Solidarity Soccer Participant Spotlight: Becky Rayner

Solidarity Soccer is our innovative community based football training initiative for women which has empowerment, skill sharing and a personalised approach shaping it. We have a session running at Hillsborough College, a session based at Concord Sports Centre and another session at Meadowhead School, running weekly – we have plans to expand the initiative into more areas and engage more women in the sport in a unique way.

We spoke to regular Solidarity Soccer attendee Becky Rayner about her experiences of Solidarity Soccer, and what kind of impact it has had on and off the pitch – Becky has won the Teamwork Digital Award and has recently become part of the AFC Unity 11-a-side team after getting back into and reconnecting with the sport via Solidarity Soccer! screenshot-from-2016-10-24-14-10-11

AFC Unity: In a few words, how would you describe Solidarity Soccer to someone who hasn’t been?
Becky:
It’s an innovative football programme that engages women of all abilities.  The sessions focus on specific skills each month so that players can develop and learn new skills. It’s non committal and very fun and brings the community together. 

AFC Unity: What would you say to someone who hasn’t been to Solidarity Soccer if you wanted them to come along?
Becky: Come along and give it a go – the welcoming atmosphere makes you feel part of the Unity family regardless of ability. These sessions bring back what football is all about – teamwork, development, fun, positivity and friendships. 

AFC Unity: Do you have any stories that stand out from your time of being involved in Solidarity Soccer?
Becky: What stands out for me is the fact that Solidarity has reminded me why I fell in love with the sport to begin with. Also the encouragement from everyone to join the 11-a-side team was really overwhelming and inspiring. It’s a decision I have not looked back at.

AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer had an impact on your outside football life?
Becky: Solidarity has given me a work life balance.

AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer helped you with 11-a-side football at all?
Becky: Absolutely – Solidarity was the foundation for me to progress into 11-a-side football. It also set a precedent about the club i.e the ethos and values. You cannot win a game with 11 individuals. You can only win as one team, united under a common purpose, drive and passion. 

AFC Unity: If you could pick one word to describe Solidarity Soccer what would it be?
Becky: Inspirational

AFC Unity: Anything else to add?
Becky: I have lots of positive memories but if I was pushed to pick one it would be my first 11-a-side match against Mexborough. Even though we lost the team stuck together and gave everything until the end. #UNITY  

Up the Left Wing

by Jay Baker

UpTheLeftWingThe season is well and truly upon us with the incredibly audacious creation of a second team, the AFC Unity Jets, who I had the pleasure of watching in the cup today.

Such an advancement and expansion for an independent women’s football club like ours was always going to be a challenge, one that’s meant not just a building process for one team, but for another, a rebuilding process.

While AFC Unity Jets Head Coach Emily Salvin has brilliantly dealt with the task of including players in the valuable developmental experience of those competitive matches, in turn I have had to approach my own team with an emphasis on “quality not quantity” which has required patience and a slow progress on registering players while at the same time dealing with several unfortunate injuries.

But it is with this context that I look at the club as a whole and feel nothing but positivity for the future – a second team with a youthful, dynamic female in charge and an infectious spirit about it, learning and getting better all the time – both individually and collectively – and then, a first team designed to dig its heels in and lead the club to success on the pitch, which in turn enables us to achieve more off the pitch as well.

Ultimately, though, even I sometimes get caught up in the competition of the established pyramid – the divisions mixed up as they are with such a wide range of standards resulting in disparate scorelines up and down the league – and it’s important that none of us, myself included, forget the AFC Unity ethos of “100% positivity” and first and foremost make sure players enjoy their football and embrace our ethos in order to do so. After all, results are fleeting. And as we always say, when you become just about winning, when you lose you find you have nothing else left. Our goal is the greater good: developing not just good players but good people; and doing social good in the local community with things like the Football for Food campaign. Even our style of play is an important part of our identity and ethos – brave, bold, and attacking as it is.

The award-winning Solidarity Soccer initiative gained more recognition this past week at the Sport England awards in Westminster, giving us faith that, while longtime players rediscover their love for the sport, this innovative approach is why newer players pick up our ethos before going into the AFC Unity Jets, as evidenced by their recent nomination for a Respect award, as well.

Expanding in the way we have has presented us with another great challenge, and challenges are healthy; they’re character-building. And though it’s easy to get caught up with the modern football culture of quick-fix solutions and knee-jerk reactions, we continue to think long-term. We chose not to rest on our laurels and instead take things to the next level, as tough as it might be, for long-term sustainability.

Good things come to those who wait.

New Solidarity Soccer Training Session Starting at Meadowhead!

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We are excited to announce the start of a new 10-week training programme – funded by Sheffield Town Trust – as part of our Solidarity Soccer initiative that will take place at Meadowhead School, as we continue to expand our provision across Sheffield.

We currently run two Solidarity Soccer sessions, one at Hillsborough College on a Monday evening and one at Concord Sports Centre on a Tuesday evening – this new session will take place on a Wednesday evening, adding to our ever expanding provision for women to get involved in the sport regardless of skill level and experience.

