Pride comes before a fall

They say that pride comes before a fall. So with all the fit-to-burst pride I’ve had for my son lately, with being made head boy and passing the grammar school entrance exam, there was bound to be a fall.

My son loves football, and he’s pretty good at it. He’s always played in defence, more because there was nobody else capable than because he actually wanted to, but this season he has moved up to midfield and has even played up front a couple of times. He’s loving it and is doing really well – he’s the third top scorer in his league!

So it was no great surprise that he got picked for the school team. Although it wasn’t great that he was put on the left wing, as he’s not left-footed and has never played in that position before. We watched the first game – it wasn’t good and they got soundly beaten. My son didn’t play his best on the left, but he wasn’t the worst player on the pitch. We watched the second game, in which the team played a bit better. My son was on the left wing again and spent more time than anyone would have liked on the sidelines as a sub.

Football boots, son, football

Then he wasn’t picked for the third game. We don’t know why. But they lost 14-0 without him.

As it happens, I’d booked him a doctor’s appointment for that day – not knowing that there was a football match and having already rearranged it once to accommodate the previous match. With three kids and lots of activities to juggle, it’s not easy to book doctor’s appointments and I did my best to find a convenient time. He’d had these strange lumps on his legs for months and I kept forgetting about them. And then you think ‘Oh no, what if they’re cancer and I’ve just been ignoring them for all these months?’. Melodramatic? Maybe. But I’m sure we all do it.

He had to miss football training, but I did the right thing. I wrote a note. Which is what you’re supposed to do if you miss a club. And what most people don’t do. But as it happens there wasn’t training. There was a match. A match he hadn’t been picked for. And three days later there was a tournament. Which he also wasn’t picked for. In his head, it was because I’d booked him a doctor’s appointment.

I knew nothing of the tournament. Then on the way home he mentioned it casually. And he mentioned it again. I could hear the hurt and anger building in his voice. He was talking faster and higher. He was becoming less rational. He was struggling to hold it together. He’d obviously been keeping himself in check all day at school, trying to suppress it all, and now it was coming out. The feelings of rejection, of thinking he’s not good enough, of not knowing why he’s not good enough, the blame for the damn doctor’s appointment, wondering why others had been picked. He was losing it.

He made it through the door just before he lost it completely. He ran upstairs and shut himself in his room. He was inconsolable. He wouldn’t let anyone in, wouldn’t speak to anyone. We could just hear him wailing and banging around. He was in bits. He was in so much pain. He just couldn’t understand it. He loves football so much. He knows he’s good. He didn’t understand why he hadn’t been picked because nobody had bothered to tell him. And it hurt him. It hurt him so badly.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took a whole weekend to recover. Although winning a league game with his club team, including scoring two goals and being man of the match, certainly helped.

He wasn’t well last week. He had a really nasty cough and bad throat that was keeping him awake until 11.30. He looked pale, his eyes were dark and sunken and he couldn’t stop coughing. I was in two minds whether to send him to school. But he went. And one thing I knew was, however ill he was, he had to go to football training if he was ever to get back on the team.

Then he did the worst possible thing. HE FORGOT HIS KIT. He knows what a stupid mistake this was. So he’d missed training two consecutive weeks – one with a valid reason and one without. He told the teacher he’d forgotten it, but, having already been dropped twice, you can guess what happened next.

Another team was picked. There was a year 4 in the A team. And my son, genuinely among the top two or three players in the school, hadn’t been picked at all. Just five days since the last meltdown, it happened again. He started telling me quietly. His voice got louder, his words more urgent. I could hear the tears in his voice as he spoke. He was in floods before he’d even made it to the front door.

My poor, broken boy.

He ran upstairs and chucked stuff around. I heard him wailing. I found him lying on the floor by the radiator.

And I thought, if those teachers could see him now. If they knew just how much this meant to him and what it has done to him, would they care?

Competition, rejection, it’s all part of growing up, blah blah blah. This wasn’t about being ‘fair’ and ‘giving everyone a chance’ because he was the only one who was dropped. He forgot his kit. That was a massive error, but we all make mistakes. Is it worth breaking a boy’s heart over a mistake? Had they dropped him because he was the head boy and he’d got into grammar school? Had too much good stuff happened to him already?

