trends aren’t going to change overnight.

 Female football in England has had a turbulent history that is often forgotten today and it is no wonder that the female game has only just started becoming successful again following the banning of it by the FA in 1921. If you haven’t seen the Channel 4 documentary “When football banned Women” it is a great place to start and really should not be missed! Following the ban on women’s football by the FA in1921 however the female game does seem to be progressing and the sport is becoming increasingly popular.

There should be no limits to what someone can aspire to achieve and we encourage our girls to have BIG aspirations. One of our emerging Girls United slogans is “We play like girls” because being a girl in football is nothing to be ashamed about, it is instead something to be celebrated! We hope that the use of ‘women’ as a term in sport can start to disappear and that sports players should all be respected in their own right.

Who knows in a few years perhaps the Football World cup – men’s and women’s tournaments – will be played and broadcasted at the same place, at the same time and on the same channel! For us this movement starts here in Bacalar and we hope that our aims and our mission will begin to spread worldwide.  

Director's Notes: June 11th


By the evening of the 5th, everyone had arrived at the bungalow. My week of hectic preparation had been almost successful. Everything was in place - except for the mattresses.  To my embarrassment, those came a day late. Luckily, the volunteers that arrived were an understanding and adaptable bunch. It didn’t take long to get a feel for the personalities in the group. I was so excited to see we had a great mix of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, but all with the disposition to immerse themselves in the project.

That first week was spent taking the coaching course and getting to know one another, from the classroom to the pitch.  Our team consisted of four volunteers from aboard, five local university students studying to be physical education teachers, our Spanish teacher, the coach, and myself. The first day, like any, was a little quiet as people familiarised themselves with the atmosphere and with each other. But as the week went on the language barrier began fading as volunteers began joking around and getting to know each other and even got past the language barrier – with, of course, the exchange of swear words the first to break through when I wasn’t looking. I was thrilled to see all nine volunteers slowly getting a sense for the vision of the project. The week was an opportunity to focus on understanding the greater impact we could all make through teaching football.

It is not always obvious that practicing football can go beyond 4-4-2 and nutmegs. Sports education, much like the wider realm of education, has long been a field with a tradition of static coaching methods where kids are not so much taught but told. The football industry, with its signature humbleness, does little to help. Consequently, there aren’t many kids around the world that are being taught positive values through football. Nonetheless the experience of committing to training sessions, applying yourself at practice to see results at matches - not just for yourself but for your teammates - and continuing forward whether you win or lose, are all actions that eventually develop into values and attributes. Though I might not have been aware of it at the time, my experience in football, admittedly a privileged one, helped me develop as a person. I am by no means on expert on the subject but I have come to firmly believe in the power of football – the physical health it encourages, the teamwork it necessitates, the conviction it requires, the analysis it instigates - all through a game that kids and adults alike around the world love. Thus my focus for the week was to share and explore techniques for GU coaches to teach in a manner that would be conducive to wider learning. It seems that education is moving away from staid, traditional methods and more towards dynamic mental processes that encourage understanding of the game and correct technique. However, there is still a long way to go; and addressing that is my priority for myself as a coach and for all coaches that work within Girls United.

The inauguration event arrived in a heartbeat. As we pulled up to the pitch, I was anxious to see how many girls, if any, would show up. Just outside, I saw a girl sitting at the bus stop with her mom and a bottle of water. ‘At least we’ll have one!’ I stammered to the volunteers. After those initial nerves disappeared, I completely forgot to worry any more. More girls started to arrive slowly, the coaches got them involved straight away, the parents patiently listened to me talk about the project and the only six songs on my USB played on repeat for the following 3 hours (if the parents didn’t gain anything else from the meeting, they at least learned the lyrics to “procura”).  We had about 40 girls sign-up, and it was more than enough to warrant celebrate. The team headed to the edge of the lagoon to present the new coaches with their certificates, as the Girls United Football Association officially kicked off for the summer!