Girls seizing chance to get on the ball in Innerleithen

It’s not often that recent years’ coronavirus lockdowns get credited with positive outcomes, but that’s certainly been the case for the development of girls’ football at Leithen Vale Sports Club, as highlighted at the weekend when it hosted its first-ever under-11s tournament, featuring opposition from Galashiels, Melrose, Coldstream and Lauder.

By Rich Rowe
Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 11:24 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 11:24 am
All the girls who took part in the under-11s' football festival hosted by Leithen Vale Sports Club (Photo: Natalie Martin)
All the girls who took part in the under-11s' football festival hosted by Leithen Vale Sports Club (Photo: Natalie Martin)

One of a series of tournaments being held at clubs throughout the Borders, that event in Innerleithen saw more than 50 girls aged five to 11 play round-robin games on pitches of assorted sizes.

According to its organisers, it’s a perfect example of how far girls’ football has come on in the Borders over the last year, thanks in part to youngsters being desperate to get out and about again following the second Covid-19 lockdown.

Sensing that revived enthusiasm for outdoor exercise, club chairman Ally Robb saw potential to develop an all-girls team for the first time. Helped by fellow coach Bob Campbell, he ran an initial training session for P5, P6 and P7 girls, followed by a friendly against Penicuik in June 2021.

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Leithen Vale Sports Club's girls' under-11 squad (Photo: Natalie Martin)

“After a great first game, coaches and parents alike were keen to ensure this new chapter in the club’s history was given every opportunity to succeed,” said Robb.

In the nine months since the inaugural game, the club has extended training to include girls from P3 upwards and recruited three new coaches to oversee weekly training sessions and games.

The club and team are now affiliated with the Scottish Women’s Football Association and, so far this year, have taken part in tournaments in Lauder, Galashiels and Coldstream, playing a mix of three, four and seven-a-side games.

Among those enjoying getting sport in the act again is goalkeeper Sophie Thomas, nine.

“We get to play with different age groups and we all play well together,” she said.

“I think there is more passing in girls’ football.”

Orla Thomson, 10, added: “It’s a completely different atmosphere in the girls’ team, with the older players really helping the younger ones.

“We all love playing in front of spectators as they shout their support.”

Training sessions at the club will continue throughout the spring and summer, with the U11 girls next in competitive action at a tournament in Galashiels in May.