Tag Archives: sports

Finding Our Blind Spot

When I was younger, pre-marriage, pre-kids, I would often imagine what type of parent I would end up becoming. In that total naivety you have pre-parenting, I would imagine that I would be the most patient, coolest Mum on the planet with a (tidy) houseful of kids whilst I looked fresh-faced, hair nice (no greys) and my children hanging on my every word of wisdom. Obviously the reality of parenting is a little bit different, I am fairly patient, I’m sometimes regarded as ‘cool’ when I buy the right sort of ice lollies, my house is full of 3 kids, my 8-year-old son and 5-year-old twins (boy/girl), my house is definitely not tidy and fresh-faced with nice hair is not something that comes naturally to me much these days! However, trying to pass on my words of wisdom to my children is something I strive to do, even if sometimes it is met with a roll of the eyes from my eldest! Children are such blank canvases and eager to learn about the world from their parents. My twins have the ability to break a Guinness world record for the amount of questions they ask on a daily basis from ‘why is the sky blue?’ to more weighty issues such as ‘how does Spiderman have a wee?’.

It is one of my ambitions as a parent to raise children that are well-mannered, open-minded, considerate and non-judgemental of others. And with this is in mind, I was extremely lucky to be invited by Mumsnet to attend the Sainsbury’s Active Kids Blind Football event. With the Paralympics just round the corner, Sainsbury’s have launched the million kids challenge which has enabled 2.4 million British children to play a Paralympic sport. And my eldest son and I were happy to join that statistic on Monday. We turned up at the venue, a little doorway under the railway arches in London, which in true Willy Wonka style, led into a huge indoor football centre housing individual Astroturf pitches for football games. We found our team of other enthusiastic volunteers and to my eldest’s disappointment no David Beckham. I had tried to explain on the journey there that Mr Becks is quite a busy man and would probably find it difficult to fit it into his schedule. He soon forgot about Becks though as we were led into the changing room to receive football tops and blindfolds. The training session was run by the super patient and very amiable Gary Knight, who is the FA’s Blind Football coach and works with the Paralympics GB football squad and the England Blind Football team, so definitely knows his stuff!

The children once blindfolded, were led back onto the pitch in a scene reminiscent of the elephants from Jungle Book, each with their hand on the shoulder of the child in front. They were told to keep the blindfolds on so they could really experience the blindness that a blind footballer would be used to and they were all good sports listening intently to instructions and getting stuck in. Gary Knight led them through some simple training exercises by asking the adults to roll the ball to their feet and for the children to kick the ball back. I volunteered to help and was paired with a capable child who had to put up with me misfiring when I rolled it to him and really stretching his blind football abilities! Each ball makes a bell-like noise when it moves to help the player locate it and with the encouragement of talking to each other throughout the game, it really feels like a team sport where it is essential to instruct and help your team-mate.

As the children gained confidence in their newly visually impaired state, they were led through a game of penalty shoot-outs where they had to rely on their sense of hearing and concentration to gauge where the goal was in order to score. The winner of the shoot-out was awarded with a football shirt signed by David Beckham, so he was there in pen form if nothing else. My son came third in the shoot-out and in true Paralympic style, we awarded him Bronze position. The hardest part of the day was trying to drag my son home as he was enjoying himself so much. It was a fantastic experience for the children taking part and an important lesson in how fortunate they are to be able to take their blindfolds off at the end of the session. However, it also encourages the children to not see blind footballers as victims but as credible sports participants.

Next week, my eldest is attending the Paralympics with my parents. Before this event I bought the Paralympic tickets with the intention of showing my son how lucky we are and to be inspired by the sports people who have disabilities but are still capable of getting involved. Following the blind football event, I believe my son no longer has to see the athletes as less fortunate then him, but in fact extremely capable sports people. It was a truly inspirational experience. Thanks Mumsnet.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity

Every Loser Wins

It was such a long time coming but here we are approaching the end of the London 2012 Olympics. There have been so many mixed feelings about us hosting the games, it all got a bit political with the government acting out their playground taunts of “it was our idea!” when we won the bid and then when the expense of hosting it starting going through the roof they were quick to say “it was the last government’s idea!”. But whether you are sick of the sight of it and cross over the cost impacted on the tax payer or you’re waving your team GB flag and it’s a dream come true, it is happening and it has all gone pretty well so no point ignoring it anymore. And what we Brits are especially good at is feeling  patriotic (when we’re doing something well) and glossing over the bigger picture. But forget politics, the question that everyone really wants answered is why are the women’s Beach Volley teams wearing bikini’s and the men’s Beach Volley teams not wearing speedos?! It’s obscene! And probably containing the most willing spectators other than Athletics!

