Swan Athletic Football Club: Creating a Successful Women’s Squad

The College of Electrical Training (CET) and EGT are proud sponsors of the Swan Athletic Football Club’s inaugural women’s side.

Since their inception in 2020, the women’s side has enjoyed both on and off the field success, including a grand final win, a doubling in player numbers and importantly, successful integration into a club that has been fielding men’s teams since 1930.

We were pleased to speak to Sam Cavicchio, Coach of the Women’s Team, and Rebecca Bol, the Senior Women’s Captain, about the factors that have led to their many accomplishments.

Planning for success

Sam noted that a big part of the club’s success has been the planning that went into establishing the women’s side and the focus on integration.

“A number of clubs have women’s sides, but not many have successfully integrated them,” said Sam. “That integration was important to us. We wanted a women’s team that was part of the club rather than being separate and stand-alone.”

“To achieve this, we did a lot of planning. We didn’t create the women’s side on a whim. It was a strategic decision that relied on whole-of-club approval and a long-term commitment by everyone from the management through to all the players. In our discussions, we were clear about what we were doing. For us, introducing a women’s side was an enhancement for the club, to help it continue to grow. It wasn’t a side step.”

“We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved,” said Sam. “Everyone was a bit tentative that first year, wondering how everything would work and how things would change. But overall, bringing in the women’s side has been almost seamless. After the first few games and social events, people saw that things were not going to change as far as what the club was about and what they’d created.”

Clear goals

The women’s side started out with 30 players, who went on to win the 2020 grand final. In their second year the side expanded to field two teams, with both enjoying finals success and both moving up through the grades.

“Our main goal is to be an A-grade women’s club,” said Sam. “The club set that goal early on. We aren’t happy to stroll through the game - we want to be there and have a presence. But we also want to balance that by being a place where women of all talents and interest levels can play.”

“We have a clear purpose,” said Bec. “To be positive and have fun, but to understand that fun and enjoyment comes from dedication and hard work, no matter what level you’re playing. It’s the effort put into training and games and our commitment to playing for each other, to the best of our ability. When they join, we make sure all players understand that.”

Swan Athletic Football Club is a community club that brings together a broad mix of players. Skill levels vary, with some players having considerable experience while others are just starting out. Some members have joined via the Auskick pathway, while others started playing before those opportunities were available. The side includes ambitious players with their eye on professional sport, while others want to play for enjoyment and being part of something. All the women are at different ages and life points and have different reasons for being there.

“The two teams allow us to cater to everyone,” said Sam. “The senior team caters for those who are more competitive or want to work their way up the ranks, potentially into professional sport. Our second team works for those who are still developing their skills, need flexibility in attending games or players who play for social reasons. Regardless of where people are at, having two teams enables us to provide a place for everyone.”

A culture of honesty, communication and participation

In addition to planning and engaging with everyone in the club, Bec and Sam attribute much of their on and off the field success to the culture they’ve created, particularly their focus on honesty and communication.

“On the leadership side, the two team captains and coaches are all very open with each other,” said Sam. If there is a problem, we expect people to speak up and have the confidence to talk about it. Most things can be easily solved as long as there is honesty and understanding.”

“It all comes down to our coaching,” said Bec. “We have two dedicated coaches who are focused on giving people confidence and helping them be the best they can be. They are both providing everyone with an opportunity to give footy a go, learn and see what they are capable of.”

“We’ve been fortunate in our success on the score board, but we are also growing a culture that is not just about winning. We need something more than that,” said Bec. “We’ve worked to create other definitions of success whether it’s about skills development, or meeting a personal goal or someone playing their first ever game.”

The coaches and captains have a strong focus on participation, showing that there’s more to being part of the team than just playing. It’s also about the community aspect and making a contribution.

“Even if people can’t play, for whatever reason, we want them to stay involved so we find ways to include them,” said Bec. “They might participate as spectators, water runners or helpers on game day. I spent the first season as a runner for the team, and when they won the grand final, I celebrated as much as the players did.”

Challenging gender stereotypes

Starting just after the COVID-19 outbreak meant their first season had just eight weeks rather than the usual 20-week season. As a result, the club didn’t have as much time to integrate the women’s side into their operations as they would have liked, particularly as social restrictions limited the number of club events. In their second year, with social restrictions reduced, the club made huge strides forward, bringing the men’s and women’s sides together through games and social events.

“Often we play back-to-back with the men’s teams, and we love that so many of the men’s players and colts come and watch our games,” said Bec. “Equally, the women’s teams support them when they play. Attending each other’s games is not a token gesture, it’s part of a genuine club environment where we are all actively involved and supporting each other in our collective passion for the game.”

“We also have a range of social events,” said Bec. “While some may be just a women’s or men’s event, all key club events are integrated.”

“From a game perspective, whether it’s a women’s or men’s team, the club expectations are the same,” said Bec. “Everyone is expected to turn up, give it their all and train hard. The women’s side is not playing an easier or softer version of the game. We are showing our skills, playing hard but fair, driving upwards towards being an A-grade team. If we have high expectations of ourselves, then we will play to that level.”

A promising future

Swan Athletic Football Club has successfully established itself as a place where both men and women, of all ages and levels of experience want to play. They are actively working to grow their numbers and encourage everyone to come and give footy a try.

When we asked Sam and Bec about their advice for aspiring sportspeople, they had three key messages.

  1. Enjoy what you’re doing.
  2. Give it your all.
  3. Take every opportunity you get offered.

“Everything has its own challenge, whether it’s at community or professional level,” said Bec. “If you put in the effort and give it your all, you’ll find success as an individual and a team.”

The women’s team at Swan Athletic Football Club is now well positioned for its third successful year.

“We are so proud of what we’ve been able to create,” said Sam. “We’re all hungry for success as individuals, as teams and as a club. We’re going to keep building on the work that we’ve done and keep creating a strong cultured club that people want to be part of. When our players are here, they are really here - giving it their all. I think this year will be our best one yet.”

EGT and CET would like to wish Swan Athletic Football Club every success for the future.

Published on: Monday, 16 May 2022