The FIFA Women’s World Cup has given a massive boost to women’s football in New Zealand. A group of excited young players on the Coast had the opportunity of a lifetime when development coaches, including a former player in a top-notch London club, visited for a special coaching session on August 4.
Hibiscus Coast AFC was one of seven clubs and 12 schools selected out of more than 300 that registered in the hope of winning a visit from AIA Tottenham Hotspur global football development coaches Shannon Moloney and Tegan Burling. The aim is to inspire and encourage Kiwi kids, especially girls, to live healthier, longer, better lives by staying active through sport.
Shannon, who played for Tottenham Hotspur’s women’s team from 2013 to 2018, is a qualified teacher and personal trainer and coach.
“Access to female role models is so important for girls to get into sport,” she said before the training session began. “When I grew up it was all male referees, male coaches – it’s so different now.”
Football can often be seen as a poor relation to rugby or netball in New Zealand, but Shannon said she hasn’t seen evidence of that here, pointing to the current and previous world cups, both women’s and men’s.
The 2023 event has been “trail blazing”, she said, providing heroes for youngsters to emulate.
Before they took to the pitch Shannon gave the girls an inspiring and humorous talk about life as a professional footballer – although without downplaying the challenges as well, from injury to disappointment over a loss, and even the sacrifice of getting to bed early rather than joining friends for a Saturday night out.
She encouraged her listeners to strive to reach their goals, saying the opportunities available to them now simply didn’t exist back when a career guidance counsellor said of her own desire to be a pro footballer, “That’s wonderful. How about becoming a hairdresser?”