Sport Has Put Me In Catch Up Mode

I am in catch up mode today.   I hadn't a cat in hell's chance of getting anything written that needed some research over this weekend - simply because there was sport, sport and even more sport that was unmissable for me.  I had the TV set on ALL day and have to admit I had my main meal on my lap watching the rugby from South Africa.

My Sporting Credentials

You may get the impression from that paragraph above that I am an ex sportsman.  

Well NO not at all - 

Football
- there were four football pitches at my school and when we went down to them on a Wednesday afternoon,  I was often on the kick around didn't get picked lads using a side field.

Cricket 
- was just as bad.  I had my triumphant moments.  Somehow one day I scored three sixes in a row and established a nickname as a result.  That was Willy Watson ( who was a England cricketer )  However I also suffered a couple of injuries (the ball is hard)  On one occasion I trod on the ball instead of getting my foot behind it and fractured a bone in my foot.   I actually got out of cricket for the rest of that season.

Tennis  - ??? - let's say no more.

Swimming
- I was quite good at swimming but the problem was that swimming pools were quite out of reach for me to get to.  We had no car.   

Badminton
- Surprisingly in my sixties I began to play badminton with a group of Babs (my wife) work colleagues.  Until the lockdown it was all going well and I could return a shuttle.

Sport And My Kids

My son was born out in Oman where Babs and I were helping to set up staffing and commissioning a new quite magnificent hospital.

Our accommodation was excellent and we had a swimming pool 50 metres down the street.

My daughter Zoe was able to swim well before she could even toddle.  My son was similar.  They lived in the water,

When we came back to England when Tom was 5 and Zoe was 7 we put them into a swimming club.  We had to - they were both missing Oman in so many ways.  Swimming was the one thing we could offer that would help them find friends with similar interests.

I then came across the issue that so many parents have when their children get to a certain level of competence in a sport.  Getting up at wretchedly early hours to get them to the training.

When Zoe was nine the swimming coach told me that he would like her to attend early morning training - for the real training.   

By this time I was a governor at the school she was a pupil at.  So I went along to the teacher to tell her that Zoe was now going to swimming training five days a week at 5 am.  I just wanted the teacher to let me know if she thought that this was having a detrimental affect on her work.  I was almost hoping she would report an issue and that I personally would be able to reduce the number of mornings that I got up early.

I heard nothing and so I tracked down the teacher to ask her.

Not a bit of it.  Zoe was as sharp as a button and her work was fine.   I had not let out there - so I had to get used to the alarm going off early..

So Tom followed as well.

That is only the start of it - as it doesn't stop there.

The weekends were of course when all of the swimming competition events occur.  The distances to drive were often a long way and could be quite hazardous.  In the winter driving across the hills between Bridport and Dorchester are still in my memory bank of quite terrifying driving.  The fog was always there on the hills - but add to that freezing icy roads and wow - was really pleased to get off of the hills.   Meanwhile the kids with their mates are jabbering away behind with not a care in the world.

What became apparent to me quite early on was that there was only so far my own kids could go with swimming because of their size.  Tom is 5' 7" and Zoe much shorter.   

Tom got married a couple of weeks ago and several of his main friends were swimming with him in those teenage years.   I actually asked a guy called James at the wedding reception how tall he is now - he smiled and said "6' 6""   That made me smile as I remember watching Tom and the starting blocks standing beside James with his height, big hands and feet.  Happy memories though as Tom gave this kids a race.

What is great about individual sports like swimming is that PBs (personal bests) are the important point.  You are really working to improve yourself.  

For about two years Tom was trying to get under 1 minute for hundred metres freestyle.   He was sometimes just a real split second short.  He tried and tried and would be disappointed after a gala if he didn't get that PB.  Then one evening - for whatever reason - he did it.  The curious thing though was that it was two seconds inside the minute.  It was really a fantastic moment.  I can't remember how he did in the race and that doesn't matter - I was just delighted beyond words.  He had got what he wanted to get.   What a useful lesson in life that is.

Zoe was a different swimmer.  Tom was crash crash through the water swimmer.  Us parents used to chatter of course as we waited for action.  Many people said that Tom was like the plastic wind up ducks that whizzed their legs around to propel through the water.  I don't know how Tom got the speed of his arms going so fast.

Zoe - on the other hand was baletic in her swimming.  Particularly in dolphin stroke which can look so ugly and splashy when swam badly.  There was hardly a splash as Zoe slipped in undulating way through the water.  Lovely to watch.

Now for a bit of parenting that I think I got totally wrong but I have to admit I really didn't know how to change things.  

Tom was also into football and the school spoke of his speed down the wings and so on.  So we got involved Tom in a local team.  I was pleased about that as being part of a team teaches you more about life.

I should name this person and the name of the club - but I will simply give you a brief insight as it is a negative story.

The manager/coach seemed to lack any ability to take kids and make the best out of them.  He wanted to be top of the league and had scouts going out and talking to kids and their parents from other clubs if they were good.

I couldn't get my head around the fact that Tom was not played in his best position. he was very fast and running up the wing to cross etc.  He was put to full back (which in those days was staying back) and then dropped from that because he wasn't tall enough to head the ball when an attacking player came in for a high ball.   It all stunk.   

Furthermore the manager had a son who was playing up the wing and could hardly run.  He was never dropped or substituted. 

OK you must get me drift.  I could tell you so much more but I really do feel my blood pressure rising.

The same lads were sitting match after match as substitutes as the elites that had be invited in to this club simply to help climb the league.  

Who cared.  The manager's ego did.

Some of those overlooked sustitute lads left to join other clubs with kid development positivity.

I wanted Tom to do the same and I appealed with him to go elsewhere - and he wouldn't because he is loyal.  He still puts loyalty above most things.  

BUT he never did realise how he could have got better training.  

I just don't think that the FA had enough control of kids training in those days.

What would you have done if that was your child?  I would love to know - so please comment.

Sport - My Passion For It All

So I love watching and learning more about every sport.   I love the parent stories, I love the persistence stories, I love the emotional stories,   I just love sport!

This Olympics has been a joy to watch.  But it is not just the Tokyo games.

On Saturday - there was cycling and high board diving - where Tom Daley (with his knitting) got a bronze medal.   What a fantastic couple of divers the Chinese had that won the gold and silver.

There was also Test Cricket between England and the powerful Indian cricketers.   It was fourth day and the match was on a knife edge.  Those of you that don't know about cricket will not understand my enthusiasm about a game that lasts for five days.   Once you are savvy and know the rules you understand it  AND I promise  you will get why it is one of the most difficult games to be the captain.  Sadly five days was not enough to find out who would have won this cliffhanger as the English weather got in the way.  It rained all day on Sunday - so it was a draw.

Also on Saturday was the third and final test between South Africa and the British Lions Rugby.  I will simply write one word which was on the front my newspaper 'Agony!'

Finally on Saturday was Football which went the way I wanted.  It was FA Community Shield.  This game starts the Football season here in UK.  It is between the winner of last season's premiership league and the FA Cup.   It was between Manchester City and Leicester.  I'm an outsider really as I would not normally be favouring either of these teams.  However Manchester City is one of those clubs who cares very little about bringing players on.  They are rich and buy their way to success.  They this weekend paid £100 million for Grealish - a record spend for one player.  AND they are after Kane the England striker.    So was I delighted when Leicester won the Shield with a i -0 victory.