I remember the first time my athlete went to his athletics club. My son was there because he was pretty good at long jump and he wanted to get better. He was quite good at running too.
My son was in year 8 and tall for his age. He stood out among the group of year 7s and 8s. He was wearing a parkrun 10 milestone T-shirt, football shorts and white trainers. He kept his head bowed because he didn’t know anyone and he was nervous. Everyone else looked like athletes.
The parkrun T-shirt was already a bit small, so it was replaced with a Karrimor one – the cheap brand that so many people wear when they’re starting out. The football shorts remained.
Then this: ” A lot of people have spikes for long jump”.
Spikes are expensive. So we found the cheapest ones we could online. They were a good brand, but silver. They were reduced because nobody wanted silver. His friends laughed at them a bit.
He got his club vest and started competing. He was doing OK, but nobody really knew who he was.
At the start of this season, the silver spikes had broken. The Karrimor T-shirt was too small. So we got him an Under Armour top – and some football shorts that were slightly less obviously football shorts.
Suddenly my athlete was starting to look and act like a professional. He knew exactly what to do at competitions – how to measure his run, how to warm up. He arrived at the sandpit and he meant business.
We discovered actual long jump spikes. They were expensive, but my son was getting really, really good at long jump. He’d broken the magical six metres. All of a sudden, people at his club started to sit up and take notice. We spent over £100 on the long jump spikes. And he jumped even further. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. They probably just gave him that edge to go a bit further.
Then my son got to regionals and he jumped his incredible 6 metres 51. A year early. My athlete could do no wrong.
We ordered his shorts in county colours. Definitely no football shorts for nationals.
And then his accident happened.
His old coach and his team manager asked me to email them to let them know how he was doing. Then I got emails back from both of them, plus the event organiser, both of his own coaches and three other coaches. I was stunned by how much they all cared about him and his recovery. The good news is, they are experienced athletes and coaches themselves, who have seen (and suffered from) similar injuries to my son in the past and they believe he can get back to where he was.
A few days after his accident, my daughter took part in her first competition – and her brother was there on his crutches to support her. He got stopped by so many people while we were there – all very pleased to see him back on his feet. One of them, my son didn’t even know, but he knew my son.
And the kids knew him too. My daughter was stunned.
She had done her first ever long jump and had just started to tell her new friend why she was doing it. But she didn’t get very far, because her friend cut her off.
‘Your brother is really good at long jump, but he’s been injured.’
Two years ago, he was just an awkward looking boy in a big group, now he is the club’s brilliant long jumper and everyone knows who he is. The season didn’t end quite as any of us would have liked it to me, but my athlete has still come a really long in a short space of time. He will be back in action next year and who knows where his jumping will take him next.
If my son had jumped his PB in the national competition he would have finished sixth. SIXTH IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY. To put that into context, 2012 Olympic champion, Greg Rutherford came fourth in the same competition at the age of 16, jumping 6.84. My son is only 15.