The LaSalle Minor Soccer Association (LMSA) is aiming to increase girls’ participation through a new program called Girls for Girls. The training will feature only female staff running the drills for players aged 8 to 14, with former French professional soccer player Marinette Pichon leading the sessions. The program was created by the club, Pichon and technical staff member Antonio Bruzzese, who is in charge of girls’ development in LaSalle. “We have a lot of girls who want to play soccer but don’t have those opportunities to make it,” Marinette Pichon explained. “If we find a chance to have a club to make this happen, it’s an opportunity. If one [club] does it, there could be a second or third one or fourth one.” The organizers’ hope is that more clubs will implement similar programs to encourage girls to keep up with the sport. The first session took place on September 19th at Riverside Park in LaSalle. The staff arrived bright and early to set up the training stations on the turf. With designated entrances and exits where participants could sanitize their hands, the event was ready to go at 8:00 a.m. with some 40 girls on hand. Each instructor was assigned a group to guide through the drills. Pichon popped in and out, giving instructions and encouragement as she went. At the end of the session, the girls got to take a socially-distanced picture with her and an autograph on their t-shirt. Gilleanne Estrada was an instructor at the event; she coaches the under-11 competitive girls’ team and is the only female head coach in LaSalle. Estrada is also the only coach with an all-female support staff in the organization. “I think every year is a new step for LaSalle Soccer,” Estrada said. “Every year they put in a new program and new help. This year we’ve decided to have this program to show we’re still working on girls’ soccer.” The most important question, though, was did the kids have fun? Judging by the smiles and laughter that filled pitch, it seemed so.
Girls for Girls had two more sessions on September 27th and October 3rd with around 60 participants taking part. Organizers hope to plan more events with a wider reach when allowed to resume activities by the government. Registration will be open to all girls who play soccer between ages 8-14 but priority will be given to players from LaSalle.