When I quickly scan the football field, I catch a view of a team of girls encouraging one another to get the ball, pass the ball, and play the ball. Modder Sport Club, east of Johannesburg, reignited its soccer element this past weekend and here was not only a showcase of the men’s game: the team of girls on the field are from the JvW Girls Football Development Programme. Pioneered in early 2012, the Gauteng-based training initiative offers opportunities for young women to learn the skills and wills necessary to break into regional football league competition.
The Underscore caught up with the namesake of the Girls Football Development Programme, South African national women’s defender and reigning Ekurhuleni Sportswoman of the Year, Janine van Wyk:
_Describe the JvW Girls Football Development Programme in – at least – 5 words:
JvW: The Programme opens doors for girls by offering a development structure wherein they can gain exposure to local football and take the opportunity to live their dreams and be whom they want to be.
_Elaborate more on the structure of the Programme?
JvW: The Programme is built of a main group of girls who train together with the juniors training separately in order to develop their different set of skills. As the groups grow larger, they are broken into 3 sets: the beginners group for those still wanting to learn more about the game, the intermediate group where the drills are a bit harder and more of the fitness component comes in, and the advanced group who show progressive ability in the game.
_The channels of access to information to ladies club football training is not always clear. What have you found to be some of the challenges faced by females in a historically male-dominated industry?
JvW: The game is becoming a level playing field. Fortunately, there is a growing interest in women’s football – people are now watching the televised matches and people are getting to know the game better as both females and males playing the sport. There needs to be an added emphasis on developing young ones into the game all the way into Long-Term Athlete Development. The growing turnout for the JvW Girls Football Development Programme shows the positive interest of a lot of girls and their parents who may have otherwise not have known where to go.
_As evident in the day’s atmosphere, there is a genuine team spirit at play within the JvW camp. How do you motivate the athletes you encounter at their best and / or worst of form?
JvW: The girls all get along well, gel well, and they all have one thing in common which is football. Girls are sensitive (invariably, as are boys), so when a player does something wrong, you encourage the player to do better. They are here because they want to better themselves and are training in order to better themselves. If you make mistakes – and you may make a million mistakes – there will be at least one thing that you do right, one achievement taken step by step. Group and one-on-one sessions build that confidence in the athlete and it is important to have a good relationship with whomever you are working with in order to make it successful.
_As a professional player, you manage to make time in your demanding schedule to give back to (and including) local development areas and to coach for the Programme. Do you follow a particular philosophy in how you share your game of football?
JvW: I always find a way of just doing football – football is my life! I am passionate about the game and want others to feel the same and I am willing to give of my time to help other girls get to where they want to be having come from a similar junior, amateur position like them once before. I also generalize about life from football – the character-building traits and lessons learnt in sport can be used as life principles.
_If you weren’t in your current career field, which career path would Janine Van Wyk have otherwise pursued?
JvW: Music inspires me; if you need to get out there, to train hard, or something to just motivate you, you can relate to music. Anything with a good beat – music is another part of my life [cue: DJ Vetkuk vs. Mahoota ft. Dr. Malinga ♫ Via Orlando]
Janine van Wyk’s unassuming nature and level-minded style coupled with her role at the fore of the advancement of female football make her a star player-coach. The same can be said for the stars of the JvW Girls Football Development Programme which has given power and passion to aspirant female football players to keep talking with their feet and playing with their hearts!