For the past few weeks I have been taking my four-year-old to a soccer skills class at the local community centre.
Due to a combination of a badly timed promo flyer and my mistaken assumption that ‘all weather pitch’ didn’t include rain and a biting wind, we missed the first 2 weeks so it was Week 3 before he made it onto the pitch.
By now the other boys had a 2 week advantage; they knew each other, the activites and the ‘coach’. My little man, on the other hand, stood like a rabbit in the headlights, stranded in the middle of an astro-turf ocean. My noisy, enthusiastic, confident little boy had turned into a shrinking violet in front of my eyes.
In hindsight this was probably because to his young mind ‘football skills’ meant he was expecting to run about kicking a semi-deflated Mickey Mouse ball whilst dodging some sheets and towels hanging on a washing line, occasionally aiming the ball at a brick wall to score a goal and immediately be given a high-five and loads of praise and encouragement.
The activities the coach was playing with the boys bore little resemblance to the ‘football’ my little man knew. So there he stood. Dazed and confused.
I urged him on from the sidelines – trying not to sound like a pushy mother whilst trying to resist the urge to take us all for hot chocolate and brownies instead. So we struggled on for 15 minutes – him looking increasingly forlorn and me getting increasingly frustrated. Meanwhile, my two-year-old, who is a year too young to participate in the programme, had found a football and was very skillfully dribbling it around the pitch.
Finally, my young Beckham relaxed enough to kick the ball around a bit, just as the session ended. He was, heart-breakingly, the last to be given a vest to wear and the last to get a high-five off the coach.
We persevered and went again the following week. The same thing happened: four-year-old rabbit in headlights, two-year-old displaying ball control which Wayne Rooney would be proud of.
Week 4 pretty much the same and my increasingly desperate attempts at coaching, or rather, coaxing from the sidelines seemed to be getting us nowhere.
Undeterred, we went for the final week and hallelujah! Finally, he found his footballing mojo! He was the first into the hall, the first to grab a ball, the first to get a vest. He joined in all the games, laughed and was the first to get a high-five at the end.
The programme has been extended for another six weeks and I’m delighted. I don’t actually care whether he’s any good at the football or not. I’m just so proud of my little man for sticking with it and growing so much in confidence through this experience.
Me? I’ve learnt that being on the sidelines is a tough place to be sometimes for a mum. But I’m sure I’ll get better with practice!