We’ve recently been watching Scotland’s progress in the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 tournament. As with all sporting events, the Scottish team has not exactly provided us with delight. Losing 6-0 in their opening game wasn’t great and it was gutting to watch them go out last night – but we’ve still enjoyed cheering them on as a family!
Usually when the football is on, Katie will don her football kit and cheer for whatever colour she likes best. But it’s been brilliant watching her get excited about Women’s football. As positive role models go – these women are it!
When asked to describe herself, Katie would use the word ‘fierce’. Even when losing, the Scottish team have seemed exactly like this. It’s great to see strong women representing the country in sport in this way.
Not wanting to teach Katie any partisan attitudes, we’ve equally been cheering the England team on as a fellow home nation. Although they were in the same group as Scotland we’ll be rooting for them in the quarter-finals. I don’t think they really needed to score all six goals against us in the opening game; but at least it was fun for the kids who love to bounce around when there’s a goal. They’re at the delightful age where they don’t really care who wins!
If you’ve been watching the tournament you’ll have seen the adverts about McDonald’s Community Football. Whilst I’ve always been aware they do a massive amount of work in the community, particularly through the Ronald McDonald House Charities – I wasn’t fully aware of the work they do with sport.
Aside from being a key sponsor of the Women’s tournament, McDonald’s are also celebrating their 15th anniversary of their grassroots football programme. In this time they have helped recruit and train more than 30,000 coaches and helped over 7,000 clubs achieve Club Accreditation. They’ve also provided over 230,000 free kits to accredited clubs, recognised volunteers through it’s Community Awards, and provided much needed equipment to local clubs.
We’re really lucky in Edinburgh to have some great football clubs with coaching for children. Our local club, Spartans, offers coaching programmes for boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 12 years at all sorts of times. But the Women’s team is also in the Scottish Premier League and provide a great chance for kids to watch live football from a young age.
Supporting football at this level is so important to give as many kids as possible the chance to be part of a team. Aside from the obvious health and fitness aspect, being part of a community is great for mental health as well. I’m happy that my kids enjoy a range of sports, but have to say football is probably the easiest to facilitate!
Enjoying football as a family
Obviously, 90 minutes is a long time for any small child to sit and watch something on TV. But in my opinion, the UEFA’s Women’s EURO 2017 tournament is an important one to watch. Too many girls are put off sport (for whatever reason), so in my mind this has been a great opportunity to increase Katie’s interest in football – and to spend time as a family.
The kids really seem to have enjoyed the games we’ve watched so far but here are my tips for keeping them interested:
For Katie, it’s all about the clothes and in this instance this means football kit – or at least the relevant colour! We’re lucky in that the Scotland strip seems to be in less demand than some other teams (shock horror!) so is often on sale at a massive reduction. Katie loves wearing the same clothes as the players and it helps her to connect with the game. Whereas Thomas just seems to enjoy running around in his!
Get involved in the game
Katie seems highly entertained by joining in with us shouting at the game. But in terms of preparation for us watching, we’ve also had fun coming up with our own celebratory dances. This is something all the kids like to join in with and is an easy one to keep up wherever we’re watching the game.
For the first game we were still at home so Katie brought her mini-trampoline through to the living room. Whilst this might seem slightly strange, she actually just wanted to be able to cheer for Scotland by jumping! You may have seen this one on my Instagram Stories but did prove a great way of keeping her engaged with the game.
Theme your food
Last summer we took the kids to a baseball game in America. The game lasted for hours and then was followed by fireworks. Surely a memorable experience? Not in Katie’s world. She remembers the hotdogs.
Last Sunday’s match against Portugal was around dinner time anyway, so we just opted to eat whilst watching. We put together a tapas style dinner with lots the kids could just pick on. Tapas is by definition a snack dish so in my world can come in all kinds of varieties. Whilst Mike and I might be in love with chorizo, I usually put stuff out for the kids like grapes, pretzels, peppers and carrot sticks.
At half-time, I’ve found it’s good to have a treat waiting so icing fairy cakes in team colours is also a fun option. There’s definitely people out there who are far more talented at cake decorating, but my kids seem happy enough with blue or pink icing!
Arts and crafts
Katie adores arts and crafts, so I decided to get her involved in the game by creating a wee banner to wave during the game. Feel free to check out my colouring sheet here if you’re a Scotland fan!
Have a kick about
The best thing to do before a game is to get out and get playing. Watching the games over the past couple of weeks has really encouraged us to get out to our local park.
We’ve been staying with some friends who have loads of outdoors space in their local area so it’s been great to get out for a kick about!
The best thing about watching the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 tournament has been the boost to Katie’s interest in football. Whilst I can’t quite see her ever representing Scotland (although you never know!) I think it’s a brilliant sport. It’s totally accessible to anyone with a ball and a bit of space.
When I was travelling in Malawi, it was striking that the kids there would make a football out of anything – even a jumper tied up really tightly! It was a game that just bypasses all language barriers and can be played at all kinds of levels. The ability to do some ‘keepie uppies’ was certainly a valuable one!
To me, grassroots football programmes aren’t about finding the next Messi or Rooney; but rather is about getting kids outside and keeping them active. It’s about getting them involved in the local community and is an opportunity to make new friends.
Growing up in the 90’s, I definitely was in the minority of girls who actually played football. In my primary school there was a maximum of three who joined in the lunchtime kick about. We were all labelled ‘tom boys’ which apparently was the only possible reason a girl would play football! It still irks me to this day that this ultimately put me off playing for a long time.
Thankfully, I know my daughter will be attending a school with a very successful girl’s football team. We live practically next door to a stadium where the Women’s team is arguably more successful than the Men’s. But any look at Twitter during a Women’s game will tell you the misogyny hasn’t disappeared.
I think it’s important that Katie watches Women’s football – with her Dad and brothers cheering along too. It’s important that she has men in her life that give just as much value to women’s football as men’s. It’s also important for my sons to break the very broken record about Women’s football as well.
I also am therefore very proud to shout about the role that McDonald’s are playing in grassroots football; especially their sponsorship of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 tournament. The past 15 years have shown their commitment to inclusivity proudly announcing that football is for everyone; regardless of gender or disability. Here’s to another 15 years and more!
PS. If you’ve not been watching – it’s not too late! The Quarter-finals are on this weekend and you can still cheer England!
PPS. This is a collaborative post with McDonalds