One of my discoveries upon becoming a parent is that I developed many more fears than I previously had. I didn’t really have all that many before, heights didn’t faze me, physical pain wasn’t really something that concerned me. Perhaps, thinking back, public speaking was something that filled me with dread, but now that I’m a parent and have all these extra fears, the threat of speaking to a group is no longer a problem.
You see, the fears that I’ve developed are not about me, they are about my kids. From what can happen to them right now, to what will come of them in their lives. I am petrified of things going wrong for them, and, interestingly, fearful of buggering things up for them myself.
I won’t lie, I want them, particularly my sons, to share my interests. If they grow up to enjoy footy, cricket, reading and writing, then I’d be pretty damn happy with how things have panned out. I’m mindful of protecting them against themselves too, which is why, when Richo came to me really wanting to play Under 8s footy this year I was beyond reluctant. I didn’t want him to play at all.
So, yes, I was reluctant. I want him to love playing footy, and the idea that he would start when he was seven, and that would lead to burnout was real and present. It still is. I’m still playing footy now, aged 35, and I only started playing when I was 12. I always thought that was part of the reason I was still playing, that I didn’t start too early.
Anyway, after some honest discussions with Darren, the Team Manager, about their philosophies on the coaching of the age group, mainly that it was geared toward fun and making sure all the kids got a go, I relented to Richo’s barrage of pleading tears. He was to play Under 8s for Montrose.
During the first three weeks I was unsure. The game itself is really, well, the honest word for it is cute. It is played by little people on a little oval with little goals and a little footy with altered rules for the little people. Some kids are incredibly advanced, others are watching butterflies, or standing around in a daze. One kid refused to play one week because it was too cold. Richo was somewhere in between, but was in the 99th percentile for keenness.
I was unsure during those early weeks partly because of the club’s set-up, and partly because of Richo himself. They had way too many kids, with kids spending up to a half on the bench some weeks while kids from other teams were playing a whole game. Richard is, putting it delicately, a bit of a softie. He’s big hearted and keen, but prone to tears in the face of things not going his way, or with the concept of pain. He’s seven.
In the first few weeks Richo was the only kid that left the field through injury, and he did it twice. Of course, with the bench, they didn’t make any changes during the quarters, so once he was off he was off, meaning one week he played a quarter and a half. He was upset, and a bit bored, and I was worried.
Then, two things happened. Most importantly, they split the team into two, meaning every kid would play at least one full game, and would sometimes play two. Secondly, Richo seemed to get it. We had a bit of a chat about what playing footy was, and what being “tough” meant, and, combined with him getting a full game, his new attitude just propelled him forward.
Early on, it really did appear that way, but once those two changes happened, he was happy. Really, he was so happy playing footy with his mates, it was a joy to watch. Capability wise, he is in the middle, which means he is capable of kicking the odd goal and getting a few kicks, all of which happen after a bounce and are a banana or a snap. Every one. Most importantly, it does mean he can enjoy playing.
The boys themselves are a lovely bunch of kids. There was one incident when Richo was playing as a forward and this backman was trying to mark him and Richo got scared and was trying to run away from him, and his teammate came in and told the kid to go away. They then asked him if he was ok, showing real concern. They would often put their arms around each other in the breaks, just enjoying being together. Other times they would go to kids who were hurt and help them.
All of this was fostered by a hierarchy of leaders whose kids were playing in the team. Never did it seem that their main focus was their own child like mine was, but rather the growth of an environment that would encourage development of and enjoyment for the kids. In fact, putting my footy nerd hat on, the development of the kids was striking.
If you saw the first game, missed all the middle games and then saw the last, you would not believe it was the same bunch of kids. Roachy, the coach, was so passionate about his boys and about how they played their footy, and they clearly loved him for it.
Lots of bloody horrible things have happened in 2016. I try not to follow the news, as I want to be happy and positive, but this year you couldn’t avoid all of these terrible goings on. It would be easy to think that there are awful people doing awful things to each other everywhere. Sometimes it is important to acknowledge that the vast majority of people are good. They are trying their best, trying be good people who have a positive impact on those around them.
The people I have seen giving of themselves for a bunch of seven year old kids have done so because they are good people. They have been a huge part of happy Sunday mornings of many ordinary people, not the least of which is my son. Today, after that last game, he cried. His tears were because it was over. He’d loved it so much he didn’t want it to end. Job well done to those to whom we’d entrusted our offspring.
So these fears I have for my children, they are not gone. They will not go, as that is who I am, but that whole situation is tempered somewhat by the realisation that their futures do not wholly rely on whether or not I get it right. I’ll bugger things up, of course I will. Who doesn’t? But there will be more than just me in their lives. Their Mum is a bigger influence on them anyway, but there will be friends, teachers, coaches, grandparents, and so on.
I am content that people are good, and my kids will be too.
Follow Greg Gibson on Twitter: @GregGibbo28