By Tom Pritchard and Jamie Thomas
Wales international Elise Hughes is hopeful the Huddle initiative will help to convince more girls to join their local teams and take part in the sport on a more regular basis.
The 12-week programme, which takes place at 22 different locations right across the country, is aimed at giving 5 to 12 year old girls an enjoyable football experience where they can develop their confidence and find friendships.
Hughes, who made her senior Wales debut at the age of just 18 earlier this year, was speaking at a Huddle session held at Buckley Town.
The forward has been impressed by the buy-in from those who have attended, and has noticed an increase in participation as time has gone on.
“It’s really great to see the same familiar faces from week one to now, and the many more that have joined since. Every week I come in and say ‘Hi, I’m Elise. What is your name?’ because every week there’s new girls here which is great to see.
“It’s nice to see that they are all enjoying it, they all want to come back and all have good sessions and they go home and can’t wait for next week which is great to see, and hopefully that goes on to the next step of them wanting to join a team and play more regular football.”CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR NEAREST HUDDLE
Emma Iball, the Buckley Town secretary, was full of praise for the initiative and admitted that the girls were left starstruck by Hughes’ presence.
“It’s been immense, and has brought on the girls’ game tremendously,” she said.
“We’ve gone from having just one girls team and then we’ve joined the Huddle and we now have 70 girls on the books.
"They can’t believe it [Hughes coaching them]. Some have come to meet Elise and are like ‘Wow, she plays for Wales, she plays for Everton,’ and they’re learning to have fun with the ball.
“This isn’t just about football, it’s about making friends and having lots of fun.”
Tony Howard, a junior coach at Buckley, praised the contribution of Hughes, describing her as a role model.
"Elise has been great. The reality of the fact that we’ve got a lady here who is playing for Everton and Wales is that she is somebody the girls can obviously look up to and also someone they can aspire to be like."
Hughes insists that it is a pleasure to offer her services, and made clear what she would like to see as a result of the initiative.
“I like being involved in football and especially working with the local girls in the area,” said Hughes.
“When I was a kid it [Huddle] wasn’t an option, as it’s only this year it has been introduced. Maybe if it was an option a lot more girls my age would’ve taken part.
“I hope that when these girls grow up, they’ve got two teams in their school, or three teams which would be even better, and they’re all willing to join a team to play on the weekend against each other.”CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR NEAREST HUDDLE