By Ashleigh McIntosh
Kate Guy is giving the benefit of more than 40 years’ experience to the youth girls team at Mt Gravatt.
The Under 15 coach has a simple message for all girls – ‘get involved, bring a mate, bring a friend and have a kick. Have a go!’
The opportunities for women and girls to play AFL have come in leaps and bounds since Guy first took to the field as a teenager in the 1960s.
When she first played AFL, the women’s league consisted of one annual carnival day, leaving little room for girls to get involved and play football.
The 2011 season sees a growing number of competitions opening up for women and girls of all ages to take part and develop their skills.
“Back when I was a teenager we only had played the annual women’s game, in my age group we weren’t allowed to play regular footy,” Guy said.
After a number of stints coaching junior boys football in the 1980s and 90s, Guy has once again joined forces with her childhood football club Mt Gravatt to develop and coach the club’s first under 15 girls youth squad.
“I’ve been brought up with AFL all my life. I first went to Mt Gravatt when I was eight, so I was just following my brothers, that is back in the late 60s and obviously girls weren’t allowed to play then,” she said.
“When I became a teenager we played in the women’s team and then started coaching the boys because that is all I could do to get involved back in those days.
“This year, after 20-odd years, I heard that Mt Gravatt were getting a girls team together and thought I would love to be a part of it, so here I am back again.”
Her team has already overcome a steep learning curve after a 31-goal loss at the hands Park Ridge Green, which forced the young Mt Gravatt team to readjust their mindset.
“The girls were just dumbfounded,” she said, “I suppose the pace of it. The second week we improved, they started thinking we can do that and using a bit of teamwork and then last week we had our first win so it was amazing.”
“To see the joys on their faces when they can kick a goal or get a bit of teamwork, it has been really good.”
The final margin is not the only thing to have changed in Guy’s time at the club.
In the limited amount of time Guy has been coaching the under 15 side she has seen a vast improvement in each of her players.
“The boys I used to coach were only seven and eight-year-olds so I was getting first-time players, which I guess is similar this time,” she said.
“A lot of the girls are first time players, so I suppose they are still feeling their way. It has been very enjoyable for the last few weeks.
“With coaching it is always the joy in watching the kids improve and go somewhere with their footy.
“It is good to be back and good to be out there seeing the girls that are keen and want to learn the skills. There are some very talented young girls out there.”
While Guy is amazed by the improvement in opportunities for girls and women in the AFL, she has identified two key areas that still need some improvement, participation numbers and respect from the boys.
“I think just because we are females and even though they haven’t played competition league or football… (some males) don’t think we have the knowledge or the know-how,” she said.
“That is one of the main things, getting the respect from the males that we can do it. Why not let the girls play? There are some really good players out there.”
The Mt Gravatt youth girls side may have notched their first win for the season but they are still undermanned week in week out due to a lack of girls signing on.
“We still need to get the numbers up. I am not even playing with a full team yet. We haven’t got the numbers,” Guy said.
“Just to get another three or four girls to come along would be handy.”
Guy believes a lack of awareness in the general community about options for girls to get involved is to blame, not a lack of interest.
“I knew there was a women’s league just reading the local paper over the past few years but I didn’t realise there were all of these other age groups,” she said.
“More publicity, getting it out there and saying this is available. There are teams in these areas, go join up.”
The AFL women’s league may have to play catch up to soccer and netball, but Guy believes they are heading in the right direction.
“We just need a bigger pool of players to compete interstate,” she said. “I suppose it’s about just getting the message out there. Girls can play footy just as well.
“Any publicity is good publicity.”