Posted in Family, Personal life

Meeting Our (Rugby) Match Provides A Family Outing

Rugby match viewed from our stands. I'd rather we'd been able to view it from our seats.
Somehow the pitch looked smaller and squarer than I’d expected

Recently I did something I’ve never done before: I watched my first live rugby match. Actually, forget the live – it was my first rugby match of any kind.

A city centre stadium would not normally lure me away from our cottage fireside on a chilly Sunday afternoon, but I was subject to a force of nature: Hurricane Laura, aka my nine-year-old daughter.

Laura had been taking part in a tag rugby course at school, run by an outreach coach from Bristol Rugby Club. Always keen to try a new sport, Laura threw herself into the game in a style all of her own. Rather than jostling  competitively with the other children, she trotted round picking up the tags as they were dropped, politely handing them back to the players who’d lost them. She does like things to be tidy.

At the end of the course, the Rugby Club kindly gave a free match ticket to every child who had taken part. Ah, those outreach folk are smart: how many junior school children are likely to go to a rugby match unaccompanied? Consequently every child’s family had to buy at least one adult ticket. As the match fell on a Sunday afternoon, when most families like to do something together, most of the rugby-playing children had more than one parent in tow. One little girl even took her grandparents and baby brother too.

Photo of Gordon doing his puzzle during the rubgy
This is Daddy watching the rugby. Not.

And so it was that on Sunday afternoon, with woolly hats, thermos flask and gritted teeth, we dutifully took our place in the stands. (Stands? What’s that about? Why not seats? I thought rugby was meant to be a civilised game.) Our spirits lifted a little when we spotted the stadium’s cafe selling piping hot pasties. Well, rugby does burn off a lot of calories. But to my surprise, I soon found myself distracted from my pasty by the game. This I did not expect.

As the match got under way, I discovered that it was like watching ballet without music, in which all the ballet dancers are on 6,000 calories a day. Although the players had legs like tree trunks and the physical resilience of a tank, they had real balletic grace. As they surged across the pitch, entirely focused on seizing the ball, their raw power reminded me of lions hunting gazelles on an African plain. Actually, it was more like lions hunting lions. I especially liked it when, for some reason I did not understand, a smaller player was pitched up above the scrum, half leaping, half hurled into the air. The only damper on my enjoyment was worrying about whether they’d hurt themselves.

Laura and friends engrossed in a sticker book
Laura (with colourful hairtie) and friends busy watching the, er, rugby.

By half time, my grasp of the rules was still slim. It was a breakthrough moment when I realised that the total on the right of the scoreboard was not the second team’s score but the number of minutes that had been played. No wonder the team I’d thought was losing was looking so cheerful.

As the game drew to a close, I looked down at my daughter. She had spent the first half playing on the steps with her friends, before sharing a portion of chips with them at the interval. For the whole of the second half, she had been completely engrossed in a sticker book, neatly dressing up dolls in foreign costumes. The closest she’d come to watching the match was getting the autograph of a man in a bear costume serving as the home team’s mascot.

But never mind, I think she got her money’s worth for her ticket.

This post was originally written for the Tetbury Advertiser (December 2012/January 2013).

If you enjoyed this post, you might like these other ones about my daughter’s attitude to sports:

Keeping Up With My Sporty Daughter        Mermaids, Magic and Medals     

2020 Vision: Predicting the Future for Hawkesbury’s Sporting Children

Posted in Family, Personal life

Keeping Up with My Sporty Daughter

2012 Summer Olympics
Image via Wikipedia

“What’s your favourite sport, Mummy?” asks my small daughter on the way to Brownies.

I rack my brains, trying to think of which sports I can actually claim I do.

“Running,” I reply, from my list of one.

“What about badminton?  Or football?  Or tag rugby?  Or tennis?”

She reels off some of the many activities she’s tried at school since moving up to the Juniors in September.  At the small village primary school that she attends, her class has a PE rota, enabling the children to sample a different sport for three weeks at a time.

Her after-school schedule is equally varied.  In the last couple of years, she’s tried ballet, tap, modern, country dancing, street dance, karate and gym.  With a trampoline de rigueur in every modern child’s garden, she does quite a lot of random bouncing, too.  Then there’s roller-skating at the leisure centre on Saturday nights with friends, swimming with Daddy at whichever local pool currently has the warmest water, and ice-skating whenever we encounter a rink. (She’s skated outdoors in Paris and Amsterdam so far.)

On this evidence, I don’t believe the newspaper hype that our children are growing up fat and unfit – not round here, at least, where we have so many open, safe places for them to play.

My childhood experience of sport was very different. For baby-boomers like me, PE in the Infants meant pretending to be a tree to the sounds of “Music and Movement” on the radio and learning to do bunny hops over benches.  In the Juniors, my only real sporting memory is of the obstacle race on Sports Day, even though in the first year we were lucky enough to have a former national athlete as our class teacher.  Mrs Stocking, formerly Patricia Kippax, had sprinted in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and a few years later, there she was, letting us chase her round the school field,  much to the amusement of other staff.

At secondary school, the PE teachers were only interested in the naturally talented few who might make county standard.  My best friend and I jogged round chatting at the back on our cross-country runs past the graveyard, trying to conceal American Tan tights kept on for warmth beneath our hockey socks.  In the hockey season, I’d always volunteer to be goalie as I reckoned it might require the least physical movement.

Whenever the Olympics came around, the events were so alien to me that they might just as well have been on Mars.  I did recognise I was witnessing history being made as the American swimmer Mark Spitz secured his seventh gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics, but only because  my teenage sister had a crush on him and she made me watch.

But next year, when the Olympics come to London, for my daughter, as for so many other  local children, the sports will seem real and tangible, because they will already have tried out so many of them for themselves.  She’s won a few medals herself already for sporting activities, for reaching a certain stage in her gym club and for completing some sponsored walks and runs.  She will watch the games as a fellow sportswoman.  She will see herself as a contender.

And I bet when hockey comes up on her rota next autumn, she won’t be keeping her tights on.

(This article was originally published in the Tetbury Advertiser, April 2011)