Nouse speaks to Halifax women's football team


Halifax women's team discuss success, building a society, and the future ahead of their first year anniversary

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By Charlotte Tabeart

Approaching their first year anniversary, the Halifax Women’s Football Team has gone from strength to strength, winning their first match against Vanburgh Women’s football team on 11 November. As a member of Halifax college last year, I thought it would be great to interview the committee members to see the journey of the team. Until last year Halifax, despite being the largest college, was the only college not to have a women’s football team. If women wanted to play they would have to play for other colleges. The co-captains, Grace Parkinson and Nina Sidhu, discussed the negative effects of this as Halifax members would always feel unsure if they could join another team and ultimately be discouraged from playing football. The co-captains themselves did this playing for Alcuin Women’s FC last year until deciding enough was enough.
Sidhu and Parkinson described the ‘slow’ process of setting up the team, in which they received a lack of support from Halifax College Sport. They described the stress of seeing a badly organised poll on a Facebook account with low followers to gauge interest, not on the main Halifax Instagram. From this the college deemed there was not enough interest within the college to warrant funding, disappointing the co-captains who knew there was interest as a number of Halifax women were already playing in other college’s teams.
Despite the co-captain’s attempts, ultimately Halifax college was reluctant to help set up the women’s team, despite being the only college without a women’s team and already having five men’s teams. Nevertheless, Parkinson and Sidhu persisted. They used what equipment they could find and spread the word themselves by putting their own posters across campus.
They knew it was ‘crazy’ that their college didn’t have a women’s team and believed there was interest and they were correct. After a taster session on the 22 acres field outside of Halifax, a solid team slowly began to grow with people returning each week.
The team welcomes any ability, from those who have played for years to those who have never played before. From the start the co captains wished to provide a place for women to be able to play football, knowing that many have not had the chance.
Jessica Kennedy, the treasurer and social sec, was one of the first members to join the team after seeing the poster in the Halifax Circuit Laundry building. Kennedy described how she’d “never played for a girl’s team, there were no girl’s teams near [her] where [she] grew up”. Similarly, Indianna Sheppard, the vice captain, hadn’t belonged to a women’s football team before, despite having teams in her school, as a lack of members meant the teams would be stopped. Sheppard stated that, “that’s always been an issue for me playing football”, highlighting the importance of this team as now any woman at the University of York has a chance to represent their college and play football.
Today, this team is officially a part of Halifax College Sport and they had their first freshers fair this year. Not only were they able to meet the other Halifax teams, which have been established in the college for years, they got to welcome new freshers and raise awareness of the team.
Despite being a new team and finding new members of differing abilities, the team has had great success playing against other college teams this year.
The team described a “frustrating” start to the year with matches ending in losses and draws. They knew they could play well as a team, as they would make a great start to matches only to lose by one goal in the end. The co-captains discussed the importance of continuing to train their new team, as they knew that they had the potential: “everything was there for us, it was just getting that win”. Out of the four college matches they had played in October and early November they had lost two and drew two. “We really really needed a win”, said Sheppard after these matches, and this was soon to come.
On 11 November 2023, the team had a double fixture, playing against both the Vanburgh Women’s team and the Medics Women’s team. The team drew 1-1 with the medics but the day ended on a high as the girls received their first win, as they beat the Vanburgh Women’s team 3-0. The team excitedly discussed their ‘emotional’ first win as all their training had finally paid off. This win clearly set them up for future success, their next match, also ended in a victory. Namely a 4-0 win against the Derwent’s Women’s team on 19 November.
Parkinson described how their first win had brought them together. “We’re not just a team, we really feel like there’s a sense of community”, which has grown from the players rooting for each other through losses and wins, creating the strong team they are today. This is clear in their match day celebrations, which Sheppard describes as like no other teams, as their enthusiasm is clear as the whole team runs onto the pitch to celebrate their goals. It’s this enthusiasm that the co-captains want to keep moving forward. Keeping that ‘passion’ for the sport as the whole team improves together.
This community feeling is present both on and off the pitch with the team’s socials, which are both themed nights out and games nights, for the team to get to know each other outside of football. Co-captain Grace Parkinson describes this as particularly important as football is not just a sport but a way for people to get to know each other and create long lasting friendships.
During my meeting with the team it was clear that they are a welcoming and supportive team. The co-captains described how, with new members joining the team throughout the year, they work to involve everyone. They focus on this as with it being a college sport everyone is there for different reasons, not only to improve their fitness but to be more sociable and make new friends. Parkinson and Sidhu describe how “it’s tough at times” to cater to so many different levels of interest and ability. With no external support, they are the ones who organise all the drills and training which bring together the novices and the experienced players. They have been successful with these new players being on the team and helping Halifax win more games. The co-captains are happy to welcome any new players: “Come and give it a go if you fancy it! Everyone is welcome”.
I also met with Millie Browne, who had just joined a few weeks before. She described how she was really enjoying the sessions, “it’s somewhere to have a bit of fun, get out the house, meet new people”.
For my final question I asked what their favourite part of being on the team was, and for the co-captains it was definitely how far the team had come since starting a year ago. It was great to see their pride in creating a safe space where women can go and learn a new sport and have fun. Something that seems so simple but from their experiences growing up and the struggle to set up the team, it is clear that some sports are not always as accessible for women. However, the struggle definitely paid off as the team spoke of their love for the training sessions. Sheppard said, “my favourite thing is probably the match days just because of the support we get with everyone supporting us on the lines. It really pushes you to try your best”.
Check out the team on Instagram @hcwfc_ and if you’re interested in trying out, the team trains every Tuesday 6-7pm on the JLD and they welcome anyone to come along, no matter what your level of experience is.