The sessions are open to women over 16 years old – to get involved please get in touch!

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New Free Female Football Sessions in Parson Cross and Fir Vale!

parsoncrossflier firvaleflierLocal female residents in Parson Cross and Fir Vale will be able to get involved in free football training sessions taking place locally.

AFC Unity are running thirteen 2-hour indoor football sessions at Mount Tabor, Wordsworth Ave, Sheffield, S5 8NJ, 1-3pm starting from the 19th of October running weekly on a Wednesday and fourteen 45-minute outdoor football sessions at Fir Vale Community Sports Centre, Owler La, Sheffield S4 8GB, 6-6.45pm starting from the 26th of October running weekly on a Wednesday.

AFC Unity’s Manager, Jay Baker, said “We are very thankful for the funding from the Comic Relief Local Communities Programme and the Police & Crime Commissioner’s Fund via South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation. This funding will enable us to deliver training sessions that will engage females aged 16 years and above in the sport and will be designed so that females of any skill level and experience will be able to take part and develop on and off the pitch through our innovative football-based provision!”

People interested in getting involved with the training can do so by contacting AFC Unity at AFC Unity, The Circle, 33 Rockingham Lane, Sheffield, S1 4FW or by emailing afcunity@gmail.com

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AFC Unity go to London as Yorkshire’s Satellite Club of the Year!

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Following on from our FA Respect Award win, AFC Unity are now in line for another national award next week at a ceremony in the Houses of Parliament.

We are one of three finalists that will travel to Westminster on Wednesday, October 12th, in with a chance of being named Sport England’s Satellite Club of the Year, having already taken the regional award for Yorkshire earlier this summer – the first ever South Yorkshire recipients.

South Yorkshire Sport awarded Satellite Club funding to AFC Unity that enabled us to establish our innovative Solidarity Soccer initiative, amongst other training, at Hillsborough College, and has since expanded to Concord Sports Centre with more sessions popping up across the city of Sheffield. AFC Unity have engaged over a hundred women with this approach, with several progression routes and the unenviable task of moving forward with the establishment of not one but two 11-a-side teams to meet demand.

Satellite clubs are extensions of community sports clubs, which use different venues such as a secondary schools or colleges to offer a range of sports to young people who may not be regularly active, or lack the confidence to join a sports club.

The award recognises the efforts of AFC Unity not just for these on-the-pitch initiatives but for campaigns such as Football for Food, which has raised 781kg of food for local food banks.

‘It’s a great honour to receive this award and represent Yorkshire,’ commented Jay Baker, Co-Founder and Manager of AFC Unity. ‘The Yorkshire Sport Foundation and South Yorkshire Sport have been by far the most supportive organisation for us since day one and without whom AFC Unity would not exist or carry out any of its community activities or get women involved to the extent we have. To be recognised in this way means a lot to us and we are excited to represent South Yorkshire in the country’s capital!’

‘It’s great to receive recognition for providing so many different options for women to get involved in football via AFC Unity,’ said Co-Founder and first team captain Jane Watkinson. ‘We’ve engaged high levels of participation because we’ve given opportunities for women regardless of their experience, age, ability, or background – there’s an option for every one to get involved.’

Nigel Harrison, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Sport Foundation who run South Yorkshire Sport, added: ‘To be one of the top three projects in the country is a great testament to the work all at AFC Unity have done to get more women playing football. We congratulate them for that and hope they bring first prize back to Yorkshire.’

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Solidarity Soccer Participant Spotlight: Jodie Spillings

Solidarity Soccer is our innovative community based football training initiative for women which has empowerment, skill sharing and a personalised approach shaping it. We have a session running at Hillsborough College and another session based at Concord Sports Centre, running weekly – we have plans to expand the initiative into more areas and engage more women in the sport in a unique way.

We spoke to regular Solidarity Soccer attendee Jodie Spillings about her experiences of Solidarity Soccer, and what kind of impact it has had on and off the pitch – Jodie has won the Role Model Digital Award and has become a popular participant on the initiative.

AFC Unity: In a few words, how would you describe Solidarity Soccer to someone who hasn’t been?
Jodie: It’s a great way to meet new people and have fun in a really relaxed session with the opportunity to learn new skills.

AFC Unity: What would you say to someone who hasn’t been to Solidarity Soccer if you wanted them to come along?
Jodie: Come and give it a go; you’ll love it. digitalawardsrlmdl

AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer had an impact on your life outside football?
Jodie: I feel more confident as a person.

AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer helped you with 11-a-side football at all?
Jodie: Yeah, I feel more confident whilst on the ball and it’s improved my fitness a lot!

AFC Unity: If you could pick one word to describe Solidarity Soccer what would it be?
Jodie: Awesome!

AFC Unity: What has been your favourite skill to learn and why?
Jodie: I have enjoyed learning them all to be quite honest. Don’t think I could just pick one.

AFC Unity: Anything else to add?
Jodie: Everybody should come along. More the merrier.