Amy Chapman is one of several Roar players taking clinics | (Credit: Dani Brady)
Shifting out of an uncomfortable slouching position and squinting out across the Clem Jones Field, I struggle to find the celebrity guestin amongst the nets and circling footballers. These coaches have come to take Brisbane's Junior goalkeepers in a skills clinic today.
There she is...
Can always spot a 'soccer chick' by her cowboy-esque stance; feet apart, one hip pushed out to the side as if constantly balancing a football against her hipbone, arms crossed and shoulders back. All with an air of confidence and a slightly gritty expression curled up into a lopsided squint.
Melissa "Bubs" Barbieri, Captain of the Westfield Matildas, is standing casually in the middle of a bustling mob of young up and coming Goal Keepers who are dribbling, catching, lobbing and whatever else they can do to try and impress the affable footballer. She's visiting for the day and has travelled from Melbourne to the sunshine state of Queensland, to help inspire and motivate grassroot 'keepers, with the dream of becoming the next Mark Schwarzer or of course, Bubs herself.
My mate, Meshelle (aka Doona) is out there in amongst the 'little kids'. Being the 'big kid' of today's clinic, I fear she's a little embarrassed to be the only adult aged participant. But I'm proud of her because I understand her passion for the sport and her eagerness to learn and grow under the guidance of one of the game's greats.
And why not? Why not take advantage of the tremendous opportunity to play alongside your national heroes? Can only provide a decent chance to improve your skill base and confidence by learning off the best.
And what a thrill to meet them!
For me personally, my idolisation of sporting heroes has never been about them being famous. It's about respect and admiration for what these athletes go through to attain the status that they achieve. By showing up to these clinics, whether you're 8 or 28, is a sign of support which can hopefully in turn inspire our sporting heroes to go harder. When they go harder, Australia has a decent crack at winning competitions, and the media covers the event, and the sponsors turn up with their cheque books! A very simplistic view but in a nutshell, a breeding ground towards a win win situation.
Yes, Doona and I are doing our bit for our country... ha!
But to be fair to all those grassroots footballers; leaning back in their plastic chairs, sipping beers after a weekend's fixture, and enthusiastically giving their "expert" opinion on how our local and national heroes are traveling in their chosen sport - here's a good reason why more adults don't mostly participate in these skill clinics... they mostly don't exist!
Most if not all are geared and marketed towards our Junior talent; our future in sport.
With a surge of inspiration, I snap to attention and swing my legs around off the back of the row of chairs in front of me, landing firmly on the cool concrete of the Clem Jones grandstand. Leaning forward resting my chin into my hands and elbows on my knees, I muse to myself, "So, why not have more adult skills clinics then?"
Maybe most of the grassroot footballers of a mature age may not fancy themselves as a decent chance at a national call-up, but surely there are other benefits associated with bringing together sporting icons with our weekend warriors?
For one thing, it can personally introduce soccer Mums/Dads and carers to their kid's heroes. And who drives these kids to sporting events? Who buys the merchandise for the family and support crew to wear to these events? Additionally, as aspiring, active adults look towards weekend sporting ventures/Gyms etc, these type of clinics can most definitely help towards improving mature footballers.
An all inclusive environment that promotes health and fitness for all ages. Obviously, these "brilliant" points have already been fully utilized/ analyzed and canonized by the community and marketing agents; mainly in support of the male sporting arena, but not so much for the female sporting arena.
Grassroots clinics with local, adult aged female footballers (and let's face it- there are thousands of them every week lacing up at their local club) teamed up with elite, female footballers; to kickstart a growing awareness of some kick-ass talent!
Bringing the female support out to the stadiums, the coffee carts parked next to the beer tents (options... not being sexist), and of course the boys and men are also welcome! Just leave any preconceived ideas that women can't play football. Get comfy in your plastic chairs and see for yourselves. Girls can kick it!
Right... no more musing and off to find some elite, female footballers! It's time to sort a mature age, grassroots clinic.
[youtube url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foaYs58hTlM" width="560" height="315"]
Amy Chapman, Brooke Spence and Kate Stewart talk about teaching mature age clinics
*On Saturday 25th February, 2012... the 1st 'Football for Her' clinic was run. It was held at Annerley FC (Brisbane) with 16 willing participants (aged between 18-55) with varying levels and experiences of football. It was a huge success and both coaches and participants witnessed the beginnings of a strong support network and a mutual appreciation between grassroots and elite.