I will never know. But I know I never want to see my son like that again.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Oh no that is awful. The poor thing. I think that sometimes clubs; both school and otherwise get a bit carried away with it all and forget that these are kids who want to play and enjoy. They might not be the future Premier League players but at this age it is all about them enjoying and having fun isn’t it? I get really wound up about this as the boys club are amazing and let the kids play no matter what the standard and so they should but there are other clubs who won’t let players join unless they are ‘good enough’. I’m sure your son will get picked again and that he takes the time this week to get better and regain his confidence. I do totally get it though as I know that my two would be the same in this situation.

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    • Thanks very much! It’s good to know someone understands – and your sons would behave in just the same way. The irony is that our school is so completely non-competitive, so they do give the kids a chance. But if they were rotating him, they should have let him know and they shouldn’t have dropped him so many times! 🙁

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  2. so sorry to hear this. It sounds like he is upset the most about not knowing why. There comes a time in children’s lives when they are mature and should be treated as an adult. It sounds like he is at that point.

    I am a firm believe that there should be completion at school with both winners and losers as that’s real life. But give they a reason why they have not been picked. Even if it is down to missing training at least be honest. That will at least give an explanation to your Son as to why he wasn’t picked and serve as a motivator to remember his kit. Sadly there are times medical appoints can’t be moved but if he was fit to play he should have been picked as a very good player. If the coach thought he wasn’t fit he could have spoken to you about the situation.

    Sometimes all it takes is a little explanation and then little hearts won’t be broken. I also believe that the disappointment of not being picked will help him to be a better person as he grows.

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    • Thank you! You are exactly right – he did need to know why. The teacher couldn’t have known how much it meant to him, but he did owe him the decency of an explanation. He’s a mature and intelligent 11 year old – he needs to be able to understand what is going on. I think even if it’s not down to the forgotten kit, he certainly won’t be forgetting it again!

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  3. That’s really awful how they just drop someone so easily and I really really feel for your boy 🙁 it’s really tough when they really love something and are told they can’t take part. I know how much my own 30 something hubby loves it and how passionate he is, as well as how disappointed when he’s on the bench. Would it do any good if you spoke up the school about it?

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    • Thanks very much for your lovely comment, really appreciate it. Good to know it affects grown ups as well as kids!

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  4. Ah I feel heartbroken for him just reading this! They should never have put him on the left in the first place. Is there any chance you could have a word with the coach? See if they can give him a shot where he performs strongest? xx

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    • Thanks very much! I reckon they would be blown away by him if they could see him playing in the right position, but right now he’d settle for just playing again!

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  5. Dear girl, that is such a shame. Can you not talk to the school governors about this- if not the school itself – they ought to be able to help you…

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    • Thanks very much! I used to be a governor myself until recently – I would have felt uncomfortable complaining about something like this, even though I was perfectly entitled to! I’m just hoping he’ll be back on the squad after the holidays.

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  6. I so felt your anguish in this on behalf of your son. This kind of thing means so much to them. I echo the others who commented and would try talking to the school. It’s not a complaint just a discussion so that you know where you stand and what the options are. You’re not a pushy parent and if you’ve been a governor they’d know that. Hope he feels better about it soon x

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  7. Poor kid. I also think the school should let you know why he wasn’t picked. Their egos are so fragile at this age and given how talented he clearly is, it all makes no sense why he was overlooked. Couldn’t he have been lent a kit – or gone home to pick it up? Wondered if he was ok when you took him to the docs. He sounds extremely tired and/or unwell from what you describe. (I’m not a medic though my son gets so heated when exhausted). Hope he’s on the up again now. x

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    • Thank you! Hopefully the break from school will have done him good and he’s just about finished coughing now. I think he could have rung me and I could have taken the kit to him, but for some reason he thought that wasn’t possible! x

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  8. Oh no! That is awful! I think as a teacher sometimes we do forget that our pupils are humans and we make decisions and don’t realise how it must affect them at home. I know I have in the past made a flippant comment or decision and it has upset someone. Maybe call the school? Maybe they didn’t know how upset he was as he was putting on such a brave face. Poor lad. I know if he was my pupil I would have been devastated x

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    • Thanks very much. That’s so lovely to hear that from a teacher. I don’t think the teacher could have had any idea how it would affect him – because that’s not how he behaves at school. x

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