Hit and Miss in the manner of sporting pursuits

After a dramatic year in which Elizabeth Reed introduced her son to all manner of sporting pursuits, he made it quite clear he wanted to write his own script.

 Ten years ago we had our first child, a son. Obviously he would enjoy sport; all boys do. So despite niggling doubts about his level of interest, we tried to give him every opportunity to engage in games that involved chasing a ball. This is how the match we call the first decade of his life has been played out.

The pre-match warm-up featured aerobic work and resistance training at the playground. Climbing and chin-ups were a specialty. We were looking strong. The siren rang, and it was game on. We got busy. My son received the encouragement-award trophy one week at ball-skills class, which was promising.

There were swimming lessons and frequent trips to the pool and beach. We went to the park to play footy, but the ball was left pretty much untouched. While we had a few points on the board after the first quarter, we weren’t kicking any goals. We just needed to try harder. So we did, grabbing bikes and pedalling anywhere we could to keep our strength up. Scooters and rollerblades sat hopefully on the bench. Up went a basketball ring in the backyard. We were armed and dangerous, yet the cheer squad seemed much more enthusiastic than the player.

Still, we attacked the second quarter strongly. Tennis got a whack, because no type of ball would remain unhit. We signed up for Auskick, and Goalkick, the soccer version. It was ambitious, but we wanted him to have the option of running with either crowd.

However, it seemed the earlier resistance training had done its job and you could sense resistance whenever sport was mentioned. He found it boring at best and dangerous at worst. “You could break your legs playing this stuff,” he commented while watching a pretty rough footy match on TV.

So when the half-time siren sounded we knew we’d won a few battles but were losing the war. Yet the team wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. The third quarter saw tactical changes. The ball was sidelined while we tried karate. After a few weeks this, too, got the chop. The trampoline had its ups and downs, and we approached the final quarter with little in reserve. Yet we struggled on. Rock climbing gave us a lift, but sailing lessons left us winded. We were beaten convincingly, despite our best efforts. As the final siren rang we needed to reassess our goals.

I was willing to consider my son’s views at his performance appraisal. “Can’t I just have drama lessons?” he requested wearily. The reality hit me like a mark taken on the chest. During my 10-year coaching contract I had failed to think outside the square. I’d assumed I knew the path he should take rather than letting him choose for himself. I should have been guided by his talents and interests instead of thinking my way was the right way.

My son deserved the best, and I hadn’t been the fairest. If he’d rather tread boards than turf, or preferred the smell of greasepaint to locker rooms, so be it. Game over. It looks like my weekends will not be spent watching footy matches in the cold. Instead you’ll find me sitting proudly in the front row at the theatre. Break a leg.

Illustration by Dean Gorissen