When my younger son started playing rugby just over a year ago, I never would have guessed how much I would enjoy watching him and how much pride I would take in his achievements.
You see, I don’t know about rugby. And I don’t like rugby. My brother played rugby as a teenager and I think it played a big part in him doing badly in his A Levels, dropping out of university and cutting himself off from the rest of the family from his mid-teens until well into his 20s. I swore no son of mine would ever play rugby.
But when my younger son started playing three months after his big brother, my younger son’s rugby became MY responsibility. A game I didn’t understand and didn’t like. And I had to spend two hours or more watching it every Sunday.
I didn’t enjoy it at first. I felt intimidated by the children who had been playing together for two years and took a while to accept my son. And I felt intimidated by the other parents who all knew each other and were a bit, well, POSH.
But then I started chatting to the families and they were – ordinary. And friendly. And nice to talk to. I started to enjoy the atmosphere there. I found it welcoming and supportive. To my son, to me, and even to my daughter, who has the pleasure of freezing to death on the sidelines with me. Yes, a couple of the kids go to private school, but most of them go to normal schools. The parents are just ordinary middle class or, whisper, some of them are even WORKING CLASS.
And I started to understand the basics, and we are most definitely talking BASICS here, of tag rugby. And I started to enjoy watching. And I realised that my son was a really good player.
A few months ago I was given a ‘job’ which I love. I keep score in the games and put the substitutes on and off – we turn them round quickly and every gets an equal amount of playing time, however good they are. It requires a fair amount of concentration for someone who doesn’t really understand rugby.
I cheer the team with the best of them. But most of all I cheer my son. I burst with pride as he scores a try, as he tags someone, as he runs up the pitch supporting the other players. I don’t know if the other parents see what I see, because I see a brilliant player. And he’s my boy.
Every week they have a ‘player of the week’ trophy. The kids all nominate someone and say why, but the coaches always know who they are going to award the trophy to. Some weeks none of the kids nominate my son. But the coaches still award him the trophy. Because they see what the other kids don’t see. He doesn’t score as many tries as a couple of the others, but he reads the game. He’s always in support, he’s always there. And that’s why they rate him so highly.
At the end of the season there are awards – coach’s player of the year, player’s player of the year and most improved player. I felt my son was in with a good chance. But it wasn’t by any means a foregone conclusion. The squad is small and most of the parents chip in to help from time to time, so they opened the voting up to all parents, not just the coaches.
I voted for other players, but mentally my fingers were crossed. Do those other parents, the ones who aren’t always there, the ones who don’t understand rugby, do they know how good my son is?! I knew he wouldn’t get players’ player – although he gets on well with everyone, there are allegiances within the team and he’s not a part of that. He could get most improved, because he’s gone from not playing at all to being brilliant in the space of a season and a month. ‘He’s too good for most improved’ said my husband.
So there we are at the awards ceremony. They’d barely announced that they were moving on to the under 8s category before I heard my son’s name.
Coach’s player of the year. My boy. The top prize. Those other parents DID realise.
One very happy boy and one very proud mummy.