Let’s picture this. A young girl aged ten, with brown hair and blue eyes. She is holding her mothers hand and has a soccer ball under her arm as they enter the sporting fields of Ulladulla on the far south coast of New South Wales for their first soccer trial. Little did her mother know that her daughter would one day play an integral role in her local club for the next 14 years to come.
Caylie Wise comes from a family and community where soccer is their bread and butter and black and white are their local colors. Having grown up in Ulladulla and joined her local soccer club, the Milton Ulladulla Football Club (MUFC) in 2004. Her playing career started in co-ed teams, competing with and against her male counterpart she thrived with the opportunity to grow in the sport she learned to love. Now, she is an athlete and administrator who always finds the time to mentor upcoming stars and discuss the exciting happenings of the club with those willing to listen.
When you speak to Caylie about W-League and the future of female soccer in Australia another level of excitement in her voice appears and there is fire in her eyes. She is well informed of the opportunities that exist in the game and is ready to deliver as a recently appointed Director of the MUFC. As the only woman on the Board and the youngest Director by over ten years, this does not deter Caylie from doing what she can do to make her club the best in the area. Her want to increase the number of women involved in the game at all levels of sport is contagious.
“There are not enough females taking the opportunities to coach and part of my goal at MUFC is to encourage women to step up not only as coaches but as players and referees because we are more than just a canteen volunteer”.
But Caylie’s passion for female involvement doesn’t stop at her local club, it is her mother Jen who has ignited this passion. Her mother has acted in a number of voluntary capacities, she has managed and coaches several soccer teams and always bought her daughter along with her. Having coached the Under 17’s Women’s Southern Representative Team and NSW Country Under 17’s Women’s Teams to grand final success on several occasions. While her mother’s outstanding contribution as a coach remains to be one of her fondest Soccer memories, it is her mother’s love for the game of soccer that has provided Caylie with her favorite lifelong soccer memory.
“During my teenage years I was captain of the Southern Under 16s side where we won the grand final. That same year I was still playing for MUFC but played up a grade in the Ladies First Division Team. We went through undefeated and won both minor and major premierships. Having gone on to play Champions of Champions, our team progressed to the grand final of this knock out competition. With the grand final held at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, one of my most cherished memories is walking out on that field with my mum, who also played in the team”.
It is memories and family bonds such as these that drive Australian sport and it is sports such as Touch Football and Rugby League that are no exception. While the introduction of playing salary for female athletes has only recently made headlines, it is soccer that has led the conversation. While their has been consistently disappointing viewership and attendances at W-League matches, Caylie believes it should be the clubs that are supporting those female athletes who reach National level as a part of one of the best competitions in the world.
“We need to get more people coming to watch the games and support the clubs and the players. There needs to be a change in player salary as having known an athlete that used to work two jobs while balancing a position in the Australian Matilda’s team while training as hard as the men, this is definitely not ok”.
As an Australian we understand the influence of sport on lives, but many don’t understand that sport is now perceived as entertainment and run like a business. With over a million Australian’s participating in soccer annually, it is volunteers such as Caylie who drive this ever-increasing number.
This volunteer, with brown hair and blue eyes is now aged 23. She has the opportunity to influence her local community through her actions as an athlete, administrator and Director. And it is from her local team of Milton Ulladulla Football Club, which she fees at home. And as Caylie says “It is just where I belong”.