Ottery ladies continue to go from strength to strength
- Credit: Archant
The Otterettes are now an integral part of Ottery St Mary Football Club and going, quite literally, from strength to strength.
The Ottery ladies’ team was formed three years ago when club chairman Mike Ringer moved to East Devon.
The story of how he [Mike] came to be involved with the club is one that is probably repeated by like-minded football folk the length and breadth of the country!
Mike says: “When I moved down to Devon, I was looking around for local football and saw the Ottery ground with the floodlights and a decent looking club house and so I began to watch the men’s football.
“It was soon clear to me that what they have there is a wonderful set-up, worthy of a much higher standard of the game.
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“It was whilst watching matches and chatting with folk at the club that there was an opportunity to get involved and it did not take me too many seconds to jump at the chance!”
He continued: “At that time the girls’ team was coming to the end of its time in youth football, having enjoyed growing success in local and county competitions.
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“It was then a case of someone suggesting I get involved with them and – three years on – I am still loving every minute of it!”
There were around 30 ladies of mixed ages at the opening ladies’ football sessions and, once that was whittled down to a ‘squad’ of 20, Mike set about putting in place a culture of progressive football passion combined with desire and commitment.
Mike says: “The early stages were all about looking at individuals and their coaching needs and adapting what we do as coaches to unlock their potential. A player may say they play in one certain role within a team, but that isn’t always their best position!”
With regard to his ‘best moment as ladies’ manager to date’, Mike says: “That has to be the first ever win at home; the success against Keyham Kolts.
“We had met them in our first ever ladies’ competitive match, but six months later, when we faced them again, we took them to the cleaners and that was so satisfying.
“I always wanted the girls to be able to show clear progress and that one game summed up the fact we were certainly going in the right direction!”
So, given this is currently year three of the ladies’ development in the game, what about the future? Mike replies: “The future of the club, as a whole, is indeed bright.
“With regard to where the ladies are concerned, we are looking to gain promotion this year and then create a foundation within the higher league system.
“It is very difficult with the ladies’ team as pregnancies and education comes into it more than the men’s game!
“We build, year on year, and have ambitions, but it is entirely down to the girls on how far they want to go.
“We already travel to the likes of Plymouth weekly and the higher league would see us going to places like Ilfracombe.
“The next level up you are looking at 200plus-mile round trips. As far as we stand right now we take year on year to progress as we can.”
On the wider women’s game, Mike says: “The rise in the ladies’ game is huge.
“However, what I do feel is that the Football Association (FA) is introducing things that, collectively, are aimed at making the game more successful, but it is aimed at the bigger clubs and that means the smaller clubs, at the other end of the scale, struggle to keep up with all the changes!
“In my long association with the game, all the clubs I have had an involvement with have had ladies’ team and whilst we, at Ottery, are at a relatively low level, the sky is the limit with regard to how far we can go together.”
With the ‘P’ word [progress], very much at the front of this thinking, Mike says: “Attracting new players is always key to developing a football team.
“Next season it seems we will have seven remaining of the players who were first brought together as a youth team.
“However, if we are to get promotion then new player recruitment this summer is so necessary.
“We do have an Under-12 girls’ team that will, in time, produce adult players, but what I would love to have this summer, is a number of new lady footballers come along and join us.”
Anyone interested in joining the Otterettes can make first contact through the club’s well-used Facebook page.