Ask most footballers and they will cite the support of their parents as a major factor in their success and that is no different for the Westfield Matildas. Back in 2016, we caught up with three Westfield Matildas' mothers - Roxanne Kerr, Simone Foord and Annette van Egmond - who have shared the journey of their daughters, Sam, Caitlin and Emily.
“Oh my gosh. It’s just amazing. It’s something that you dream of and you just never think it’s going to happen.”
That was the overwhelming feeling for Westfield Matildas forward Samantha Kerr’s mother Roxanne when she realised her daughter was an Olympian.
The emotions were similar for Annette van Egmond, mother of Emily and Simone Foord, mother of Caitlin when their daughters lined up alongside Roxanne’s in Australia’s opening match.
In a way, the Olympics are an achievement for parents as much as they are for their children.
After all, in the early days they shoulder the majority of the unforeseen work; the early mornings, the rides to training, the costs of the equipment.
For Simone Foord, as a single mother, that responsibility fell solely on her.
“Oh it was really difficult,” remembered Simone. “Especially because I have my eldest daughter, Jamie, as well.”
“Being on my own and getting Caitlin to training, and just money wise, yeah it was hard.”
“You juggle it,” said Roxanne on dealing with the demands of training along with keeping a balance of family life. “You are just young then and you have so much energy. “
“You are just glad they have all got their licences now and go to training themselves,” she laughed.
For all three mothers, the journey for their daughters’ careers has seen them as passengers as much as they are participants. From the beginning, there was a drive to become the best and Roxanne, Simone and Annette steered the ship.
“Emily knew from the word go. Cnce she put her first soccer boots on, that was it for her. She was absolutely in love with the game,” said Annette van Egmond.
Whatever opportunities came Emily's way, she wanted to be a part of it.”
“Probably the biggest barrier she had to get over to proceed through her career was to be away from Mum and Dad because she is such a homebody.”
Separations at elite sport happen early and often. In football there is the state tournaments, then Westfield Junior Matildas (U17), WestfieldYoung Matildas (U20), senior Westfield Matildas and possibly even overseas contracts. With Australia in the Asian Football Confederation, it often meant trips into Asia for weeks on end.
“I think Caitlin was 13 when she first went away with the U17s,” said Simone Foord. “For me it was pretty upsetting seeing her off at the airport because I knew how much of a homebody she is. It was pretty daunting.”
“The upside of all of that for most of those qualification tournaments when they were going through the U17s and U20s, we managed to get a trip out of it,” laughed Annette.
And that is where the friendship of the mothers began.
Mirroring the relationships of Caitlin, Sam and Emily in camp, Simone, Roxanne and Annette have a corresponding tight relationship forged through years of tours and interactions.
As much as their relationship has been about the football, it has also been a support network that allows them to support their daughters.
“As mothers, we are the ones that cop it,” said Roxanne. “After the Canadian game of course they were upset and angry and all those emotions. You go there [to the team hotel] and for the first half an hour they are angry at us, but they aren’t really.”
“I guess it’s good to have a couple of people in the inner sanctum of your own little group,” said Annette.
“We all know what we are going through,” echoed Roxanne.
We all have been there and are there to support each other because sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad.”
The good times have been plenty for Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Emily van Egmond with all three playing in some of the world’s best leagues and considered some of the best players in their positions.
The trio have also played in two FIFA Women’s World Cups, collected silver at the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and are now at the Olympics.
However, the bad times are when the parents’ support is most needed.
“Samantha has had a terrible lot of injuries. Every time she goes out there I am saying hail Marys,” said Roxanne.
At the end of the day they come first. You have just got to be there to support them.”
“Sometimes Samantha is like ‘that’s it. I have had enough” and I am just like ‘come home’ you are the most important thing.”
It is a sentiment echoed by Simone and Annette; their daughter’s health and wellbeing will always be paramount.
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It is the reason why they are so proud of this Olympic achievement and their growth from precocious teenagers to world stars and adults they are proud of.
“We know that the three of our girls, particularly in the junior ranks, got themselves into a few little sticky situations,” Annette laughed. “They are the back class girls.”
“But I guess at the end of it they are all good kids,” Annette continued. “Yes, they are ratbags, there is no denying that, but they are good people.”
As for their future hopes for Sam, Caitlin and Emily?
“You just want them to keep enjoying it,” Roxanne concluded. “They are so young you want them to be enjoying it.”
On the Global Day of Parents, we recognise support of all Westfield Matildas parents, past and present, and express an appreciation for all their dedication and sacrifice in assisting their daughters in chasing their dreams.