Alongside her role as Leeds Rhinos Women’s club captain, Lois Forsell, combines her time overseeing the Rhinos’ Under-14 to Under-19s player pathway and helping introduce new players to the game with Leeds Rhinos Foundation as their women and girls Development officer.
This puts the England international in prime position to assess how the women’s game at all levels in the city is developing and the former East Leeds player says the outlook is positive.
“I think the women’s game in Leeds is in a great place and hopefully it will continue to get even stronger as more girls take up the opportunity to give it a try,” said Forsell.
“There has been a growing interest from clubs in forming girls’ teams and there are some brilliant people working in the community game who are passionate about creating more opportunities for girls to play. I think another influence in the growing interest and participation is that there is now a pathway for the players and an outcome for them when they are older.
“Last year I visited Whinmoor Warriors and I saw how many girls were playing in mixed teams but there wasn’t anywhere at the club for them to play after that. They are now launching a Girls Under-12s team which is fantastic, and I think it will be great for their club. I will run some sessions in schools local to the club and then will invite the players along to the launch night next month and hopefully there will be a big turn out.”
Forsell also recognises that the formation of the Rhinos Women’s team last year has also had an impact in the awareness of the women’s game.
“When I go into schools the teachers recognise us a bit more as players and the girls are starting to hear more about the Rhinos Women’s team which is great,” added Forsell.
“Shannon Lacey from the Women’s team works with me and it’s powerful for us to say that players from the team are coaching them and Shannon is an example of the pathway they can go on too.”
Lacey was herself coached by Forsell in her school, as was first team player Chloe Kerrigan, and to see them now playing regularly for the Rhinos is something Forsell is delighted to see.
“I am really proud that Shannon and Chloe are doing so well in the first team. When you are doing your day job and coaching you don’t always see how your work has an impact, so it’s great to see examples of how a session you did with a player in year 8 or 9 and the hard work they put in has pushed them on.
“Our Under-14s pathway programme is non selective, so players from any club can come along and train at John Charles Stadium every week. The coaches Laura Wilson and Ellis Pascal are doing brilliant job and the players in the pathway can also continue to play and train with their own community clubs.
“When I ask players who I work with what they enjoy about playing rugby they say they have made friends for life. There are lots of benefits from playing the game; keeping fit and healthy and also getting the chance to challenge yourself in different environments. For me I have also got a career from the game so there are lots of opportunities.”
Leeds Rhinos Foundation and Leeds Rhinos Women are supporting four Leeds clubs who are looking to help grow the women’s game in the city. Garforth Tigers and Whinmoor Warriors are launching new girls’ teams and are looking for players to be part of their club. Stanningley and East Leeds, who have long established girls teams, are hosting taster sessions for potential new players to give the game a go and join a team. For more information on any of the events contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Garforth Tigers U12s Launch Night
Age: Girls in school year 6-7
Venue: Glebelands, Ninelands Lane
Date: 1st May
East Leeds Girls Taster session
Age: Girls in school year 6-11
Venue: East End Park rugby pitch
Date: 2nd May
Whinmoor Warriors U12s Launch Night
Age: Girls in school year 6-7
Venue: Fieldhead Carr playing fields
Date: 14th May
Stanningley Girls Taster session
Age: Girls in school year 5-9
Venue: Stanningley ARLFC
Date: 20th May