My parents have always been big fans of Athletics and I was brought up in a house where it was encouraged to shout our encouragement to the likes of Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram. This was back in the day when Seb Coe was a long distance runner and before he was leader of the universe (in his opinion). This was back when footballers were not hearthrobs like David Beckham but sported mullets and perms like Glenn Hoddle. I can’t say I watched any of the Beijing Olympics other than expressing a little bit of interest at Michael Phelps 15 gold medals or whatever he earnt and is just me or is that man actually morphing into a fish? I swear he is actually growing gills in the sides of his throat!  However, the London Olympics has becoming bizarrely addictive, maybe because we’re a little bit proud of its success or perhaps because we’re actually winning some medals!

Danny Boyle did not disappoint on his opening ceremony and I know people gave him grief by saying it was all a bit bizarre but we have to remember this man is responsible for the toilet scene in Trainspotting, I thought it was pretty tame to be honest. My only complaint was Sir Paul McCartney destroying his own song! I love Hey Jude, it reminds me of the end of drunken family parties and also when me and my friends took part in a massive sing-song on Brighton beach after the Fat Boy Slim concert, but what is worrying is the fact that the man who actually wrote it manages to make it cheesy! From adding too many high-pitched Ju Ju Ju Ju Judy’s to actually conducting the crowd with his hands, we were all secretly praying for Stella to come and put a blanket round his shoulders and lead him off stage. And I did wonder whether any foreign visitors were a bit confused with why Kenneth Brannagh was ordering a lot of heavily soiled men about. But I did think it was a memorable although probably hugely expensive opening ceremony.

My eldest son is loving the Olympics and has enjoyed every event, constantly flicking between the interactive channels to check out the hockey or the handball. And speaking of Handball, was this game made up the night before the opening ceremony with the referee’s making up rules as they go along? I do love the historical field events though and can’t help questioning whether the hammer throw and the shotput have much relevance today, but they are enjoyable nonetheless, if not for just rather manly looking women roaring after each throw. I find myself watching any Olympic event that is on. If cycling was on Grandstand on a Saturday morning at any other time of the year I can guarantee we wouldn’t be sitting there watching it with interest, but chuck in Chris Hoy and the possibility of a gold medal then we’re transfixed! I’ve even become an amateur expert on events that I have no prior knowledge of, such as diving where I can now tell you if Tom Daley made too much of a splash when he took his dive!

It is nice when we win though, especially in the Athletics when me, hubby and eldest son were pretty much screaming at Jessica Ennis in her recent success as if our lives depended on her winning the gold. I can pretty much say I have never shown that much passion in sport before! And the effect it has on me emotionally is pretty shocking too, I was completely choked after the Jessica Ennis finale as if she is a member of my family, how proud I felt! And the medal ceremonies are pretty much flooring me and not just when it is GB, the minute a national anthem strikes out and the bottom lip wobbles I’m right there with them. Apart from when the men are receiving medals and are looking pretty awkward about the little posy of flowers they were presented with.

And whether you’re proud of our achievement or still incensed at the thought of paying it off for the next ten years, I reckon we’ll all be checking to see where we finish in the medal table. My money is on third place which of course us Brits will find a way of saying is the best place to finish. Let’s just hope Paul McCartney doesn’t want to sing us out at the closing ceremony!

On Your Marks, Get Set

Today at last my eldest son had his sports day, previously postponed because of predictably bad weather, we wrapped up and braved the school field to watch the big event.

Now with three children, this is my second sports day this month. The twins sports day was held on a rare sunny day a few weeks ago. With them both being in Reception, their teacher had not so helpfully divided them into separate teams for all events. So while twin son was balancing his egg and spoon in one area, twin daughter was on her space hopper on the other side of the field. Don’t get me wrong, I am all up for a bit of healthy competition between them and it was probably ‘a good idea at the time’ that the teachers decided to separate them. However, with me, hubby and my parents tag teaming across the field, swapping more hand gestures than John McCririck, it didn’t make for a very relaxing day for us.

