TERI Cronin is determined to make a difference after she was elected on to the new FAI General Assembly.
Involved locally with the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League (WCSSL) and Bantry Bay Rovers, Cronin now wants her voice to be heard at national level.
Along with West Cork League Secretary John Buckley from Dunmanway, Cronin will be part of the new FAI General Assembly representing her region.
A new FAI structure has replaced the old regional council committee set-up. There will be 141 delegates from all over the country and divided into three pillars: professional, amateur and national bodies. The latter will cover areas such as women’s, schoolboys and schoolgirls soccer.
‘My main aim is to encourage as many women as I can to take up coaching and committee roles, basically improving gender balance,’ Cronin told The Southern Star.
‘To achieve this, we have to start with the youngest girls. The more soccer they play, the more likely they are to take up coaching and committee roles when they grow older. I no longer want to attend soccer coaching or committee meetings where I am the only woman there. It is not a West Cork thing, it is nationwide.
‘Another important thing that must change is that women don’t join club or league committees just to fulfil administrative roles. Women should not be asked on to committees specifically to fulfil admin roles. The only reason I agreed to go on the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League Committee was that it would not be an administrative position.
‘I am there to voice Bantry Bay Rovers’ opinion on whatever issues arise. I am taking on this new FAI General Assembly role for the exact same reasons, but on behalf of West Cork.’
The importance of making her voice heard on a national stage is not lost on Cronin. The Bantry Bay Rovers club member is looking forward to the challenge, if understandably a little apprehensive before the FAI’s first get-together.
‘I’m a bit nervous, to be honest,’ Cronin admitted.
‘Again, like anything else, it is something I have to take on and do my best with it. I have phenomenal support from everyone involved with the WCSSL and Bantry Bay Rovers. Taking this on is something of a cultural change, not just from a woman’s point of view but from a football culture’s point of view. I’m sure it won’t be an easy role but something I will do my best at.’
Cronin lives in Bantry with her husband Martin and their two sons Paddy and Christopher. Her involvement with Bantry Bay Rovers began in 2012.
‘I was just a parent helping out to begin with but as time went on, I became more and more involved with the club due to my two sons playing with the club’s underage section,’ Cronin explained.
‘Coaching was something I decided to take up thanks to the club’s encouragement. I have to say that the FAI’s Ray Claffey was amazing back then. Ray’s encouragement and knowledge were invaluable to me and the others involved in the FAI Kick-Start coaching courses.
‘That meant I was able to look after Bay Rovers’ youngest teams as they took part in the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League’s weekend indoor futsal blitzes in Dunmanway and outdoor astro blitzes in Clonakilty. Those blitzes were absolutely fantastic for the children’s development. We had about 40 registered children playing for Bay Rovers at the time so that meant we had to get additional help from parents. I was very busy!’
The new FAI General Assembly member continued coaching Bay Rovers’ underage teams until she reached the WCSSL U12 age-grade. Following one full season, Cronin set up a new Bay Rovers Cornets U12 team which included a mix of schoolboys and schoolgirls.
‘I completed one year at the U12 grade with Bay Rovers boys before deciding to set up a new U12 Cornets team,’ Cronin said.
‘Bay were fielding three U12 teams at the time but I wanted to help out some of the girls that were interested in playing. Bantry Bay Rovers have always been progressive when it comes to promoting female participation both on and off the pitch. Everyone in the club is enormously proud of that.
‘At the moment, we have Donal McGrath (teacher) who encourages female transition year students to play soccer and get involved in the coaching side of things as well. Elaine Courtney has come up through the ranks coaching the underage sections with me and there is also Helen Martin with the Bantry Bay Women’s team who competed in last year’s West Cork League. They went on to win the Lake House Beauty Rooms Shield 7s trophy.
‘It is brilliant to see an increasing number of women coaching on the side-line like Helen and Elaine. When our youngest players, aged seven and eight, start out playing, there should be no difference to them whether their coach is male or female. Gender should never come into it. That’s what we are trying to instil from the grassroots right up to youth and ladies level at Bay Rovers.’
Cronin’s impressive work with her local club did not go unnoticed. She was invited to get involved at West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League committee level and welcomed the opportunity.
‘I am a West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League committee member for over five years at this stage,’ she said.
‘Getting the chance to have a say at West Cork committee level is important, not just for your own club but every club in the region. Being involved in the introduction of a new U11 league is an example. We wanted to give those kids an extra year of playing before their first two years of (competitive) U12 soccer, so that they could understand the rules and get used to playing at that level.’
Making a positive impact with Bantry Bay Rovers at club level and WCSSL committee level has helped raise Cronin’s profile over the past ten years. Now, the Bantry native, along with the West Cork League’s John Buckley, has an opportunity to represent her club, league and region at national level on the FAI General Assembly. Few individuals are better prepared and capable of making their voice heard.