Garston Ladies FC is a football club for girls and women, based at Bushey Sports Club (formerly known as the Metropolitan Police Sports Club) in Bushey, Hertfordshire. The club was formed in 1996 at Lea Farm School, Watford as Garston Girls FC and has grown rapidly to become the largest female-only club in Hertfordshire.
In May 2002, Garston Girls joined forces with Everett Ladies to form Garston Ladies FC. The club was awarded the FA Charter Standard in December 2005 in recognition of its high standards. Garston Ladies has become increasingly successful, winning a number of county cups and league titles.
The club has been affiliated to the Hertfordshire FA since the club was formed. Our junior teams (under-16 and below) play in the Hertfordshire Girls Football Partnership League while the older teams (including two senior teams) compete in the Beds & Herts County Girls & Women's Football League.
For the 2015-2016 season, Garston Ladies re-branded its junior teams with the names of big cats to differentiate between different teams in the same age group. In January 2013, Garston Ladies FC formed an informal partnership with local boys' youth team Bushey & Oxhey FC and in September 2014, it was announced that Garston Ladies FC had been named as an advanced club associate of Arsenal Ladies FC.
As a grassroots football club, we believe very firmly in the concept of football for all. We don’t hold trials and we never turn players away – we believe that football should be fun, but we also encourage those who want a bit more from the game to aim as high as they possibly can.
The growth in the club has been phenomenal in recent years; with just 11 teams in the 2012-2013 season, we are now running 25 separate squads, with ages ranging from five to adult. Attracting new players, particularly at the younger age groups has been a cornerstone of our club’s philosophy over the past five years.
We are aiming to address the perennial problem of girls dropping out of the game as they enter their teenage years in a number of ways. Principally, we’re doing this by making the whole football experience more enjoyable for girls of all ages so that the numbers dropping out are reduced. We’re also hoping that, by having multiple squads at each age group, we will always be able to bring at least one team per year into senior football.
It’s a battle, and it’s not going to be easy, but it’s looking good for the future. Our relationship with Arsenal Ladies is an important part of this long-term plan, as is our appointment of a coach and player development officer, Steve Thomas, who is able to support our coaches from the first day that they volunteer to help out and ensure that they are given access to the relevant coaching courses and that they have someone to discuss any particular concerns or issues with.
Steve also works closely with the Herts FA on these matters. We have a number of dedicated committee members who give up their own time to cover a whole host of areas which are vital to the successful running of the club. We have a press officer who ensures that our players’ successes on and off the field get the publicity that they deserve; another member looks after our kit sponsors, so that our girls always arrive at training sessions and at games, looking smart and feeling positive about themselves.
We have an events sub-committee that organises our annual Presentation Event as well as quiz nights, race nights and the ever-popular Christmas party. The club doesn’t run itself and the time that our committee members dedicate to the club is hugely appreciated by all and an essential part of our success.
The club has won a number of awards in recent years, including a prestigious ‘Audentior’ award from the Mayor of Watford in the ‘sporting achievement’ category in 2015. Last season, our under-15s were presented with a special Herts FA award for demonstrating great sportsmanship by dropping down to 10 players to match their opponents in a Cup final.
There are some challenges facing the club over the next few years; notably, how to manage the growth which is expected to continue, but there’s no doubt that the future looks bright for Garston Ladies FC.
The club was featured by Sky Sports in March 2014 as part of a focus on the grassroots game. The Sky reporter commented that, at a time when the number of people participating in football at this level was falling nationwide, Garston Ladies were ‘bucking the trend’ – and that’s what we intend to continue to do!Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source