Family Life Published Sporting

The sideline epiphany of a soccer dad

There was also the chastening realisation that I had become the dreaded PlayStation dad I had often scoffed at; trying to direct their on-field reincarnation

For most of the few people watching it was most likely a minor incident in a soccer match involving O, my then seven-year-old son

But for me, his father, it was as if the sun had finally burst from behind the obscuring cloud of my ego in a golden moment of cosmic revelation.

Okay, maybe I did overdo the Harry Potter over Christmas, but it felt pretty dramatic.

The ball had been booted long and high from midfield and as it soared in an arc towards the goal, I saw O was the only defender in the penalty area, along with two attackers.

Their number seven, and most dangerous player, was standing behind O, five or six yards to his left.

The other boy, 10 yards to his right, I judged to be less of a threat.

I forgot myself – and O’s coach – as I shouted at my boy to get back goal-side of the number seven.

All I could see was the danger and everything that could go wrong, the rapidly approaching orb sizzling now with the menace of a comet about to strike.

But even as the ball was just beginning its downward trajectory, O, oblivious to my shouts – or ignoring them – was already advancing, eyes aloft, adjusting his footing before taking to the skies, like one of those dashing second World War Spitfire pilots guarding the bomb-smogged London skies.

With a whip of the neck and biff of the forehead, Thuumphhh!: the ball was driven 30 yards back up the field.

The danger averted, the country was safe once more … or had O even recognised it as danger in the first place?

So many things, positive and negative, crossed my mind, then and later.

There was the fatherly pride and delight in my boy doing something good in his match, pleasing his coach and drawing shouts of approval from the watching parents and passing observers.

My heart swelled with joy.

There was also the chastening realisation that I had become the dreaded PlayStation Dad I scoffed at

You know them: trying to direct their on-field reincarnation around the pitch during their matches. Red-faced with echoing anger when the little ones fail to carry out instructions.

They claim their offspring’s successes as their own, but leave them to carry the burden of their unfulfilled destiny alone.

Poor little puffed-cheeked player in the outsize jersey and CR7 boots lifted with the praise and crushed by the criticism.

Or is it the other way round? If it doesn’t break him, will it make him?

I am often aghast at how even the most seemingly mild-mannered parents can shout so harshly at their offspring’s lapses, as if they had let them down in some way.

The pressure that kid must feel!

Looking at O then, I felt I had finally realised, and truly appreciated, our differences.

Where I could see nothing but the danger in the incident described, my boy seemed to only see opportunity.

And there I was, dispensing yet another nugget of the footballing wisdom magically infused since hanging up my own moderate boots.

There would be no more of that; he was his own person, playing his own game.

I also felt a sense of retrospective failure, thinking O, even at that age, was better than I ever was.

There was excitement in that too. But maybe we were just different: as a defender, I was okay at putting out fires; maybe as a more attack-minded player, he is better at lighting them?

Here, in any event, was the confirmation, since borne out time and time again, that the boy can play and he can handle himself when the going gets tough – as it does even playing with his team.

It has been interesting, seeing what players and opposition sidelines can get up to, even at this level.

I have seen some wonderful contests, and displays of pint-sized virtuosity, endeavour, and derring-do that have lifted my heart.

And I have seen players marked out for “treatment”, verbal and physical, and witnessed sledging that would make an Aussie cricketer blush, and refereeing decisions that would puzzle Einstein.

All the negative stuff you’d see highlighted on Match of the Day or on Champions League night is there too: cynical fouling, diving, conning referees by jumping over tackles and going to ground writhing in agony, and even clapping when an opposition player is yellow-carded.

“In your face!!” one opponent bellowed into O’s, em, face, when he scored the equaliser against O’s team recently.

But kids’ football is still the best free theatre one could ever hope to attend. And since my pitchside epiphany I have never shouted an instruction, to O or to any of his team-mates, confining myself to the usual, no doubt bland, encouragement and positive exhortation.

