The Reluctant Sports Parent

So we’ve all seen Judy Murray, the archetypal sports parent, screaming her head off in the box watching a son become champion.

As I type, Leicester City have against all probabilities come top of the league and I’m betting that the goalkeeper’s dad – one Mr Peter Schmeichel, will have been just as thrilled with Kaspar’s exploits.

At a less refined level, we’ve all got the friends who coulda been a contender and dutifully hot-house Junior, reliving their glory days.

And even down to a kick-around in the park or a Sunday fun run, sports parents have usually some basis of knowledge or indeed interest when the little darlings hurl themselves into the rugby fray or take their first splashes in a pool.

Not us – husband and I were both hiding in the library when the sporting genes were handed out and have managed to undistinguish ourselves in any active arena ever since. I have a clear memory of Sports Day 1977 doing the duffer’s obstacle race and miserably coming last trapped under netting. “When I am a grown up,” I vowed, “I am never going to do this again.” And I never have.

So we ended up with a sports baby. She has found her sport, is dedicated to it and is actually fairly good. Let me be clear – she is not now and never will be destined for Olympic glory. But she is good enough to compete for her county at National level and to put a huge amount of hours in to ensure she stays at her maximum level. As Malvolio nearly said “some have sports parenthood thrust upon ’em”.

It’s a confusing bewildering world, full of strange creatures, – and that’s just the coaches; arcane rules and cut-throat competitiveness, usually between the members of the same team. It’s also full of the greatest highs and unfathomable lows that a child can ever experience. Is this good or bad? Character forming or creating a brittle self-esteem that’s only as good as the last win?

I don’t intend to reveal her sport – at her level it’s a small world and I don’t want anyone to be identified. And what I want to talk about is more general than that – to pick our way through a sporting milieu for all the parents who’d far rather be sat at home with a good book than yelling on the touch line, the poolside, or the racing track; whose response to club politics is “yes, but it doesn’t really matter does it?” but yet whose hearts beat with pride for our children as red-faced with effort, they score a winning goal or take their place at the top of the podium.

Let’s pour another gin and take the journey together.


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