It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in May and the clock struck noon, this meant it was that time again for little 7-year-old Ben. Uniform, shin guards and soccer cleats (Boots) at the ready. Suddenly Ben heard his father demanding him to “Get in the car!!”. Hesitantly Ben, walked towards the car, with a sense of excitement and anticipation. His father stood towering by the car door, waiting impatiently for anxious little Ben. With a leap of faith, Ben entered. In hope that this journey might be different from the previous. Then came the noise “BANG” the car door closing. It appeared like Ben had entered a whole different world. The world full of uncertainty and fear. Ben’s fear quickly became a realization.
Immediately, without reluctance “Son, you listening; You have to play well today and winning is a must!”. The conversation that Ben had feared and anticipated just began. Ben’s father’s high expectations and demands, were the only topic of conversation during the car journey to and from every field. Ben always responded with a vague and unconvincing “Yes, Dad.”. All Ben wanted to feel and hear was support and love; not demands and analytical expectations. Eyes fixed through the car window, was the only source of escape for Ben. His father continued to firmly highlight his demands, “Hustle, kick it long, no skills, and winning, and Listen to me, not your coach”. Arriving at the field couldn’t come any sooner of the young 7-year-old Ben.
On previous occasions, Ben had counted how many houses were between his home and the field; 22. As the car drove smoothly passed house after house, Ben silently, counted down each small, medium or large house, as he passed 22…21..20..19. Always one house away from freedom.
“Tick Tock Tick Tock” the sound of the blinkers (Indicators), quickly caught Ben’s attention. That repetitive sound meant he was one turn away from escaping. Wiggling in his seat, Ben rapidly attempted to locate his friends. “Over there!!” Ben yelled. He waited for the car to stop, unbuckle and off he went. Ben ran like it was the start of the Olympic 100m sprint. His father wasn’t done yet. Suddenly Ben came to an immediate stop, slowly turned and glanced back at his father to hear “Remember son, You MUST win!”. At this very moment, every element of enjoyment and hope was slowly fading away for Ben.
Surrounded by friends, Ben’s thoughts and emotions quickly changed for the better. Was this the freedom that Ben was searching for? Warm-ups completed and simple instructions were given by the coach “Have fun”. Every young player was full of enthusiasm as they prepare for the whistle. Except for one young boy, Ben. The expectations of his father kept creeping into his mind. The level of nervousness slowly increased, as the seconds past. The referee blows his whistle and begins the game. As the soccer game continued, Ben continuously felt an insupportable glare. It was his father. He was trying to convey his demands by his negative body language towards his youthful son.
Aspiring to be like his friends, playing without fear and a smile. If Ben had paint underneath his cleats, he would have painted the whole field, with how much ground he covered. But there was something missing? A smile. At the half, coaches were reiterating “We’re having fun, learning and playing with our friends. Keep it up”. Within the bubble of fun, many of his friends never spared a second for the sideline. However, Ben, couldn’t forget about the glare, and the high expectations from his demanding father. The feeling of freedom, he was meant to fully experience never surfaced. In it’s final few minutes, it appeared like the game had by-passed little Ben, like a quick gust of wind. As he was overshadowed by his emotions that were set in stone by his father. The dreaded final whistle was fast approaching. Ben immersed himself in a deep thought. Wondering if the car journey home would be the same as the previous? Also, if he ever wanted to return to such unbearable, environment influenced by his father again?
To Be continued….
These youth athletes don’t play the game for wins or loses, they play for hope, faith and love.
Assert no pressure, be no expectations, simply show love, and let them PLAY.
Have you had similar experiences?
The Sporting Influencer