What began as an idea to bring together a few school mums for fitness and a bit of fun has turned into one of Ashburton United Soccer Club’s biggest success stories. From an original group of five players, the Womens Masters program grew to three teams and social connections that have changed the lives of dozens of women. Faren Knight was one of many who had never stepped onto a soccer pitch. A basketballer from the US, she decided it was worth giving soccer a shot and was quickly won over. “As Mums we tend to put our needs last,” says Knight, “Ashy Women’s Masters fills the void that I was missing – exercise, a great social outlet, and another family/support base.”
The women trained every Tuesday night, playing their first match in June last year. After an initial loss, the tables were quickly turned with a couple of wins and a huge boost in confidence. Word got around, two teams were established and a third came together later in the season. While there was no official ladder for the competition – which featured clubs across Bayside Melbourne – the Ashburton teams finished with more wins than losses, and players could see the enormous strides they had taken in their development across the year. A recent summer 7-a-side competition featured a spirited grand final between two Ashburton teams. Anastasia Dermentzis grew up playing soccer with her brothers in the backyard but wasn’t allowed to join a team.
“As I got older and tried to get back into it, I never thought it was a possibility for me as the women’s senior team had gone way past my skill level,” she said. “When a friend asked me to join a team in my 40s, I understood the absolute privilege that it was to play and completely embraced the opportunity.” The nature of the team and the competition mean it’s easy for women to balance with work and family commitments, as training isn’t compulsory, and matches are played at family-friendly times. Kids are always welcome and sometimes join in the training sessions or act as cheerleaders for their mums. Faren Knight says the women are setting a great example for the next generation. “Ashy couldn’t get a better community of empowering, strong women and role models on and off the pitch.”