By Keith Miller
On the one hand, I guess I got off pretty lightly. From the age of five my eldest played cricket and rugby – two sports I knew pretty much inside out. It allowed me to get involved as an Assistant Coach in both winter and summer, and whilst it meant there was not much downtime, at least I kind of knew what I was talking about. Or so the kids thought anyway.
He also dabbles with basketball mid-week, but all practices are effectively during school time, which leaves me as a spectator. And I’m happy with that.
But in a few short months the goalposts have shifted both literally and metaphorically. After six seasons he became too big for restricted grade rugby (and for those of you in Auckland, you’ll understand why he wasn’t keen to play open grade), so for the first time in his sporting life he has taken up a code in which I have absolutely no background.
Quite how he got involved in hockey is another story altogether, because up until about a month ago he had never even picked up a stick. I’ll spare you the details, but he has ended up in goal.
Now, I’ve not watched a lot of hockey. It’s a sport that I would get involved with during the Olympics (and enjoyed), but outside of that, I’d never really bothered to be honest. It’s not that I disliked the sport, just had other priorities at the time.
However on Saturday, I witnessed one of the most enjoyable games of kids’ sport I can recall. His mob came up against the top team and battled really hard for an exceptionally tense 1-1 draw (and yes, he made quite a number of saves, thanks for asking).
But there’s a quandary in all of this.
At times I was desperate to scream something knowledgeable at the top of my voice, but nothing came out. Sure, I can tell when the ball hits someone’s foot, I know hitting someone in the nuts is out, and I can appreciate that hooking your stick around an opposition player’s throat is pretty much a no go zone. I even know you can tap the ball to yourself to play on. But then things get a little hazy.
Then it dawned on me. This is exactly what my father had to go through at the same age. He played rugby and cricket for donkeys’ years, and what do I go and do? Take up the round ball code. Did he mind? Nope.
It is foreign territory, and pretty daunting to be honest. But it is also surprisingly entertaining to learn the intricacies of a new sport in your mid 40’s. I’m feeling a little miffed I didn’t start watching earlier. I reckon I could almost have a crack myself. Well, maybe a few years ago – I’m not sure the back would hold up that well these days.
It got me thinking that some sports enthusiasts don’t do themselves any favours, and maybe I am one of them. It’s easy to write off certain sports without really giving them a fair crack. Twelve months ago I couldn’t imagine myself watching Auckland play Northern, yet a couple of weeks back there I was, with a new found respect for the likes of Katie Glynn (what an athlete by the way).
Don’t panic, I’m not about to go some kind of sporting crusade. Nobody is likely to listen anyway. Oh what the hell – maybe I’m just getting old.