New coaching sessions give East End girls a chance to develop their skills
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
A Wick-based youth football club is offering new opportunities for girls to take up the game.
East End began girls-only sessions last week and the coaches were delighted with the response, with almost 60 attending on the first night.
Coaching is now taking place every Monday in the Wick High School games hall for two age groups, under-eights and under-12s.
Founded in 1920, East End was historically a boys' club but for a number of years now girls have been equally welcome.
Across the club there is coaching for under-sixes, under-eights, under-10s, under-12s, under-14s and under-16s in addition to the new sessions exclusively for girls. The club as a whole has nearly 300 members.
"It's just to encourage girls to play," said club chairman James More, whose seven-year-old daughter Lily is in the under-eights.
"It can be a bit off-putting for them coming along and playing with boys, so we're giving them the space as girls only and it's working
"The girls' game is growing across the world, so we thought we'd give it a go.
"We had a couple of conversations with parents so I went to the committee and said, 'Should we try girls only?' To be fair, every member of the committee said yes, we should."
The club booked the Wick High School games hall for a Monday evening and advertised the girls' sessions on Facebook.
"I expected maybe 20 across the primary school age groups and almost 70 emails came through," More said.
"It might end up being eights, 10s and 12s because the numbers are a lot bigger than we expected. We've had more sign up, so it's looking like the numbers will stay high.
"We've had requests for high school girls as well, so it might come in the future.
"It's brilliant for us to see, because for a long, long time it was East End Boys' Club and it was boys only. That got dropped a number of years ago."
The girls' sessions are taking place from 5.30pm to 6.15pm for the under-eights (P1-3) and from 6.15pm to 7pm for the under-12s (P4-7).
Anyone wishing to join in can get in touch through East End's Facebook page or email email@example.com
"Everyone gets two free sessions, to see if they like it or not, and it's up to them if they want to keep coming or not," More explained.
The demand reflects the rise of girls' and women's football generally in recent years.
Locally, Caithness Ladies have said they hope their achievements will inspire the next generation. This year the team reached a cup final for the first time and finished third in the Scottish Women's Football Highlands and Islands League.
More said: "We've spoken to Caithness Ladies to see if they want to have a link, if they want to get involved in our sessions.
"We're just restricting it to primary school to start with. I believe Caithness Ladies can't take players until they're 14.
"I won't make any promises but hopefully within a year or so we can have an under-14 group so they've got the whole pathway through East End and then they can go on to the ladies, rather than having that wee gap that there is now. There's a fair bit of work involved."
Andrew Henderson, one of the coaches, has been taking his daughter Lexy (9) to East End training and festivals for a couple of years now.
"The club thought if they started girls-only sessions it might encourage more girls to take part in football," he said. "There are also a couple of female coaches and this is also great to see.
"Caithness Ladies have done extremely well over the last couple of seasons and hopefully they can be an inspiration to the next generation of female footballers in the county.
"The goal is to encourage girls to take up football and to progress to the senior female set-up. It might take time to build it up but we are all committed to it."