BY TIM MIDDLETON
IN the middle of the last century the cartoon antics of ‘Tom and Jerry’ (the cat and mouse duo) were hugely popular on television and film screens.
While these two characters were always fighting, they also often involved a bulldog called Spike and his beloved pup, Tyke, with Jerry usually getting Tom into trouble with Spike. Spike however would always go out of his way to care and comfort his son and regularly declared proudly of Tyke, “That’s my boy!”
“That’s my boy!” could (indeed, should) well be the catchphrase of all of us parents. We delight in our child, not so much for his achievements but for who he is.
In a previous article we underlined the importance of the saying that “Whether you win or lose, I don’t mind – I’m your dad” with the additional comment that “Winning or losing won’t make me love you less.”
That’s my boy! Some may wish to point out though that such a statement may in fact be an encouragement to children not to try, not to give their all in all they do, which in turn would be wrong; we need to help our child take responsibility for himself and not do everything for him.
To that end, as a father (or mother) we will look to share further lessons for our child when he plays sport. If it does not matter whether he wins or loses, what does matter?
The answer lies in the word ‘if’ and in Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’.
Son, daughter, I ask that you stay calm at all times, especially in the heat and intensity of a match.
Others may lose it and blame everyone else other than themselves but stay calm and focussed. Focus on your own ability and what you can do; you do not need to compare yourself to what others are doing.
Trust in your own ability, in what you know you can do and stick to your values, not least humility and respect, even if others mock, taunt or try to bring you down.
Be open to advice and criticism, in whatever form and from whatever motive it may come, as it might just help you.
Son, be patient; not everything comes immediately or desirably. If you do not see progress, keep working hard and strive for it. But do not resort to underhand means to gain the upper hand, by trying to con the opposition or officials, by shouting or fighting or accusing.
Do not sound as if you know it all and do not act as if you are perfect or superior; there is no need to boast or gloat.
Aim high, for sure, but be realistic. Think through what is required for you to reach those goals but also rely on and release your instinct and intuition.
Whether you achieve your goals or not, whether you succeed or not, be the same person; respond in exactly the same way, with humility, dignity, respect, doing so graciously, thoughtfully, consistently.
Folk will accuse you of all sorts of things to try to bring you down, and may well succeed in doing so, but do not be surprised or defeated; rather, go again, quietly, undeterred.
You know the truth within yourself; you are the only one who needs to know. Keep plugging away even when you are exhausted and defeated. You know the formula that got you there the first time; stick to it.
My boy, I want you to be willing to try new things, new skills, new tactics; don’t be afraid to try. You may fare badly as a result and feel like blaming others, (especially me) but just try again; things do not always work out brilliantly the first time. You need to practise, practise, practise, even when others have gone and when you are exhausted and see no end in sight.
You know what, be glad to play with great players and weak players, experts and novices; if you are better than them, help them, as it will help you too, but if they are better than you, learn from them.
Treat teammates and opponents, coaches and officials with the same respect; you need them and they need you. Just make sure you make the most of every opportunity that comes your way; do not just seize the day but squeeze every last drop out of each game and practice. It may not come again.
As a parent, there are many things that we do long for our child in sport. We want the best for our child, but the best is not necessarily winning.
We want him to become a better person, a true man, more than simply a better player. Sport is not a cat and mouse game so let sleeping dogs lie.
We must help our child become a better person through it. If he can do all of this, the sporting world is his oyster; in fact, sport will be his, his to enjoy and to thrive. He could not ask for anything better!
What is more, you will be a man, my son – you will be my son, my man. That’s my boy!