This weekend saw the beginning of the 2013 cricket season.
Whilst that meant thousands of wives were lamenting the lack of any quality time as a family until September (no, just me?!), it also meant that thousands of children were starting to understand the benefit of growing up with sport in their lives. By this, I don’t mean watching overly dramatic footballers who earn enough to buy a house each week on tv, I mean being involved from a grass-roots level.
The particular cricket club that we are a part of is a bit like a time-warp; you drive up the long drive in the middle of the countryside & – apart from the cars – you could be in any decade from the last couple of hundred years. There is a family atmosphere that I have rarely found anywhere else in life; partly because many of the players here have come up through the junior set-up, so have been there most of their lives & partly because the club is in the middle of a huge farming community & everyone seems to be related to each other in some way or another, so although I say ‘family atmosphere’, I really just mean family. You could leave your car unlocked with the keys in without worrying it might be gone when you return (if my insurance company ever read this, I haven’t tested this theory – honest!).
Although I moaned for several weeks preceding ‘bloody cricket’ – as it’s affectionately known in our house, becoming a cricket widow was inevitable as soon as Mr Teapot & I got together. His dad, grandad & even great-grandad have all played at the club, as do his younger brothers. (You may say that means I shouldn’t moan, but I am a woman & it is my prerogative).
It was only when we had Little Teapot that I started to view the cricket club differently & to think about what it meant to be growing up in an environment such as this. When I think about the future & the role models I want Little T to aspire to, it’s people like these that I hope he reaches up to be just like. I was a huge fan of the Olympics & this is the way in which I believe we are staying inspired.
Whatever your sport, I think the benefits of raising a child surrounded by sport are huge. Here are a few of mine:
This is a massive one – sport teaches respect for the rules, the umpire, your teammates, your elders, those around you & your club.
The umpire’s decision is final. You may not like it, but it is. This is a lesson worth learning early on. Of course there are those that have white-line fever & turn into total mentalists as soon as they cross the rope, only to be as nice as pie once the game is over, but on the whole, these individuals are few & far between & what the umpire says goes.
The players respect their captain & his decisions throughout the game. Cricket in particular has the ability to be either very inclusive or totally the opposite, depending on how the game is going. One week, you might get the opportunity to bat & bowl, the next week, batters 1&2 bat the whole innings & you don’t get a look in. The valuable lesson here is that everyone plays a part. There might be some banter afterwards as the lads talk about being a ‘thanks for coming’ type of game, but whatever the result, everyone has contributed & working together is what’s important. In corporate bullshit, you often hear ‘There’s no ‘I’ in team’, but here it’s really true.
There is a rite of passage at our club, where players reach a certain age & most complete coaching qualifications, so they can train the younger members of the club in the basics & give something back. They don’t get paid for this, they do it because the club has given so much to them as they have grown up & it is never questioned that they would return the favour. This doesn’t happen in many other environments & I think it’s a great example of ‘the youth of today’ setting a good example, as they are so often labelled as thugs or hoodies, up to no good.
The children learn to respect their environment – the actual bricks & mortar of their club – & every year before the season starts there is a weekend of ‘Cricket Force’ where everyone chips in to prepare the club for the upcoming season, from pitting up the practice nets to weeding the footpaths – everyone has a job & everyone works together, because it’s their club. There is no graffiti on the toilet walls, or litter on the floor, because everyone accepts responsibility for maintaining the facility. The players also arrive on time every week, to do the jobs necessary to get the ground ready to play that day, so time-keeping is another valuable attribute gained.
Hard work (& hard lessons):
Children also learn the value of hard work by growing up with sport, as there is certainly a correlation between effort & performance. Most evenings in the week, you can go up & there will be someone there – either a solitary figure in the nets practicing their technique, or a group who have organised an impromptu get together to train before the weekend’s matches.
Sadly, there is not always a correlation between effort & ability & there are always those that will appear to put in minimal effort & excel, but – let’s face it – that’s a pretty valuable thing to learn early on, as these people exist in all areas of life.
If you want to be part of a team, you commit to train once a week & if you don’t turn up, you can’t play at the weekend. Simples.
At our particular club, junior training takes place on a Friday evening & the thought that in years to come Little T will be there on Friday evenings, rather than swigging cider out of the bottle on a park bench somewhere is very comforting. As a youngster, I was into competitive sport too & it was a difficult decision to choose between going out on a friday night when I had to be up to train at 6am on a Saturday, or focussing on my training. I soon realised that I couldn’t have it all. I tried to do both & my performance suffered as a result of being knackered (& in the later years, probably still a bit pissed from nights out drinking, but that’s another story… (This is also due – in part – to the terrible FOMO I suffer with: see earlier blog on this).
I am very competitive. Some may see this as a ‘development area’ but I see it as a positive. It means I put 100% effort in to everything I do. My mum was a competitive swimmer & my dad played rugby until we were in our early teens & I think the drive & determination I learned through them & my own sporting endeavours has made me the person I am today. Okay, so I don’t like to lose, but I’d like to think I am gracious in either victory or defeat. (Well, I’m certainly working on this…!)
I disagree wholeheartedly with the government making sports days ‘non-competitive’, as I feel this equips children poorly for the adult world, where there most certainly are winners & losers & which you become is down to your drive, tenacity & drive to be the best you can be. Certainly there’s an element that’s down to ‘what happens on the day’ or decisions going your way, but in life – as in sport – these things tend to even themselves out.
Healthy diet & exercise:
Last, but by no means least, growing up with sport offers the opportunity for physical exercise & to spend time in the beautiful outdoors. The implications of not doing enough exercise & not eating a healthy diet are that you cannot perform at your best. The body is a machine & needs to be kept moving & given fuel to run. No movement or the wrong fuel can make it stall. At a point where the levels of obesity are at their highest in Britain, sport should be of paramount importance for all families.
I have no intention of being a pushy parent & if Little T decides that a sporting life isn’t the one for him, we will encourage him in whatever path his heart takes him, but I do now appreciate that many of the values & principles Mr Teapot & I hold so dearly are those formed throughout our own childhoods, surrounded by sport. The way Little T cried when we left this weekend suggests the decision on this may already be a done deal & I have to say, I’m actually quite pleased about this.