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 Corinne Heritage about her experiences of Solidarity Soccer, and what kind of impact it has had on and off the pitch – Corinne has won the Solidarity Soccer Tech and Tekkers Digital Award for how quickly she learnt the Cruyff Turn and applied it into game situations, the Personalised Aims Digital Award for making considerable progress and development with the aims she set herself when joining the initiative and also the Teamwork award with her now a player/coach for the AFC Unity Jets!
AFC Unity: In a few words, how would you describe Solidarity Soccer to someone who hasn’t been?
Corinne: Primarily it is football skills training for women of ANY level in a friendly, 100% positive and fun atmosphere that empowers women of all abilities. Love football? You’ll love this. Hate football? You’ll probably still love this!
AFC Unity: What would you say to someone who hasn’t been to Solidarity Soccer if you wanted them to come along?
Corinne: Do it. You will be welcomed. I guarantee you won’t regret it!
AFC Unity: Do you have any stories that stand out from your time of being involved in Solidarity Soccer?
Corinne: A personal one for me happened as I was leaving after one Solidarity Soccer session. Some of the women who were staying for the first team and Jets training started calling me back to join them. I never felt I’d be good enough to be in any 11 a side team and that I’d only be wasting mine and everyone else’s time by trying. But, here they were encouraging me – all smiles – and the coaches too. So, I went over to the training and here too, I was made welcome and felt I was accepted and could contribute. I haven’t looked back. I definitely made the right choice that evening. I’m sure others who do Solidarity Soccer will have a similar story about overcoming a barrier.
AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer had an impact on your outside football life?
Corinne: Okay, how long have you got?! YES, a massive impact. Aside from the obvious stuff like improved fitness, making new friends etc. I would say that I’m just way more confident and positive in all areas of my life – job, relationships, family and so on. As my confidence and skills have improved on the pitch, so have they in my life outside football. The club’s positive ethos in the sessions rubs off and contributes to my life outside.
AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer helped you with 11-a-side football at all?
Corinne: Definitely. The skills and small sided games we practise every week are essential to improve ability and prepare for the 11 a side game. Learning a new skill in depth each month in Tech and Tekkers really gives you time to consolidate and practice it so you gain the confidence to use it in an 11 a side game. The value and time the coaches place on these skills gives us permission to use them in matches and, even if we make mistakes doing so, we are still applauded by coaches and teammates. This way we learn and improve. The mix of ability and experience amongst participants also means we can share skills and learn from each other.
AFC Unity: If you could pick one word to describe Solidarity Soccer what would it be?
Corinne: JOY, or, INCLUSIVE (you choose – the first word came to me straight away, but it is, importantly, the second word also – and many more, in fact!)
AFC Unity: What has been your favourite skill to learn and why?
Corinne: Cruyff Turn because it was hard, but I got it! And it is absolutely gorgeous.
AFC Unity: Anything else to add?
Corinne: Loads, but I’ll save that for the book 🙂