The Lockleys Football Club takes great pride in promoting a healthy lifestyle for their community both on and off the field, and in 2022, created the Women’s Mentor Program to focus on their female members’ wellbeing and success.

As Lockleys Football Club Junior Coaching Director Kathryn Lee explains, the program is not just about football, but covers a range of topics including wellness, mindfulness, balance, fitness, body image and confidence. This helps players reach their full potential during games and in their daily lives.

How did this program come about?

In 2020, the Lockleys Football Club launched their inaugural women’s team and in 2021, their Women’s A Grade side claimed their maiden premiership. Building on this enthusiasm and success, the club committee realised they had a great opportunity to shape a positive football culture within their club.

They came up with a vision to create a successful local female football mentoring program. The aim was to provide avenues for players to play competitive football and be confident individuals, by ensuring new and existing female players had the right supports to achieve their goals on and off the field.

The club identified that their women’s program, which would include girls as young as nine years of age, needed a female footballer to act as a role model and mentor.

This led them to the idea of engaging two-time AFLW premiership Adelaide Crows player, Marijana Rajcic, to take on this role and help their players reach their full potential.

Marijana helps the club to bring more girls to football through mentoring and is able share her experiences to help shape how girls view playing sport and supporting the players in learning and growing their appreciation for sport and wellness.

What has been the reaction (from club members and broader) regarding the new program?

The club has been very fortunate and found there were minimal barriers to implementing this program – it had the support of men and women from across the club.

An enormous amount of positive feedback has been received from club members and others within the football community with the launch of the Women’s Mentor Program.

Marijana has worked with each team to specifically address topics relevant to their age group. Her positive nature combined with her honesty has allowed girls to be real in how they approach football and their teammates. It’s given them confidence to take on the game, both on and off the field.

Parents have been extremely positive as they see their girls come home talking about what Marijana has shared and how they are going to use that knowledge in their own life.

Do you think this program could be easily picked up by other clubs and in different sports?

The program can absolutely be duplicated at other clubs. With sport often being intense at all levels and often the fun being overlooked, having a mentor within the club at Lockleys brings it back to why everyone should be playing sport for – fun, friends and feeling great!

Finding the right person for your club is paramount and therefore the club recommends making sure that there is a connection with their mentor and ensuring there is shared goals and outcomes. Providing clarity around the role of the mentor to ensure everyone is on the same page is important for any future clubs to note.

Foreseeable challenges moving forward?

Ensuring that the program is sustainable moving forward, and ensuring future mentors understand what the club is aiming to do will be critical moving forward to ensure the program continues to be a great. The club currently has a great group of like-minded girls who enjoy a competitive game of football and plenty of social activities, which makes it a great balance.

Is there a next step and are you looking to grow this program further?

The club is absolutely looking to grow this program further, and the club plans to host a night with Marijana and all women players, sharing food, team games and dreaming up what the next season could look like. Players need to own the initiative and have a voice in shaping the program and this will allow the club’s committee and Marijana to determine the goals and outcomes for the program for the next year.

Has this program supported increase in members/volunteers/revenue?

The club has seen an increase in membership and the players are the biggest recruiters through talking to people about the program and what they are doing. As the growing female mentoring program is safe, fair, welcoming and has a healthy environment to explore football opportunities, many women are coming to the ‘come and try sessions’, and we are hoping 2023 will be the best and biggest season yet.

For more information, visit the Lockleys Football Club website.