This post has been brewing for a while now. I’d really welcome your views and comments, even though for us, the issue has resolved itself.
I don’t want to come across as anti-football & pro-other sports, so let me set some context for you.
No.2 son was 5 and in year 1 at school when his best friend asked if he wanted to play football on a Saturday morning. He went along and enjoyed running around kicking a ball, and he had fun with his friends for an hour. After 6 months the ‘team’ moved to an evening coaching session with matches on a Saturday, which no.2 wanted to do. It was all fun & they were all enjoying themselves, and we were fairly happy with the supportive nature that team sports give to a child’s development.
Both boys have always been active, and we’ve been able to let them try different sports and activities, without any plan for them to become experts in any area. For us their activities are about fun, learning, socialising and developing their bodies and outlook on life.
Last summer the ‘team’ got a lot more serious. Sponsors were found for kit & a website, and training was moved to an all weather pitch for the winter. Matches were arranged for Saturday mornings. All this was OK and no.2 enjoyed playing with his friends. He is very competitive, (as is no.1 son), so he relished the opportunity of the physical challenge of matches.
Football at u7 and u8 is non-competitive. Leagues only start at u9 age, and no.1 son has just completed his first season playing for the same club at that age. But there is non-competitive, and non-competitive isn’t there? The boys saw each Saturday as a match that counted – giving their all and getting upset when they lost. And we felt the coaches put pressure on the boys to feel like this.
We also started to have a problem when the main coach, also best friend’s Dad, quizzed no.2 about his non-availability at weekends. Now, I know we’re not alone in having family time at weekends. And my work does make it more complicated with training and Baby shows. With only 1 parent to ferry around, if our family/friends needed support, then OH couldn’t do the football run as well.
Our main problem was that coach was asking no.2 why he wasn’t available, not us! Now he is a bright 7 year old, but he’s not able to juggle the diary just yet! He obviously got upset that he wasn’t available for ‘his team’ and he started to feel that he was letting coach down. We didn’t. When the boys were away for 2 weekends with their Grandpa at half term we felt this was good use of their time. What do you think? One whole week with Grandpa = 2 missed games of 40 minutes football.
As time has gone on, there have been lots of little things that we, as parents, were getting more uncomfortable with about this u7 ‘team’. And that’s just is UNDER 7! Yes, no.2 was chosen to have some extra coaching with Liverpool Football Club Development Centre. But after 6 months he got bored and wanted to move on. He also started athletics when he was 7 and really loves the variety that it offers – running, jumping and throwing. What more could a little boy want to do, (get muddy I guess I’d add to that list!).
And when no.2 said “I can’t do that as I’ll be chucked out of the team”, the alarm bells really rang for us. Do you REALLY have to be committed to a team at age 7?
Well, there are lots of people that want that, and are happy to fit into this structure. We weren’t, but were really struggling with our own feelings and what was best for no.2. I was going to write this and ask advice, but as I said before, it’s resolved itself!
We had to ask both boys what activities they wanted to carry on with in September, as the football clubs have to register all their players ready for the next season. No.2 said “Athletics”. There’s a running night the same night as football training, and he wants to go to that instead of being part of the team. We’ve found some Saturday morning football ‘Come and Play’ sessions that he can attend, with different school friends, so he’ll still be doing as much. Just in a different way.
His friends are devastated – crying to their parents. Most of his friends only play football. Coach can’t fathom our outlook on life, and I guess we struggle with his – football is everything and you should practice all day everyday to improve. We’ve had a real problem with him insisting that his son brings a football to school to practice everyday. This child is the one who cries when his team loses.
Yes, for some people football/one sport or activity is everything. I’m not saying we have it right. But surely a balanced activity schedule to support a balanced school education is going to support our children’s development? Not a “one size fits all” approach? And to say to your child that you HAVE to attend training & matches for the next year….is that right at age 7?
When we were discussing this, neither my husband nor I remember playing competitive sport until late primary school. The boys have taken part in far more competitive sport than we ever had at their age. We’re not saying competition is wrong. We think it was the commitment expected at that age that wasn’t right for us.
For completeness, no.2 now does: Beavers, swimming lessons, and athletics twice a week, with a Football session on a Saturday. No.1 is part of local swimming club, football club, athletics once a week and Cubs.
What’s your view? Have you experienced something similar? Be interested to hear what you think.
Apologies for the length of this, but wanted to get all the issues into the open for a full discussion. And as I said…it’s been brewing!