Capital Football will make history next week when they send the first-ever female head coach to the Cerebral Palsy (CP) National Championships in Sydney.
Capital Football’s game development manager Kelly Stirton will lead Canberra’s CP team at the championships after taking over the reins back in April.
The CP championships, which will be hosted by Football NSW for a fourth consecutive year, aims to give individuals with CP and other neurological conditions the opportunity to play the game at a high level.
CP football is currently played with slightly modified rules, including having seven players per team, no offside rule and permission for one-handed throw-ins.
Stirton, who will be assisted by former Game Development Manager Merryn Brown, hopes her position as head coach opens the door for other women to take on leadership roles at the tournament.
“It’s been a goal of mine for some time to be a role model for females in the coaching space,” Stirton said.
“I think Capital Football should be very proud of what we have achieved in terms of leading the way for female coaches.
“Merryn and I have been working with these players for a few months now, getting them prepared for the championships and I think we will be a force.”
Having a female head coach will not be the only first to occur at this year’s championships. Football Federation Australia (FFA) also announced that 2019 will be the first year that female footballers are allowed to participate in the tournament, with Capital Football taking three female players in their team of 12.
“It’s a great step in the right direction,” Stirton said. “It’s an exciting time for the female players at the tournament, they’re leading the way for the next generation and I’m sure they will more than match it with the boys.”
It’s been a big year for Stirton, who was an assistant coach for Canberra’s first Indigenous junior football team, the Koori Kangaroos, at the McDonald’s Kanga Cup in July.
Despite being on the wrong end of the scoreline in all of their matches, Stirton says just having an Indigenous team at the tournament was a huge step towards reconciliation.
“[Coaching the indigenous team] is something that I’m also very proud of,” Stirton said.
“There is no bigger tournament than the Kanga Cup, so it was the perfect platform to promote reconciliation and inclusiveness throughout the community.”
The CP championships will take place next week from 2 to 6 October at Sydney’s Valentine Sports Park.