Monthly Archives: October 2015

When You Find Something You Love

While I’ve been a bit under the weather and not running I’ve found myself contemplating my childrens’ own involvement in sport and exercise.

Usually on a Sunday I tend to stay behind while my eldest, who is 7, goes off with his dad to play tag rugby. Last Sunday it was too beautiful a day to stay at home so we all went down to the rugby field as a family to cheer the minis on. As I watched my boy play I noticed two things. The first was that he had obviously improved since I had last seen him. His passing was better, his tagging had improved and he has even developed a little dummy move. The second thing that I noticed was that he played the entire time with a smile on his face. There was a look of pure joy as he chased kids down to grab their tags and glee as he would find the ball in his hands before he decided to run with it or pass.

The next day when we were in the car together I turned to him and asked him if he had enjoyed playing and he said (of course) that he had. Then I told him that he played with a huge grin on his face.

‘I know Mum’, he replied ‘It’s because I love rugby so much and it makes me happy and I want to play it all the time’.

I think I remember feeling the same way about athletics. I remember being excited about going training and loving being around people who wanted to try and run fast. I loved the competition and I loved finding out what my session was going to be.

I remember my father taking my brother and I to all sorts of activities and sports. If we showed the slightest inclination about trying something he would take us along, let us have a go and then if we moved on so be it. Before I found running I had tried swimming, karate, dance, Brownies and ballet. But when I found the thing that I loved there was no going back. It was like being given a gift. It took practice and time and effort but because I loved it, it never felt like work or a chore. It’s a special thing and I have always vowed to do the same thing for my boys. I will let them try as many things as they can until they find the thing that they really want to do.

My son is still young and he may decide next week, or next month or next year that he doesn’t want to do rugby anymore. Until then he will keep going to rugby as long as it makes him happy. His little brother will carry on going to karate while it excites him and makes him want to practice his moves around the house to Iron Maiden. But equally I don’t want them to specialise too young so I will encourage them to continue all manner of other activities for as long as possible.

I started running age eleven and at age thirty five I still love it. Maybe I’m lucky that I found a sport that I loved at such a young age and despite all the peaks and troughs I’ve had with running I’m still drawn back to it. I found something that I loved and when you find that thing you shouldn’t let it go.

Passing The Baton

I haven’t run much at all lately. I was getting on okay and on the verge of signing up to races but a calf niggle stopped me in my tracks. Before I used to panic and enter all the races just in case, an urge that I never think is helped by reading achievements by others on social media. I used to get a ‘I must enter races to feel like a runner’ anxiety but of late I have taken a more sensible approach. There will always be races, the time will come again, I will get there and save myself wasting money in the long run.

I was about to start to get going again but my chest has flared up and I’m now on steroids and blah, blah I feel rough etc. But while I’ve not been running something else has been happening in the background. My seven year old has been quietly going off to cross country practice at school. He’s been taking his PE kit in, going to lunch early and then joining in with an older group of juniors who go to the same practice every Thursday. I thought it would be a flash in the pan, he’d realise his mates were off playing touch rugby and sack it off. But no. He’s kept going and I think he’s enjoying it.

On Saturday I took him to his first cross country race. It was at a high school and involved a lap and a half of a field. It didn’t all go to plan though. There were hundreds of kids, a huge scrum and sprint at the start meant a few boys tripped and fell. As the boys ran past me I couldn’t see him anywhere. Not at the front and not at the back. No where to be seen in the middle. I ran one way across the field and back to the other. And then I saw him. Floods of tears, holding his face. A boy had fallen in front of him and he’d tripped over him and hit his chin on the floor. A combination of shock and pain (and a fear of coming last) overcame him and he dropped out. My first instinct was to tell him he should have got up and carried on but then I scolded myself, as after all, he is only seven. I comforted him and we went home. On the drive home he said he was disappointed and that he was worried he wouldn’t get another go. I felt sad for him but I was relieved that he hadn’t been put off altogether. Having been spiked and elbowed in the past I think a cross country race can be just as vicious as many other sports

A side effect of eldest boy running has been that his younger brother aged five now wants t have a go. He had a bit of a pout on Saturday when I had to explain that the cross country was only for juniors and not for infants. I then remembered that we had a couple of junior Parkruns near us and a promise to sign him up and take him soon cheered him up.

