IT is not often that lockdown is credited with positive outcomes, but that’s certainly been the case for the development of girls’ football at Leithen Vale Sports Club (LVSC).

And that was highlighted last weekend when the club hosted its first ever U11s tournament, featuring visiting teams from Galashiels, Melrose, Coldstream and Lauder.

One of a series of tournaments being held at clubs throughout the Borders this spring, the event saw more than 50 girls aged between five and 11 play round robin games on pitches of assorted sizes.

Parents and spectators from all clubs were generous in their support, as were local businesses John Adams Bakery and the HB Club in Walkerburn who supplied cakes, snacks and drinks that were sold at a refreshments stall to raise funds for the club.

This latest event in Innerleithen shows just how far girls’ football has come in the Borders in less than a year. As the country emerged from its second lockdown, football was one of the few after-school activities available. As a result, many more girls came along to try the sport for the first time with the existing mixed teams at the club.

Sensing the enthusiasm, Ally Robb, LVSC chairman and one of the club’s coaches, saw the potential to develop an all-girls team for the first time. With the support of fellow coach Bob Campbell, he ran an initial training session for P5-P7 girls. This was quickly followed by another mini milestone: a first ever LVSC U11 girls’ game in a friendly against Penicuik in June 2021.

“After a great first game, coaches and parents alike were keen to ensure this new chapter in the club’s history was given every opportunity to succeed,” said Ally.

In the nine months since the inaugural game, the club has extended training to include girls from P3 to P7. Three new coaches subsequently joined the team and, with the support of parent helpers, they organise weekly training sessions and games.

The club and team are now affiliated with the Scottish Women’s Football Association and this year have attended tournaments in Lauder, Galashiels and Coldstream, playing a mix of three, four and seven-a-side games.

And it’s fair to say that the girls are loving the experience. Now aged 9, Sophie Thomas has played mixed football at the club since she was five but has really enjoyed playing just with girls – particularly when diving around in the mud as a goalkeeper.

“We get to play with different age groups and we all play well together,” she said. “I think there is more passing in girls’ football.”

“It’s a completely different atmosphere in the girls’ team, with the older players really helping the younger ones,” added Orla Thomson, aged 10, and another relative veteran of mixed games. “We all love playing in front of spectators as they shout their support. The cakes at the end are really good, too.”

Training sessions at the club will continue throughout the spring and summer, with the LVSC U11 girls next in action at a tournament in Galashiels in May.