It was the most agonising parenting experience I had. It took place on a winter Saturday morning when our boy was eight.
It was the one thing, kind of expected, that parents of eight-year-old boys would take their boy to soccer on Saturday mornings. Our boy was not interested, his dad (me) was not interested, but his Mum insisted I take him. It was a humiliating mistake. The other boys chased the ball with gusto. Our boy seemed to be avoiding the ball. Other fathers looked at me with disdain. At least that is what I felt. I was so fired up with shame that on our return home I announced to my wife, “I am never going to take him to soccer again.”
I grew up in the state of Victoria, in Australia. It is not possible to live in that state without following a particular football (footie – Australian rules) team. “Who do you barrack for?” That was the usual question asked in any first encounter. I was fine with that. The Bombers were my team, but my problems arose when other boys asked me to play a game. It was in a primary school lunch time game that my ineptitude was revealed. Somehow, I was awarded a free kick in front of our opponent’s goal. I gave the ball an almighty kick. Disaster! The ball went up in the air and curved around behind me. To my everlasting shame, I kicked a goal for the opposing side. That was the end of my footie career.
Actually, in the branch of the Stewarts to which I belong, no one excels in sport, at least not to my knowledge. Our interest has been in endurance. We don’t win races, but we certainly can plod a long way.
My Brisbane grandson looked like he was going to follow the Stewart tendency of sporting ineptitude. In his pre-teen years, my wife would play soccer and basketball with him. She was faster and more nimble than him. In my heart, I accepted that here was another non-sporty Stewart. I was wrong. Good sport has changed him. I knew nothing about basketball except that the star players earned huge salaries. At thirteen my grandson seemed to know all about them – height, salary, history, age, favourite plays. But it didn’t end there. He was not content to be a television spectator; he actually wanted to play basketball.
For a year he sat on the bench watching others play. But the next year, his dream came true. He was on the team - and much to my surprise, he has become a very effective player. This brings me great happiness. Certainly, he still spends hours in his room on computer games, but whenever he gets the chance, he is playing basketball.
The Coach has a busy life with family and business but he gives lots of time to his team. He works hard to get the boys to know each other. That has meant sharing the plays, recognizing each other’s strengths, calling their names, and giving their absolute best at every game. I have attended almost every practice and every game. At the practices, I am often the only spectator. At first the boys hardly acknowledged me, but now we nod and exchange a few words. I am so happy that my grandson has basketball in his life. It provides a healthy balance to school and computer games. I am so appreciative of his coach. I know this commitment costs him something and I know he receives no payment. I realise that he is just one of the hundreds of coaches who helps boys and girls to play sport, all kinds of sport. As one who has come from a non-sporting background, I have been a slow learner in this respect.
In a world where everything is changing, sports are right there -cricket, rugby, basketball etc. Here are arenas in which they can enter into the world of their parents and grandparents. In a fast changing, cyber world, this is good medicine indeed. As is happening in my family, team sport is adding excitement and balance to the lives of myriad young people. I want to say ‘thankyou’ to that great host of coaches, and committees and supporters that make it all possible. In a world where it is easy to get lost in a cyber space, you are bringing to young lives a taste of reality. Thank you! You are Good Sports indeed. May your tribe increase!