After Scarlett Downer's Illawarra Stingrays reached the footballing summit in 2023, the Thirroul teenager knew exactly who she wanted to share the moment with.
Her dad, Jesse.
The Stingrays under-16s team had just claimed the NPL NSW championship last month and Scarlett was eager to hug her father in celebrations.
It was a fitting moment for the pair, who have gone through ups and downs together in football in recent years.
A key element in that journey has been the Downers signing up for the Daughters and Dads Football program.
The unique program features a balance of empowerment and physical training, and aims to get more fathers involved in the coaching young girls in the round-ball game.
It's something that has proven beneficial for the Downers, who have now signed up to be facilitators for Daughters and Dads.
Term-four training for the program is set to begin on Thursday, October 19 from 5.30pm in Thirroul, with weekly sessions to continue until mid-December.
The program is run by Football NSW in conjunction with the NSW Government and the University of Newcastle, and any interested people can sign up via the Football NSW website.
Jesse said that he and Scarlett had benefited greatly from taking part in the Daughters and Dads sessions.
"Scarlett signed up so that we could share some of our experience and the journey that we have taken to build a strong, fit female soccer player," Jesse said.
"I've transitioned from managing summer soccer to club coaching at Thirroul Junior Football Club, to becoming an accredited license C coach. And Scarlett has done a year as an assistant coach at Thirroul and it's added a new lens to her experience as a player.
"I've seen first-hand the roles that dads play in encouraging and developing their daughters to play at the highest levels.
"I hope that dads will model behaviour and technical skill as their daughter's first sports coach.
"Having a safe, non-judging environment where girls can learn the basics sets them up for success in club sport."
Scarlett agreed, adding that she had continued to strengthen her bond with her dad through football.
"My dad has impacted my love of sport a lot, especially soccer, because I have been able to see him work hard and succeed which has given me determination to work towards my goals," the 16-year-old said.
"I have faced the barriers of injuries, but I've always felt comfortable enough in my family to alert my parents and they helped me through it.
"I believe fathers should be advocates for their daughters as it provides a safe environment for girls to explore their passions."
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