It was a morning in the early summer in 1989. I was one of those children who was incapable of getting out of bed Monday to Friday but could be up at dawn on a Saturday to watch the children's television in the days before multi-channels existed. I have a curious memory of then Chairman of Selectors Ted Dexter on TV AM stating that he thought England had an excellent chance of retaining the Ashes that Summer. He turned out to be something of a clairvoyant as, some 16 years later he was proved correct!
Since then, I have had a love of cricket. Bizarrely, not so much playing the game but with the history, the rules, the techniques, the broadcasting etc. My parents were not hugely interested in cricket and were never in any way pushy about me playing any sport. I always tell people that my playing career was over before it started as I did not play regularly (for various reasons) until I was about 14 years old. I love bowling in particular but I had used to get terribly affected by nerves and had this horrible habit for changing my bowling action all the time. Like many, realization that you are not going to play professionally and the real world of work helped push me into retirement a a premature age.
Like my own parents, I have never pushed my children into anything. When the local club sent a message to schools saying they wanted to start a junior team I have to admit to being convinced my son was too young at 7 to really enjoy it. However, some of his friends were going and he wanted to go so down he went. Soon the first match! The saying about it being the taking part that counts is pertinent for such young children as they really are just trying to acclimatize.
The moment came a few matches later when my son ran up to bowl, let the ball go and his dad watched this ball go in a straight line, the batsman missing it and what seemed like an eternity for the off bail to fall from the stumps. A rather bemused 7 year old looked around as his team mates congratulated him and his father came down from Cloud 9, apologizing for his overexcitedness. It is a moment that will never leave me for the rest of my life.
A similar moment came when it became clear that the team might win their first match. The fear that gripped me and the other Dads as the conclusion approached makes you doubt the previously mentioned notion of it being the taking part that counts!
One of the decisions that needs to be made is from a family point of view and it is where the line is drawn for me. I do not want to be a pushy parent and I don't want to get "too involved" but I do not want to be anywhere else whilst my children are playing sport. My other son is now wanting to play and he is even younger. I am not my sons. They must make their own choices without their Dad being an over-zealous coach who is living his life through his children. There is an issue here in that without parent volunteers acting as coaches, cricket clubs struggle and there is part of me that wants to get more involved but as someone who works full time and does not get home until 6.00 in an evening it is naturally difficult to give much commitment.
At the moment, I am the Dad who watches from the sideline. From the point of view of a thriving family, we have found a sport that both our sons seem to want to play, One of the great things about cricket is the way that it can make a family feel part of a community and a community spirit. There is much conjecture about parenting and many theories abound. When it comes to sport, the line between supportive and over-enthusiastic parent is actually not that easy to define. All sports need coaches and volunteers to survive and invariably, these can be the parents of the children involved. Without them, no game for the rest of us to get nervous about despite the fact it is not us that is actually playing!