Doncaster Rovers Belles striker Jess Sigsworth, 17, has enjoyed a magnificent rise up the football ladder.
Her journey, which has culminated in her being involved in the England U19 set-up, has seen her start off at grassroots level, and progress to the Sheffield United Girls’ Centre of Excellence before signing for Women’s Super League side Doncaster Rovers Belles.
Jess tells us about her career so far, and the important role her parents have played in supporting her.
“From having a passion for football for as long as I can remember it is a dream come true to now be a part of Doncaster Rovers Belles and England u19’s.
“It all started at Branton Boys at the age of seven when my dad took me down for training after I enjoyed a kick-about in the garden with me him and my brother.
“Teams used to turn up to play us, Branton Boys, and say ‘this will be easy they’ve got a girl.’ I just used to laugh and show them that girls could do just as well. At U11’s level we were unbeaten, which was fantastic especially when Dad used to help with training every Saturday morning.
“I’m very lucky to have a dad that is so supportive and loves football like I do because without him I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have been able to get myself everywhere I’ve needed to be.
“After Branton Boys I moved to Junior Doncaster Belles for three seasons. I then went on to play for the Sheffield United Girls’ Centre of Excellence. I trained twice a week in Sheffield, Mum taking me once and Dad taking me once.
“It was nice that my Mum and Dad would both do the travelling because it showed they were both very supportive of my football.
“My mum doesn’t really understand football so it’s nice to have a Dad that you can talk to before and after a game and he can understand exactly what you’re saying and feeling.
“Even after a bad game my dad always had something positive to say that always used to make me feel better.
“Whilst playing for Sheffield United I broke into the England U17’s squad. I went on to play in phase two of the Euros in Poland and one of my dreams came true when I scored against Sweden in a one-nil victory.
“My dad took the time off work to come and support me, which was fantastic. It is always nice to know you’ve got someone with you, and in some respects it does make you play that little bit better.
“I am so happy that my dad got to see that goal because I don’t think he’d ever lived it down if he didn’t.
“After three great seasons in Sheffield I came back to Doncaster to train with the Belles first team and signed for the second half of the Women’s Super League season in 2011.
“It’s been such a privilege to play in the best women’s league and against some of the best female players.
“I am also very lucky not just to have great support from my family but also my friends and teachers, especially my PE teachers who take a massive interest in what I do. I don’t take it for granted and I am always very grateful for everyone’s support.
“After all the miles my dad must have clocked up supporting me I am happy to be playing in the WSL and I’ve got a few caps for England so nothing he’s done has gone to waste. Hopefully a place in the England first team will repay everything he’s done for me.”
Her Dad, John, added: “I can’t begin to tell you how proud you feel when the opposing fans applaud a goal or a good pass made by your own kid, and this happened a lot. The success that the teams had that Jess played in was very high.
“I’ve been a chauffer, fan, and as assessor of performances, which sometimes led to heated discussions on those long journeys back following a defeat. I’ve had to pick her up when things aren’t going so well.
“Your weekends become a thing of the past, and I daren’t begin to think how many miles I have driven to matches and to training, but it is not something you think of at the time. Saturdays would start at 6am, in order to get her to Sheffield for the 7am coach, and we wouldn’t get back until about 4pm.
“You also have to try and help them strike a balance between football and schoolwork. I have been very lucky with Jess because she has always got in from school and done her homework straightaway on training night because she wouldn’t get back from training at Sheffield United until 9.45pm.
“I dare say some parents will have difficulty in getting their sports mad kids to see the importance of their schoolwork if the team was playing away at Sunderland or Newcastle.
“I’m sure mums and dads up and down the country have similar stories to tell: you sacrifice a lot of your time, you kick every ball with them, you wince at every tackle made on them, you celebrate all the highs, you have to try and pick them up from the lows, you have to try and be very tactful when discussing not so good performances but I wouldn’t change anything.
“To all parents out there – your kids couldn’t do it without your great help.”