Mum’s football passion runs deep

Greene takes talent to girls

Football in America generally means gridiron.

Not so for Sue Greene who grew up obsessed with the football of the global, round ball type.

She played at all levels from childhood to college and loved it so much took coaching courses and but for Hurricane Ivan four years ago, may not have started a girls’ football programme here until much later.

Being a single mum of three children, it’s not easy juggling a full-time job and all the responsibilities, but Greene has still found the time and energy to do it all.

After Ivan she took her kids back to Pennsylvania. Her daughter, who was seven at the time, had never played football before.

She got into a football programme there and when it was time to come back to Cayman a year later she didn’t want to unless football was on offer.

At the time, girls in Cayman could not play structured football until they were at least 12.

So Greene organised a summer camp with two international players and also an exclusive camp for girls at Truman Bodden. Around 70 attended and Greene was inspired to form the Cayman Islands Girls Football Organisation for five to 12-year-olds.

‘The ages of five, six and seven are such important developmental ages,’ she says. ‘Some of the girls were starting a bit younger in primary school but the government in the youth sports department only have a six week programme for the girls, which is not enough. So in September 2006 I started this grassroots programme. We accept girls from five to 12 and we meet every Saturday morning for an hour and a half and teach them all the fundamentals. We’re at the George Hicks playing field now and would like to get back to Truman Bodden, where we started, which has better facilities and wider space. This past season we had 104 girls registered that we break them into age groups.’

Greene’s programme returns on 9 February. For a mere $15 for the whole course, which lasts till the end of April, the girls are thoroughly schooled and receive a uniform. The programme is mostly sponsored by Generali and also Progressive Distributors and H2O.

‘We’re so appreciative of the support from Generalli; they’re helping the program grow. In five years we should have 400 or 500 girls.

‘Each week we focus on a different skill, be it passing, shooting or dribbling. And then we put that in scrimmages in games. At this point we haven’t gotten to the point where it’s extremely competitive because there’s still a lot to be learned. But we are teaching them confidence, self-esteem and not to be afraid of the ball. I go to some of these Under-15 and 17 matches and they’re still afraid of the ball because they didn’t start them from a young enough age and the basic skills are not there.

‘My favourite word with the girls is try. If you’re having fun and you’re trying, that’s all I care about. Fun is another favourite three-letter word. Try. If you’re not interested go and do something else.’

Greene’s dream is to get women’s football entrenched in Cayman sporting culture. She is getting tremendous support from CIFA president Jeffrey Webb who has appointed her the CIFA women’s committee chairman. The committee includes Bernie Bush, Martha Godet and many others too numerous to mention who are all very passionate about promoting women’s football.

‘My goal is to get the girls on the map globally and we have to do that starting at youth level. Also getting participation from women’s club teams and getting them to coach as well, so that they can see what girls we’re working with and help groom them into their clubs.’

There is a certain level of frustration for Greene because the parental support has not been as strong as she’s experienced in the States.

‘Parental support is important because it’s a progressional thing. Each week they need to get something to work on during the week. My daughter comes home from school and every day she’s juggling, juggling, passing to her brother… She’s got the same passion as I do.’

Greene, 39, is event manager for Kelly Holding, which has the contract to promote the Stanford 20/20 cricket tournament starting this weekend. She was actually a champion swimmer as a child and even went to the Junior Olympics. But football was always first choice.

‘I gave up swimming so that I could focus on football. You have to love the sport and I wasn’t loving swimming even though I was better at that than football.

‘Last September I had the opportunity to go to China for the Women’s World Cup to attend their symposium and one of the things I learned was that we need to raise public awareness, work with the media and government to get these girls’ programmes going.

‘We also try to provide for these girls role models. We’ve got international players involved. We also encourage them to make new friends so each week we ask them to find a new partner to do their drills with. That also helps their self-esteem and confidence.

Contact Sue Greene email: [email protected]