An introduction to football

A child’s first foray into team sport is an eye-opening experience for parents, writes newsreader Natalie Barr.

A child’s first foray into team sport is an eye-opening experience for parents.

A wise older dad, with four kids now in their 20s, once told me: “Every parent thinks their kid’s a genius until they get to school.”

For the first five years of our child’s life, he said, most of us take huge delight in how strong their head is, how many words they can say (even if no one else can understand them) and how well they can kick a football. Most of it we keep to ourselves. We take them down to the park and practise kicking and running and our mind secretly wanders, and wonders what it’ll be like when they hit the schoolyard and the football field, how proud we will be.

Football is the perfect sport for kids. So when pre-school started, I was one of the mums who decided to form a summer five-a-side football team. I put the word out on the mummy network and waited.

But not for long. I was swamped. Mums with kids I’d never heard of found me and not only did their son want to play, so did their son’s friend, his next door neighbour, the kid he’d been at mothers’ group with, his cousin who lived five suburbs away who came over on a Monday… and on it went.

The team wasn’t just full, it was overflowing. So we formed two teams. Everyone had a suggestion about who should play in which team, which friends should play together, team names, T-shirt colours and subbing strategies. There were phone calls and texts and emails and more phone calls and, in a few weeks, there we were at the oval ready for kick-off.

The whistle blew and we waited with (secret) pride in our hearts. One child wandered off to the other side of the field, picking his nose. Another two ran towards the ball, trying to kick it towards the opposition’s goal.

The parents all looked at each other. Then the yelling started.

“There’s the ball! Look! Kick it that way! Run, run! Over here! Timmy! Tommy! Over here! Kick it that way! There’s the ball! Run, run! Kick it that way!”

Our kids had no idea. The other team did, and our guys were pummelled.

The final whistle blew and our sons ran over to us.

“Can we have a drink? Did we win?”

Oblivious to the scoreline, the kids were thrilled. I doubt there will be a premiership trophy at the end of the season, but the first match had been a raging success.