How seven young Calverley girls formed foundations for almost 100 to compete at football
Seven young female footballers who put on their boots in 2017 have formed the foundations of a thriving hub of girls' sport in Calverley in 2021 - with almost 100 turning out every week for the village.
Luke Cooper, 24, is the football and club development officer at Calverley United.
Speaking to the YEP, he told the story of how he coached the seven girls playing in separate boys teams back in 2017.
Eager to 'do something' and support the girls, Luke along with club coaches James Clayton and Nick Baker formed the first girls pathway set up at the club in their history.
Within just one season, the numbers of girls playing football in the village each week grew to 30.
Now, nearly 100 girls pull on the club colours of yellow and blue each week, gradually becoming one of the most thriving hubs for female sport in Leeds.
Luke told the YEP the teams - ranging in ages from reception to Year 5 children - were "absolutely thriving".
Using the motto 'Calverley Girls Can', he has overseen an incredible upturn in fortunes for the teams - while sticking to the values set out by the original seven girls in 2017.
Luke said: "Every now and then we have a girl join one of our football teams which is common across all football clubs without a girls section.
"However, in 2016, we had seven girls turning up to our training sessions for five and six year olds.
"With myself running the age-group at the time, I knew that I had to do something and put a girls team together.
"By summer 2017, we got the girls to play their first girls match, which was against local neighbours Horsforth.
"It was such a fantastic experience for the girls, that we then decided to take them to a few West Riding Girls' football galas.
"The girls were absolutely thriving playing together and against other girls' teams.
"This is when planning really got into motion to set up a pathway for girls football at the club.
"Two parents, James Clayton and Nick Baker got involved with me and we began to plan our first girls' training session in May 2018 that we would open up to newcomers.
"With lots of planning and the usual football logistics to organise, it was May 2018 that 7 girls quickly became 30, as they came down to play football at Victoria Park.
"It was a very special and proud moment for all concerned and we have gone from strength to strength ever since."
Luke said for a "small community village, when in comparison to local neighbours, it is a tremendous feat" to see so many girls competing.
The U10 girls team reached the West Riding Cup Final in 2020 and were only pipped to the trophy by a single goal.
The original seven girls were also awarded at the 2019 presentation for inspiring their generation.
Luke said: "We invited our first ever chairman Dave Hastings to present the awards that day, who helped set the club up in 1989.
"His grand-daughters now play for the club with his son coaching one of the teams which epitomises the community feel of the club, with generations carrying it on.
"We are always looking to give girls interested in football the opportunity to play and most importantly learn new skills and have fun, as part of a team."
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