I never understood the lure of sports. In particular, team sports. As a child the only extra-curricular activities on offer to us in the area we lived were either hurling or Irish dancing. I think we all know which option I took,.
Of course, I understand the health, social and well-being aspects of participating in sports but given our limited options growing up, it never fully tickled my fancy. Throwing in the fact that my generation was pre-internet meant that being active did not necessitate the same exertion that it warrants today. Everyday was spent outdoors. Once homework was finished you bolted out the back door not to be seen until dinner.
During the summer holidays, my mother would fill a bag with supplies and I would spend the day walking the fields with the neighbours only pausing to eat a squashed sandwich for lunch sitting on a hay bale, only to return for dinner.
We walked to school: eventually cycling when Santa delivered a frosted pink confection with matching helmet one year. We never were consumed with the thought of being active. We just were. But times just aren’t a changing; they have changed. Therefore, when I had children I was adamant that they would participate in sports. I am not a competitive person by nature, but, I do believe in hard work. So, I set out one very clear rule: that they may decide what they would like to participate in but after they had made their selection, they would then have to devote themselves to it for a period of 12 months.
There has been a lot of debate surrounding ‘Early Specialisation’ in sports in relation to children ie intense training in one sport while excluding others. Whilst this was and never will be my intention, I wanted to highlight to my children that consistent hard work will eventually lead to an alternate outcome for them.
They debated over their selection whilst my husband silently prayed in his head that at least one, or possibly both, would lean towards the egg-shaped ball. He need not have fretted.
Both of them duly stuck it out for the year and subsequently continued on in their chosen fields. While my son has flourished and progressed within rugby, my daughter has not. However, where he found a hurley frustrating to master, she wielded one with such ferocity as to cause the children in front of her to part like the Red Sea as she charged towards them. They now have two additional activities each which I applied the same rule to for the duration. They have also chosen to stay the course in their selections.
By no means am I suggesting that my approach is suitable for others; what’s good for the goose etc. But it has worked for us. Over the last few years I have seen my children excel, then fail, watched them experience wins and losses. Sometimes, a string of losses. But, they always get back up again. Always.
I have seen them build a circle of friends outside of their school set that I hope will stand them in good stead in the approaching years. But most importantly, I have seen them work.
As for me, I understand it now. All of it. I will never forget the first time I saw my son carry that ball across the line. Nor the time, my daughter strapped on her helmet and barrelled onto the pitch. I felt the swell in my chest simultaneously as they did in theirs.
In the last number of years, I have lost count of the slices of bread buttered and the trays filled with sandwiches. Of the bibs and kit washed and communal water bottles sterilised. Of how I will never tire of seeing my husband on the pitch with our son. Nor my daughter arguing her point with a ref (I didn’t say we get it right all of the time!).
I am invested. I’ve bought thermals, a raincoat and wellies. I’ve stood on the sidelines as relentless rain has hammered down. I’ve lost my temper over an unfair call. I have had to restrain myself from cartwheeling onto the pitch and high-fiving either of my children or their teammates when they score. I have witnessed the impact of a longed-for win and the dejection of a loss. I have seen passion.
I have seen all of this from the side-lines. Week after week. I may never have been part of a team per say but I belong to one now. I hope that every parent, at least once, gets to see their child give them a thumbs up as their chests swell with pride.
So, I continue to stand on the side-lines. In the torrential rain, patiently waiting for that thumbs up before they run off to join their team.
I’m invested. I’ve bought thermals, a raincoat
and wellies. I’ve stood on the sidelines as
relentless rain has hammered down