Farmer bids to get girls dancing to a new beat

Cork footballer Orlagh Farmer hasn’t let the grass grow under her feet in these strange times.
Farmer bids to get girls dancing to a new beat

Cork footballer Orlagh Farmer hasn’t let the grass grow under her feet in these strange times.

Instead, she has turned the negatives of the restrictions into a positive.

For the past five days, she posted a daily video for aspiring (and current footballers) to work on the basic skills of the game.

As well as tips on passing, kicking, and movement, she even delved into the world of Chinese martial arts with Tai Chi Thursday.

The Cork ladies footballers are on a break from collective training due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but with four wins from their five league games, the Rebels finished joint top of the Lidl NFL Division 1 with Galway and face into TG4 senior championship with confidence.

But now Farmer, 27, has put her full attention into completing her PhD — the Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation of the Gaelic4Girls intervention — as well as the five-day online challenge.

“My research is heavily involved in promoting sport, particularly for girls. I’m nearly finished my PhD in UCC.

"I’ll be submitting in the next few weeks,” said Farmer. “I have always tried to be as creative as a I can.

"After my years of working with young girls and doing my research, I said I put together the five-day challenge to get everyone out and about.

“Tai Chi Thursday was just something different. I gave it a try and I got a great response.

"We could all do with a bit of relaxation these days.

"People are more open than ever now — they are all going off their heads at home — so I brought a bit of football into it and it went down well.”

With her brother Kian and sister Sinéad on camera duty, Orlagh has produced this week’s video content, which has attracted thousands of views all week, and she is already working hard on next week’s sessions.

As part of her PhD research, Farmer came to some staggering conclusions though, which underline the importance of sport in the lives of young girls.

With an estimated 50% drop out rate by the age of 12, keeping girls in the game can be a challenge, but according to the Cork forward, it’s vital that coaches and parents tap into their interests.

“The big motivators for young girls are friendship and fun. On the other side of it, a lack of enjoyment and coaches being too strict were big turn offs for girls.

"Confidence was also a big issue. They wonder: ‘Am I able to do this? Can I kick the ball? Do I feel good about myself?’

"Girls need confidence to be physically active. That is so often the most important aspect.”

Once Cork’s inter-county season is over, Farmer intends to travel and to introduce her ‘multicultural movement mission’ to the world.

I was in my car one day and suddenly I realised how I could get more girls active: Merging the skills of ladies football with basic fundamental skills and a movement dance, which is accompanied by music.

"Girls love to dance: it’s a perfect form of expression in terms of skills and confidence.

“After chatting it through with my supervisors, Wesley O’Brien and Kevin Cahill, I went out to my back garden with my speaker.

"I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do, but I followed my gut feeling.

"I started to choreograph the dance to the song ‘Galway Girl’.

"I even fell through my decking doing it and nearly broke my leg!

"When I put it together, we then did it for 20 minutes before each session at Gaelic4Girls and performed it at the end of the eight weeks.

"The response was great, they really enjoyed it. It created a positive buzz for the girls and boosted their confidence.

“As a result, I want to develop this further. I am hoping to eventually hit schools and clubs, but also to bring it over to other sports.

“You know when you have a fire in your belly, you just have to do it.

"It’s my calling. I’m going to go for it.”

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