O my goodness. It doesn’t seem 5 minutes since I was taking an excited, skinny 6-year-old William to his first football experience ” Mini kickers”. His new traditional black boots were a tiny size 6/7, his shin pads barely clung to his little legs and he couldn’t do his laces. On the field I spent a good hour laughing at the two groups of enthusiastic boys and girls chasing the ball around like a flock of seagulls tracking a fishing boat, none of them with the faintest clue about positioning, tactics and passing the ball to each other. When they all finally caught up with the ball it more resembled a rugby scrum than a football tackle with arms and legs flaying all over the place until the ball was kicked (accidentally) out of the ruck. I found it hilarious but at the same time I realised that I had expected far too much of William and his team mates. I had, very naïvely, expected them to be placed on the pitch by the coach, to stay in their positions, to understand the difference between person-to-person and zonal marking, to pass the ball to each other preferably down the channels, to throw the ball down the line (preferably to one of your own team) and finally, to play towards the opposition’s goal not your own! How wrong I was but after ten years of training, coaching, academies, victories, draws and defeats, cups trophies and medals, cuts, bruises and a serious knee injury I now have a strapping 16-year-old confident young man who loves his football and today is about to embark on his last season of youth football.
His boots-size 11-are now pink and black and embossed with his name. His spare pair is green and gold but nameless. (Thankfully he can do his laces) He tackles and passes, uses the channels intelligently and gets battered and bashed in the process. But he is still excited about the new season. He wants to fetch his new kit. He is determined to win and already has his sights on the opposition strike force even though he doesn’t know who they are yet!
It is also as exciting for me today as it was 10 years ago. The pre-match build up and drive to the match. Cadbury’s Caramel bars and Lucozade Sport. Hair gel and Lynx. All part of our football experience.
In keeping with the last 7 seasons I still have to make a season-long promise to Will NOT to run onto the pitch should he score a winning goal, hug him and tell everyone “that’s my boy” It’s hard but mums get so proud and whilst at 8 years old it was uncomfortable, at 16 it would be unforgivable! So, I have my rules too.
This season I will make sure that I enjoy it whilst I can. Next year he will be 17 and will probably want to drive himself to matches. That’s fine.
I’ll be watching, in disguise, from behind the hedge.
Unless the Under 18’s need a mascot of course………!