It was great to watch the children take part though. My daughter was her usual unenthusiastic self when it comes to sport and was happy to inspect the daisies on the running track, rather than plan to beat anyone to the finish line in the sack race. However, my son more than made up for her lack of competitive spirit, by adopting an Olympian shotput pose to throw a bean bag and was the only child to actually break a sweat in the ‘hit the ball round the cones’ event.

But it was the last race of the day which was the most entertaining. With all prior events having been team events so no child ended up losing (for gods sake). The last race was four children at a time racing down the field to the finish line, where a victory stand had been erected for the medal ceremony. Nice touch.

Twin daughter was facing the wrong way initially on her race, she heard the klaxon go and she casually ran towards the finish, waving at us as she passed in a Baywatch slow-motion kind of style, finishing last which was of no concern to her. Meanwhile, twin son was busy stretching at the starting line, his 3 other competitors eyeing him suspiciously, realising he meant business. The klaxon sounded and it was like the famous scene from The Chariots Of Fire, twin son had his back straight, head back as he plummeted down the field towards the finish, miles in front of the others. To be fair, his main competition had lost a plimsoll and was busy putting it back on, which gave twin son the edge.

Today my eldest son’s events were much the same. However, there was no running race as the Juniors are even less willing to brand any child a loser and therefore only team events take place.

And what exactly are the P.E. teachers smoking these days with the random races they invent for the children to do. In my day, I remember relay racing, egg and spoon and sack race. Today’s events were like something out of It’s A Knockout, with children required to dress up in an outfit, climb through a hoop, balance a bean bag on their head, while bouncing a ball.

The most normal race was the sack/skipping race combo, skipping one way down the track and jumping within the sack back. And I have to say how impressed I was with the sacks they use now, a big contrast to the real sacks they used at my sports day, where you would end the race with small cuts to your fingertips due to the harshness of the sack material.

Thankfully, there are no parent races anymore, so we are spared the humiliation of trying to make out we don’t care about winning. However, last week eldest son thrust a piece of paper in my hand to say that the Juniors were holding a ‘Race for Life’ over the school field and were asking parents to join the children in 4 laps of the field for a £1 donation. We were asked to dress in pink and turn up on Friday to take part. I quizzed eldest son about whether the other parents were going to do it, he assured me ‘everyone was’. So when the time came, I dug out my running shoes, found a suitable sporty pink top and arrived at the school field to greet the other …… 3 (!) parents who were taking part! There were lots of parent ‘spectators’ but only a few suckers parents actually running, including me!

As my eldest son’s class came out onto the field ready for the race, me and the other 3 Mums took our places beside them. I made my son promise that we would stay together throughout the race.

Now I don’t expect professional landscapers to have been working the night shift on the morning of the race, but to mow the field would have been a nice gesture to avoid the ankle high grass that greeted us.

Me and eldest son smiled at each other as the klaxon sounded and then he left me for dust as he flew off with his best mate leaving me behind. So without any alternative I began the race on my own trying to not look as awkward as I felt. I scanned the runners for the other Mums but 2 had raced off in their obvious runner mode and the other Mum was running hand in hand with her daughter so it looked like I was doing this race solo.

I had to remember to breathe, not to go too fast so I wouldn’t end up with a stitch, must not go too slow so I end up last being outrun by the school mascot. I kept a decent pace, trying to ignore the iron like taste in my mouth and the tight chest feeling as I hit lap 3. Luckily, eldest son had overdone it in the first lap so I had managed to catch him up. As we reached lap 4, he suggested we sneak out as some of the faster runners had completed the race and ‘no-one would know’. I could have said yes, it would have got me out of the last lap, but he owed me for leaving me on my own, so we finished it together.

The biggest Sports Day this country has ever seen is kicking off in Stratford next week. Still not sure if we are going to go, hubby is working all of it, so will probably watch it on the TV. But what is certain are those athletes have got it easy, pristine new tracks and definitely no overgrown school field to run through. And I bet Usain Bolt won’t have as much fun just running when he could complete 100 metres on a space hopper!