Aspiring female footballers are being given the opportunity to experience elite coaching and play in the USA, through a tour being led by two stars of the AFL Women’s competition.
Fremantle captain Kara Donnellan and GWS Giants forward Jacinda Barclay will head up the Aussie Sparks touring squad, alongside one of Australia’s top female football development coaches, Nicole Graves.
Speaking to Girls Play Footy, Barclay said the idea for the tour of the United States grew out of the sky-rocketing interest in women’s football.
“Aussie Sparks is already touring, [but] they normally run baseball tours,” the GWS forward explained.
“At this point now where [there’s] so much AFL development and girls that are interested, we thought the idea would be superb because there’s so much [Australian] football in the States.
“It’s just been untouched really – so many willing girls to be involved.
“We’d love to share our travel and touring expertise, and invite other girls to come along.”
The tour of the United States begins on October 11 and ends on October 26, where the touring squad will not only experience high performance training with some of the top NCAA schools, but also play three matches, including one against the USA All-Stars at the USAFL Nationals.
“We’ll be visiting Los Angeles, which is really exciting and we’ll be there for a couple of days,” Barclay said
“Then we’ll jump over and run some clinics in San Francisco, and we’ll be actually involving ourselves in some exhibition games with the (USAFL Division One Champions) San Francisco Iron Maidens.
“Then we’ll be going to San Diego as well [for the USAFL Nationals].
“[The NCCA schools training] will be showcasing their diversity, so a bit of range in training structure, bit of change in program, opening all the girls eyes up to what training schemes they can have, and they can take what they choose out of that and apply it to their own performance.”
For Barclay, the United States is also a second home to her, where not only she played baseball as a right arm pitcher (and now represents Australia), but in 2016 was a championship quarterback in the LFL (Ladies Gridiron).
While playing Gridiron with the Chicago Bliss, she also took the time to find and train with a local Aussie rules team.
“I was based over there for six months, so I did my due diligence and looked it up, and what do you know, they had a Chicago Swans team there.
“They were very welcoming and inviting, and I went and trained with them for just under a month.
“I met some very nice people and they were all very willing to learn more about the game.”
For those looking to join Barclay and Fremantle’s Kara Donnellan touring the United States’ West Coast, they have to act quickly, as spaces are filling quickly and applications are closing soon.
“We’re looking to take 30 girls [aged 16 to 26],” Barclay said.
“We’ve already put out our flyers and registration forms, and we’ve had quite a few people interested.
“If we can definitely get those registrations in, we will be locking those off by the end of the week.”