This weekend I took Gabriel to his first football coaching session. Encouraging a two and a half year old boy to follow someone else’s instruction and play in a structured way is hard work!
This got me thinking as a Dad, about the fine line and tipping point between supporting and encouraging the kids and being able to let go and let them do it for themselves.
Firstly, a quick bit about the Football. I was so proud of Gabriel playing football. I’m not sure id be prouder if he scored the winner in the cup final. If however football isn’t for him there is no pressure to play.
Gabriel seemed to enjoy it and came away shouting, ‘football’ which suggests he enjoyed it. (He likes proudly looking at a photo of himself in his Bradford City kit with the ball!)
The Pro-Skills session was well run, with about twenty boys (only one girl surprisingly) aged between two and five playing. They got a football each and the session was all about the football and having fun. This is how kids need to learn the game in my opinion!
During the session the boys were given a basic skill to learn and then a few minutes to practice. Gabriel was too young to understand what he was being asked to do. But was happy to chase round after the ball. The goals of the session in my mind were that he has fun, learns to sit with his team when coach is talking and he has plenty of time with the ball, no matter whether he was kicking it or not.
As the session unfolded it became clear as Dad, I had two choices. Just let him get on with it or try to encourage him to do what he supposed to do. Or find a balance between the two.
I was also conscious there were lots of other parents there too. Many were veterans of watching kids learning to play football. An array of methods were being deployed from ignoring the kids to telling them off because ‘It was a waste of money’ if they weren’t going to play properly.
It’s difficult, because as a Parent, you don’t want to appear over or under enthusiastic, or break the established etiquette but the needs of your own Child are most important.
I was pleased there was another Dad with his son, Zack who was also new.
Both Zack’s Dad and I set about trying to get the boys to concentrate and kick the ball, but also demonstrating the skill the boys were supposed to be doing.
As well as offering encouragement whilst trying to introduce the language of the football pitch. A lot for young boys to take in and a lot for the Dads to suddenly think about! At the end of the session the boys had a match…
Unrecognisable from the Premier League, the match was a ball and eight boys running about!
During the match, Gabriel and Zack found some bright coloured stars on the school gym floor and wanted to pick them up rather than play. The choice for Dad then is, do you just let them do that or ‘push’ them to join in the game? We both opted just to let the boys collect the stars whilst talking to them about the game.
I have found similar situations at the soft play areas we have visited. Gabriel wants to climb and explore the climbing frames and slides but up to now hasn’t been big enough to be able to do all he wants to. As an enthusiastic dad, I want to be climbing and sliding with him and helping him up all the bits he can’t yet do. But I’m also conscious that he doesn’t become over reliant upon me both physically and for company. He needs to learn to conquer those high slides but also integrate with other children and make friends. Not just hang out with his parents (much though we’d love him to!).
Whenever the children achieve something new, it’s such proud feeling. But there’s also that feeling that that’s one less thing I’m needed for.
It’s a strange feeling and that I suppose is the essence if parenting. Supporting and then letting go at the right time. As a parent what you need to learn is when to offer the support, how much and when to let go, whilst always being there in the background as a safety net.
This might be about slides and football now but it’ll be about all sorts of different things for the rest of the Children’s lives, into adulthood and throughout our Parenting. But, the great thing is, each era ends and a new one begins!