How women like Kylie Chapman are making football great again

Janakan Seemampillai Roar Rookie

By , Janakan Seemampillai is a Roar Rookie

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    As if juggling a full-time business as a hairdresser while raising a family of four kids isn’t busy enough, Kylie Chapman also spends countless hours volunteering for Geelong Rangers FC – as president no less.

    “Volunteers aren’t paid not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless” is a sign that adorns the clubhouse at Myers Reserve. No one epitomises that better than Kylie.

    Having been involved with Rangers for the past eight years, three of which were on the committee, Kylie was elected as the first female president of the proud club in 2016. Kylie estimates she spends around 10 to 25 hours per week at the club, this after running her own business during the week, and looking after children Hamish (aged 18), Angus (13), Millie (11) and Alfie (7).

    From office duties such as answering emails and phone calls, to attending meetings, preparing uniforms, working in the kitchen and cleaning, Kylie does it all.

    But she is quick to point out the dedication of others, saying, “The volunteers at Rangers are amazing and inspire me to push our club to succeed. It is important for people to know the only way clubs will succeed is with the help of volunteers.”

    Kylie also devotes time to volunteering at other clubs in the region.

    Her first taste of the world game came in 2001, when Kylie met her husband, Mike. After her young boys got involved there was no turning back – she even tried her hand at indoor football a few years ago.

    “I was not great,” she recalls. “I scored an own goal as my first goal and thought I should celebrate, as it might have been my one and only, ever! I did end up scoring a few. Thankfully!”

    Kylie credits her husband Mike and her children, all of whom have played at Rangers, as her biggest inspiration due to their dedication to the game. Mike is a partner at GOFC, who are looking after the next generation of local talent who will represent Geelong at the regional country championships in Morwell in June. Her second eldest, Angus, is a promising young footballer and plays at NPL level for North Geelong Warriors under 14s.

    Kylie is part of a growing number of women with strong voices in the Geelong football community. Successful businesswoman and chairperson of Barwon Water Jo Plummer was recently elected chairperson of the Geelong Region Football Committee (GRFC). Flavia Kaucic is president of Geelong’s sole WNPL club, Galaxy United. Rose Pirrottina presides over Bell Park, one of the oldest clubs in Geelong.

    There are also significantly more women on committees of local football clubs than in years gone by, all of whom add a balanced voice to the often-passionate discussions that take place. Just as importantly, more women are getting involved in coaching, particularly at the grassroots level. Rangers have been active in providing women’s only coaching courses, which has reaped dividends.

    “When I joined the committee, I wanted to ask women if they had anything they could contribute in any area,” Kylie says, “rather than being placed in the kitchen!”

    Kylie agrees there is a strong correlation with the number of mums getting involved in local football at the administrative and coaching level with the growth of the game in Geelong, especially among young girls.

    The MiniRoos participation rate in the region has gone through the roof in the past two seasons, with a 30 per cent growth rate between 2014 and 2016, the number of girls increasing by 20 per cent. A bumper year is expected in 2017 with even more kids set to participate. There are also more girls-only competitions at the MiniRoos level, which is vital for the growth of female football.

    According to Kylie, this is the key to the future: “The introduction of MiniRoos is the best thing that has happened locally. The gala mornings are a tremendous success and the kids are having a ball. Every kid is given the opportunity to be involved.”

    Kylie’s election as president in a traditionally male dominated role is a testament to her strength, dedication and hard work:

    “I think it was a hard gig to break into, a male dominated sport. I think there were people, not just at Rangers, that weren’t that happy that I was a female president. It’s not until you start getting things done that you earn the respect.”

    During her tenure, Rangers have grown significantly on and off the field. The senior men’s team was promoted to State League 2 last season, after winning the third division title. The club successfully held the Geelong Community Cup in January this year, even incorporating the first ever women’s exhibition match between a Geelong Women’s Select team and WNPL club Galaxy United, prior to the cup final. The junior numbers at Rangers have grown by over 25 per cent since 2015, a higher rate than Victoria in general.

    Kylie’s next project is to get a senior women’s team off the ground, and the signs are promising: “After our all girls MiniRoos program, we have increased our girls from 10-25… working from grassroots, now to keep them interested in the game.”

    The direction Rangers are heading coincides with the huge strides being made by the game in the Geelong region, and it’s due to more women being involved.

    What would President Chapman like to see going forward? “I would like to see an improvement in the local competition. We have worked hard to develop our junior squads, to a very competitive level. Local competition for kids in division 1, is very limited. It is very hard at the moment, to challenge our players.”

    With people like Kylie Chapman involved, the future of the world game in Geelong is definitely in good hands.