I have to say that I’m thrilled that my children are taking an interest in running. Even if they don’t join a club or do it competitively I am happy that they seem happy to run for fun. I’m glad that they’ve been able to watch me enjoy running and I know that they’ve sometimes been frustrated when they haven’t been able to run with me. They’re definitely doers not watchers. As they’re getting older I’m sure they will do lots of other sports but I’m happy that I seem to be passing the baton down to them to continue my running tradition, in whatever manner they see fit. I feel that they’re also being taught that going for a run is a perfectly normal, acceptable activity and this will give them a good platform for their fitness and other sports as they grow older.

And after the disappointment on Saturday I came home from work to some lovely news. Eldest has been picked to run for his primary school at a cross country on Thursday. Proud Mum is probably an understatement but yes, I really am proud of my two little runners.

Girls and Boys

I have watched with glee over the last year as campaigns for women’s sport and equality in sport have taken off. I have never been prouder of women I know who have recently taken on a new sport or a challenge having previously been put off. The fight against sexism in sport and exercise is wonderful and I will always teach my two boys that women are as able as men in sport. Yes there are undeniable biological differences which mean in some sports that men and women can’t always compete with or against each other but I hop for a day when ‘that’s a boy’s sport’ becomes a thing of the past.

However recently my eldest son has encountered another sort of attitude. He is 7 and has just gone into year 3. He is sport and activity mad and now that he’s a junior there are a whole host of after school activities and sports that are available for him to try. If he could he would do all of them. It’s not at all possible, we do need some time at time too, but the one sport he really wanted to try was netball. Absolutely I said. Netball is a great sport and with its skill set of passing, spatial awareness, fast pace and intercepting to name but a few it was only going to be of benefit to him and his physical literacy. It was also a mixed session which from a social point of view was also going to be of benefit.

But in the week leading up to the session he got a bit down about it.

‘xxx says I’m a girl because I want to do netball’.

‘xxx says I have to wear a skirt to play netball’. (at school all the kids wear shorts or joggers for sport and PE).

‘xxx says netball is rubbish because it’s for girls’.

My blood pressure rose a fair bit and I became incensed for my boy on his behalf.

Firstly I had a chat with my son about why ‘you’re a girl’ is not and should not be used as an insult. I explained that women do a great many things that men do and sometimes do it even better. I reminded him that his mum had run marathons, competed triathlons and occasionally lifted weights. I told him that as a ‘girl’ I played hockey and won medals in athletics. Our conclusion was that girls and woman are awesome and telling someone that they’re ‘like a girl’ is not an insult in the slightest.

He seemed happier as I also explained the benefits netball would have for his rugby. He did go to netball last week but I checked on him as I picked up his little brother to make sure he was going. He went along and the teacher told me he loved it. And what’s not to love, there’s a ball, there’s running and there’s shooting at a goal. He was buzzing with excitement and with all he had learnt.

This week he came out of netball and two of his school mates, both boys from his rugby team, had joined him. But on the way home he told me that some more boys had been teasing him again and that one had told a girl who goes to rugby that rugby is for boys, not girls.

The blood pressure rose again and I seethed as I tried to make sense of my thoughts. The first thing, which I didn’t say to my son, is that these attitudes are not coming from the children. These ideas are coming from adults within the home who tell their children that this activity is for boys and this activity is for girls. I remember a dad at a toddler group chastising his son for playing with a toy pram but the poor wee boy would only have been copying what his dad did to get them both there. there are obviously still these entrenched views about playing and sport that are being spouted at home and are then taken into school. It’s sad and ridiculously out dated.

Instead what I said to my son is that these boys might be a bit afraid. He looked a bit perplexed so I explained that sometimes people are too afraid about what other people think of them and that this stops them doing the things that they really want to do. I said maybe deep down these boys want to play netball too but are too afraid of what a person, like them, might say and isn’t that really, really sad.

I think a penny might have dropped with my son as he realised that he had carried on with netball despite the teasing and the name calling. I told him I was proud of him for going to netball no matter what the other kids said. I also said that him going had maybe made the other boys brave enough to go. He grinned and then the conversation was over. I don’t know if any of it sank in but I really hope so.

It makes me sad as a parent that girls and boys are still fighting against ingrained attitudes forced upon them by the adults in their lives. I’m sure parents of girls have a tough job making sure their daughters have the confidence to fight against these attitudes. As the mum of two boys I feel it is my job to develop within my sons a good attitude towards women and girls. They are reminded that we are equal, they should know that girls and boys should have the same opportunities, that there is no such thing as boys’ stuff and girls’ stuff and importantly that they should never utter ‘like a girl’ as a derogatory term.