I would never in a million years describe myself as ‘sporty’. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a couch potato, I own my fair share of active wear, but I was just never into team sport. In fact looking back I’d say the only thing I’ve ever been competitive about is getting the last bit of cheese on a shared platter.
I wasn’t really into sport at school and had my ‘period’ more than once a month to get out of hockey & netball. Saying that, I did have a stint in the Under 12’s Basketball Team and my Mum would have the newspaper clippings somewhere to prove it. I was the only girl in the all-boys side but before you start to think of me in a Jordan or LeBron way, don’t. I should clarify my place on the team was entirely based on the fact I was tall for my age and at the time the side was one man down. Sadly centimetres were I all I provided and probably some comic relief to the opposing teams we played.
Nowadays I go to the gym and I have tried my hand and various classes; spin, Pilates, zumba, sessions with a PT you name it I would have tired it (I do draw the line at hot yoga though, downward dog mixed with early menopause sweats is not my bag). I’ll happily work out surrounded by people but I have never been one for team sports and you won’t ever find me playing for an adult touch footy or netball team.
In short team sport was a really foreign thing to me. Apart from the moment where I would turn to high-five the 70 year old lady zumba dancing next to me, I had no idea how important being part of a team felt. Then I married someone who was a professional sports man and from the outside looking in I could see that team sport brought mateship, discipline, comradery, structure and was like having a second family (squabbling siblings at Christmas time and all).
So of course as soon as my son was old enough I knew that he would follow in Dad’s footsteps and get his ‘team sport’ on. And he did. Was I expecting it to be while he was only four years old, probably not, but that’s when he joined his first ‘team’. We still have vision of the first game of footy he played. He was so tiny and when he started to run the wrong way his coach simply picked him up, turned him around and pointed him in the right direction.
For some unknown reason groups of people can often make me feel anxious. One-on-one I am fine but on mass I get a bit unstuck. Totally unfounded but regardless my anxiety is real. Kids sport brought with it lots of groups of people. On training night many teams tend to train at the same time and therefore brought with it scores of parents around the sidelines. (Thank goodness for mobile phones and the ‘excuse’ they can give you to talk to someone about work, or have an email to respond to). Realising quite quickly though that twice a week (training and then the actual game) I would need to spend time with lots of people I didn’t know I had to address it.
Five years on I am so glad I put myself out there and got over my anxiety, as I’ve met some of the most amazing people. You see one of the wonderful things about kids sport is that most people give their time for free, are purely there for their kids and the love of whatever the game is being played. It absolutely warms my heart (if not my hands on the cold winter sideline nights) observing the passion and love that sport can bring out in people. Trust me when I say the times I have volunteered for the canteen have been some of the funniest and most fulfilling Saturday mornings I’ve had (plus the BBQ and bacon & egg rolls are ace for hangovers).
The coach and trainer of our current footy team both travel an hour in and back on a Friday to train the boys and the same again for the game on a Sunday. Why you ask? Because it is the same club that our coach played for as a youngster and he wore the jersey with pride and it is a legacy he wanted he son’s to be a part of too. These two men are great role models, like all the coaching staff I have encountered to date. Both kind and calm, they bring patience, structure, team spirit and a real inclusiveness to all of the players regardless of their ability. It is something quite special to watch in action. Being part of a sporting team provides so many life lessons and really helps shape our children into young adults. I feel like I might cry writing that… actually I find myself crying a lot at the games, there is something about kids’ sport that really gets you. Plus at my age I find I cry at most things!
Does it always go smoothly? Hell no. I am sure I am not the only parent who dreads the car trip home after a loss. Nothing that stopping at the petrol station for an ice cream or chocolate can’t fix though. Thinking about it a loss is very similar to PMT, tears, anger, chocolate fix, hot bath, a good movie and a hug on the sofa usually sorts it (replace Love Actually with the latest Jurassic movie in my sons case).
I should also warn anyone who is about to get involved for the first time in kids sport you may well experience the Jekyll & Hyde sideline syndrome. We all start out thinking we won’t be that ‘animated’ parent on the sideline but trust me I have seen the meekest ladies and gents come alive mid-match! I caught myself only a few weeks ago shouting over a disallowed try. I then took a deep breath and remembered it was an Under 9’s game where the referee was a volunteer who was about 14 and this wasn’t the grand final on Channel 9 and we had no video ref to go to. Sadly not all sideline supporters are perfect and their etiquette can be quite off at times, but they are usually reprimanded by the ground staff and make total pork chops out of themselves. Also in my book clapping for the opposition when they score should be mandatory too and is just good manners, these are kids after all.
What else has team sport brought my way? As well as mate-ship the team brings the children there is also a real sense of community for the adults too. For me especially when my marriage broke down, and living the other side of the world from home some of these people became like a second family to me. They were there when things were tough, there to laugh along with me when I would relay the latest Tinder disaster date and there when I just needed a cuddle.
My son plays touch in the summer and footy in the winter. The later is a contact sport and as a parent of course you worry when your child is tackled, or winded, and I am sure as my son gets older it will get harder to watch. I didn’t want him to play contact sport but with a real passion for the game it was inevitable. As he said to me, mum this is something I love and I wouldn’t stop you doing something that you love like eating or posting on Instagram (Note to self - I may need to ‘up’ my loves from eating & social media).
This was originally published on Kidspot (Millions of Mums. One Spot).