Coast football academy expands to boost female talent
A groundbreaking Coast football program is preparing to kick more goals for rising juniors by expanding to nurture the next generation of female talent.
In partnership with Peregian Beach College, the Sunshine Coast Fire will launch Australia's first full-time female football academy.
It's planned to start in the second or third term of the school year for girls aged between 8 and 14.
The club started the country's first full-time academy program for boys in July last year, with upwards of 60 youth participating.
Academy director Melvyn Wilkes said offering the same opportunity to female footballers had always been on the cards.
"It'd be the first one in Australia again," he said.
"Everything that the boys have the girls will be exposed to as well.
"We are 80 per cent there already.
"We have no reason to believe it won't be as successful as the boys."
The full-time program combines football and education.
Students train up to three times a day while undergoing fully-funded private education.
"We're really pleased with the progress (of the boys) and we're really pleased with the success and support we've had from parents as well," he said.
Wilkes said up to 16 girls would help launch the program.
In another boost for the female game, Fire will also look to enter a senior women's team into the local Coast premier women's competition this year.
The Fire are forming the side in preparation for the newly formed National Second Division in 2022 (Championship) which will sit below the W-League.
Fire will host a trial on Wednesday with interested players to email their intentions before then.
The girls skill acquisition program will also be returning to the club this year.
Olivia Latimer will oversee the U9 - U12 female program and will coach the girls full-time academy at Peregian Beach College alongside the boys technical staff.
The Fire were recently granted a gold rated skills acquisition program licence, with their junior NPL Boys squads confirmed as playing in the "Academy" league in 2021.
It won't just be football education on the radar at Peregian Beach College this year, with the school to also accommodate a new full-time dance academy.