The politics of kids’ sport

We all know that parenting is political. It starts very young. We’re either the smug ones feeling proud of ourselves that our babies sleep through the nights, or the parents seething at someone else whose kids will eat anything. And it never stops.

Whose child walks first? Is one school better than another? Is one kid on a better reading book than another?

And as they get older… Is your kid the one who gets picked for the school team? Or not?

From where I’m standing, as the parent of teenagers, there’s no showing off and no resentment on my part. It is what it is. Some kids get picked. Some don’t. Some have natural ability. Some don’t. Some give their all in training. Some don’t.

But there is a delicate balancing act for parents. Because kids take sport very much to heart.

For the last couple of years, my younger son, some of his friends and A LOT of kids from the surrounding area (we’re talking three counties here), have been training with the local Premiership rugby club. Of course, the dream is to play for the club. The reality is, maybe one of them will make it all the way. Maybe none of them will. But it is an honour to even train with them.

We all know that, at the end of this season, a lot of the players will be cut. But nobody knows how many. I’ve heard rumours that they will only take 40 players in total (there may be 300 or so of them currently). Nobody knows who will stay or who will go. Nobody knows when the cut will happen.

And the boys (and their parents) are getting jittery.

Ask any of the kids, and they will say that they ‘know’ they are going to get cut. They will also give you the names of a couple of their friends who they think will stay.

The reality is, most of the kids will be cut. We have accepted my son’s fate. He has enjoyed his time training with the club. Admittedly, he hasn’t always been able to commit 100%. School sport and football can sometimes get in the way. As can injury. Being cut wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

But what if…

Over the last few months, there have been a couple of games played. My son wasn’t picked for the first game. Or the second.

The players were apparently picked at random. It appeared they may have literally been picked alphabetically. But some kids (and parents) were getting edgy after the second game. Would their child get a chance to play? A chance to shine? A chance to show what they can do before the cut?

Then there was a tournament, that a lot of the kids (including my son) played in.

And then my son was picked for a tournament against outside teams. But was he ‘picked’ or was it just another alphabetical/ random thing? None of his friends were picked. But some of them had played in games that he hadn’t been picked for. And maybe there were other games and other tournaments that we don’t know about that they were playing in?

You can see how for kids who live for sport, it can get pretty stressful. And you can see that it will get pretty stressful for any parents supporting those kids – and picking up the pieces when things don’t go their way.

I had to tell one of the other parents about the tournament, because it meant my son no longer needed a lift to yet another sporting event. She immediately replied that her son was worried that he hadn’t been picked. I reminded her of the game that her son had been picked for that my son hadn’t been picked for. And they both felt reassured.

But I knew of one more friend who would be upset about it. Was it best for me to come clean straight away and tell them about the tournament? Because they would definitely find out at some point. Or would it be best for me to wait until they found out?

The mystery surrounding the whole thing means that none of us should read anything into a child being picked or not picked. But it inevitably puts people on edge. And that’s why it’s all so political.

I didn’t pick my son for the team, so why do I still feel like I need to confess?

rugby ball, rugby

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. It sounds like a minefield, why does it all get so political? My kids haven’t reached this stage yet, but I can see how it can all happen as there are glimpses of it even at primary school age for various things.

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    • I haven’t come across anything quite like this before. Anything else is just a team selected from a small squad of players, so that is usually pretty straightforward. Over the years there have been a few questionable selection decisions in the kids’ sports, but most of the time it has been very fair.

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  2. Oh my word, I had no idea! I’ve never been involved in that sort of sport. In swimming, you knew whether you were in the club / county / district / national squad or not. If you were the fastest at your race, you were in. If you weren’t the fastest, you were out. I had never even considered the politics of team sports. I hope things work out the best for your son, whether that means playing for the club or not.

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    • Swimming sounds like athletics. We were new to that last year, but learned it was pretty straightforward – in my son’s case, he just had to jump a certain distance to qualify. Generally team sport isn’t quite as political as this! Most squads will have a few extra players, so there will be those who don’t play every game or full games, but that’s OK. This is a whole different level of politics with it being at an elite club. Everyone is very on edge about it all. x

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  3. It can be a nightmare. Our tennis hasn’t got to that stage because the last couple of seasons its basically been who shouts first to say they can play gets a spot. N has played every one because I’m organised and tell them when the matches are and straight away say which ones we can play. But this term I’m captain and responsible for the team. I’ve doodle polled the dates and thankfully have had to pick the best team because some people still haven’t replied. So I’ve been scrabbling a team. Although its annoying because i would rather put out the best team and one person hasn’t replied for her son yet they played a lot last season. I think at the moment there’s a lot more politics about the weekly player of the week trophy. Some parents certainly say theirs doesn’t get chosen because the coach doesn’t like the child. I just explain to N that even if he wins all his games he might not get the trophy because he’s quiet and just gets on with things and the others who get more help are often the ones who get noticed for one tiny adjustment. But I’m sure things’ll get more political when there’s only 2 players in a team rather than 4

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    • I am in awe of anyone who gets involved in organising kids’ sport! My husband does it for football and there is a lot of pressure. It’s a delicate balance between picking the best team and being fair to everyone. I think trophies (or man of the match) always cause trouble and good coaches have to keep a careful track on it to ensure everyone gets it sometimes.

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  4. SO TRUE! The worst thing though: Kids birthday parties! My daughter, Syd’s BFF from Nursery and reception had a party last month. Syd told me she wasn’t invited. (They are Y2 now). Her mum never told me they were having a party or that Syd wasn’t invited. Syd sent out her invites last week & invited her former bff (off her own back) despite not getting invited to her party last month. Her mum txt an RSVP accepting but still made no mention of the party Syd had missed. A mutual friend told her she had told me about the party over the weekend & last night she txt saying syds invite must have been lost. NOT TRUE – Syd had asked the friend who told her she was only allowed to invite 6 friends and Syd didnt make the list. That to me is absolutely fine. The mum acting like it didnt happen is far more offensive than not getting an invite. Just be honest about the tournament. It might upset someone but it’ll hurt them less than finding out from someone else will XX

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    • That sounds awful and a very difficult situation. It was very wrong of the mum to act like it didn’t happen. Thanks for the advice re the tournament!

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  5. Oh it gets harder and harder doesn’t it? I know things about my friends’ kids that I wouldn’t like if it were mine, and I always struggle to know whether to tell their parents, and how awkward it might be. Minefield. Hope your son gets what he needs xx

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    • Oh my goodness, that is difficult. I haven’t been in that position, thank goodness. It can be so hard to know what to do for the best. X

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