When we’re watching live football together, though, I still can’t resist pointing out to O how vital N’Golo Kante’s’s covering and simple forward passing is to Chelsea’s success, or how David Silva usually passes the ball to the net rather than blasting it. I can assess his silence as agreement or disdain.

All I know at this stage is if this boy gets half the fun out of playing or watching the game that I did, he won’t be doing too badly. And, sure, he might even pass it on.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


24 comments on “The sideline epiphany of a soccer dad

  1. Cracked me up. I’m still clinging to the tragic remnants of my own amateur football career, so retirement and starting to watch/coach my own lad’s team can’t come soon enough. Shame he’s still only 21 months – I need him to sign for Barca already and pay off my mortgage for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I stopped enjoying watching my son playing rugby because of all the shouting from the other parents, it just seemed too urgent and aggressive at such an early age. It must be different though for a Dad who knows what it’s like to be out there – you’ve expressed such an array of thoughts, a really interesting read. It’s wonderful that you and your son share this common love. #BlogCrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Liberty. Yes it is a great shared experience. But while I never criticise him I have been guilty of muttered criticisms of other players and I really have to watch myself!! Thanks for reading

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a lovely post, this. I often feel that our children teach us so much about life, even as we teach them the basics! Parenting is a constant learning journey…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alice Letters to my Daughter

    I’m sure some of your pearls of wisdom when you watch live matches together will do him well. I also think putting too much pressure on kids to win can take the enjoyment out of just playing. The world could learn a thing or two from kids playing football their own way #BlogCrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure could. Some.coaches are crazy … but then some are amazing. It’s like with teachers you just hope your kid gets the good one!!! Thanks for reading!☺


  5. diynige

    My older children all played football and this all brought back so many moments of pride I felt watching them fab read loved it Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember when nigel’s older children played football, he’d spend most of weekends on the sidelines of a football pitch. I don’t think he misses it much, but he did enjoy it! Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t know why but I’ve only just had the email announcing this post, sorry for the late pick up. WordPress is getting more like Farcebook every day! Shades of the Fast Show’s ‘Competitive Dad’ character there – we’ve all done it! I had two tennis playing daughters, and I can recognise the equivalents of what you describe from the junior football world, from the gamesmanship, sledging, deliberately hitting the ball at your opponent, not to mention the kids whose line calling was so bad it made you wonder how their myopia allowed them to play the game at all. I think we should all strive to be supportive of our kids, but it’s a fine line on which to balance!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Clive. Oh yes it’s a competi minefield out there. AndI admit I haven’t always been supportive of referee decisions, if I can put it diplomatically, but it is marvellously engrossing also. My son’s commitment and enthusuasm are infectious but has led to some sibling conflicts also!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I used to find it difficult watching my daughters play, wanting to hit every shot for them and trying very hard not to get involved when they were being cheated. But at least I never organised any chants of ‘the referee’s a w****r’ from the sidelines 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • For that I am sure they will have thanked you!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Winnettes

    This is one of the reasons my husband is actually happy we only have girls. He is an avid football fan and still plays on the odd Sunday (not ready to give up that youth yet apparently) but he knows he would struggle not to shout instructions at his kid. Some of the parents get vicious with their ‘encouragement’. It is very sad to see that our local young teams now have their pitches cordoned off to keep the parents a safe distance away…. What have we become?
    Thank you for joining #ThursdayTeam

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really can be crazy out there … but can be marvelous fun too. A bit of perspective and cop on helps. But there are times … thanks for commenting

      Liked by 1 person

  9. When I was a child I remember by dad being expelled from the basketball stadium for his yelling … we are however Australian, so perhaps that comes as no surprise 🙂 #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’d not heard the term “playstation dad” before but that’s a pretty accurate term. I think we’ve all fallen into the trap from time to time, getting caught up in the moment. Its different from the really obnoxious parents that there always seem to be several at every match. At least I hope so #KCACOLs

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh this is pretty great. It’s so refreshing to find content like this. I know what I’m like when I watch my daughter play. Thank you linking up with us got #Kcacols and we hope to see you next time.

    Liked by 1 person

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