Women playing football is something that is now being accepted as a normal part of Australian sporting life. Thanks to the likes of Sam Kerr and Megan Rapinoe, women playing the world game is more exciting than ever before.
However, it’s grassroots involvement that's really driving the growth and prosperity of female football in Australia. There were nearly 150,000 female footballers registered to play in 2019, with that number expected to rise this year.
Celeste Scott, from Geelong in western Victoria, is one such player and is a self-described “average footballer” at Drysdale SC.
She plays in the women’s team in the local GRFC competition. Her story is one that would resonate with thousands of women around the country playing a simple game of football but getting a lot more out of it than kicking goals and winning matches.
“I absolutely love everything about being able to play for Drysdale,” begins Scott. “I’m a wife to Andrew, and a mother to two little future soccer stars Hamish (aged six) and Harry (four).
“The soccer influence really began back in 2007 when I first met my now husband.
“Being 19 years old and in my second year at university, after a night drinking many lemonades and enjoying my sleep, I was shocked to hear an alarm go off at bloody 3am and an irritating glow of a very old TV screen the size of a dinner plate.
“I can still hear the sounds of the singing... ARRRRRSSSEEENNAAALLL, AAAAARRRSSSEEENNNAAALL ringing in my ears as I tried to sleep. I really had no choice but to be immersed in soccer forever if I was going to stick with Andy!”
Scott, who juggles football and family life with her job as a school teacher, was a relatively late starter to the world game, but is now very much entrenched in the addictive world of football.
“Before my husband, I was a basketballer surprisingly,” she explains. “I never played soccer apart from PE at high school and only knew one soccer player’s name which was David Beckham, much to my husband’s embarrassment.
“The basketball preparation gives me an edge in soccer with my strength in the ‘elbows’ and man-on defensive mindset, not so good for throw-ins, kicking or passing though.
“Luckily it was easy to play in the division two Geelong regional competition without feeling too incompetent with my basic soccer skills.”
While becoming a mum is often an inhibiting factor for many women when it comes to playing sport, Scott actually found it gave her life tremendous balance, and helped her become a better parent.
Her story is compelling evidence of the benefits of women playing sport in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally.
“I started playing soccer at age 27, when my eldest son was only nine weeks old. Not your usual way to use maternity leave but it kept me sane and gave me a little mental break while figuring out the new challenges of motherhood.
“It helped me in many ways I didn’t anticipate. I felt like I was free for a couple of hours, that I mattered still as a separate person, not just a mother and wife, I felt healthier and fitter and was losing baby weight.”
Scott also found football to be the perfect outlet to release any stresses that inevitably comes with being a parent and a teacher.
She also found it a great place to make friends and enjoy the social aspect of football. Most importantly, she found that learning new skills and facing new challenges gave her a tremendous confidence boost, something that benefits her everyday life.
“I could run all my frustrations out on the pitch," she says.
"I was enjoying conversations with others and making friendships outside of mother’s groups and most of all I loved the physical and mental challenges as I developed new soccer skills and tactics, constantly pushing myself to achieve better skills."
There have been obstacles along the way, but despite spending a year away from her new found passion, Scott was able to get back into the game thanks to tremendous support from her husband and family.
“In 2016 we unfortunately lost our team so I didn’t play, but ended up being pregnant with our second anyway,” she explains.
“But in 2017, we gained an amazing group of players who were closer to my age. I’m still one of the old maids though mind you, and I was asked to help build some numbers for our Division Two side.
“I initially hesitated with two children under the age of two, but thanks to the support of my hubby Andy and father-in-law, Fred, as well as the support from my wonderful mother-in-law Patricia and my mum and dad I jumped in and never looked back.”
Drysdale are a club going places, from humble beginnings the club has grown to become a real powerhouse of the local community scene in the Geelong region.
Catering for kids and adults, both male and female, Drysdale has nearly 400 members. They moved into their new multi-purpose home ground last year at Belchers Rd, Drysdale.
The club is well respected for its community first attitude which includes using sponsor dollars to freeze or reduce registration costs for both juniors and seniors.
Scott is full of praise for Drysdale and the club committee who have worked hard to create an inclusive environment.
“These Drysdale girls are just a whole lot of love and a whole lot of fun on and off the pitch,” she beams.
“We’re all a little crazy and wild, fun and free, and I think that’s why we all get along and bond so well, and have our emotional moments too.
“We all love a good house party drink and even though I’ve been a little quiet on that front this year with my focus on teaching, I know I can always have a good whole-hearted chat with any of them during and after training.”
Scott urges women out there who want an outlet away from the grind of normal life to pursue football or any other sport that allows them to express themselves and find themselves.
“I truly believe having something that’s not parenting, running a household or related to your work gives you another level of confidence and achievement which I know keeps me fulfilled as a person.
“It truly helps me be a better mother, wife, teacher because I’m not desperately chasing that fulfilment in my relationships or career. That’s what soccer does for me on a personal level, and it runs deep.”
While Scott prepares to lace up for another year, thousands of other women around the country will be doing the same. There are also thousands more having second thoughts, however Scott has one simple message for them.
“Go our and try it, trust me, you won’t regret it.”
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