How did it go for you lot then?!
The moment we’ve all been waiting for finally happened this week – and, for us, it was like it’s never been away.
My lad’s team, Netherton Colts U13s South, have been back in weeknight training not once but twice already, taking maximum advantage of the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Of course Samuel, my eldest, couldn’t do things the easy way. Oh no.
After four months sitting on his backside playing his PlayStation and barely moving enough to clear the pile of crisp packets and sweet wrappers off his floor let alone do much by way of exercise, he decided to get active just before the big return.
So, about half an hour before I was set to chauffeur him to training for the first time since mid-December he announced that his ankle was sore and did I have an ankle support he could borrow.
Turns out he’d rolled his ankle during an impromptu kickabout in the school playground the day before but had neglected to tell me until the very last minute.
Cue the temperature rising as all that advance planning we’d done to make sure his boots, shinpads, kit, water bottle and so on were ready in good time, descended into a frantic and ultimately fruitless search through my sock drawer for a Tubigrip (other elasticated tubular support bandage brands are available – or not when it comes to my sock drawer).
Speaking of temperatures rising, I did feel a bit of sympathy for Samuel and his team-mates as their return to action coincided with the hottest day of the year so far here in the Costa Del Dudley.
“It’s beer garden weather,” I continually told my boy on our 20-minute drive to the fields where Colts train. “How come grassroots football has returned before the pubs are open?!'”.
He was more bothered about catching up with pals he has only seen on Zoom quizzes and video call team meetings over the past 14 weeks and it was brilliant to see the smiles on their faces and jokes flying on their grand reunion.
Remarkably, a couple of them, misjudging the unseasonably sunny weather, turned up in skins underneath their training kit, prompting a lecture from our coach Rakesh about them possibly going to the trouble of actually looking outside the window to judge the conditions in future.
It’s a big thing from Rak, now that they’re 12 and 13, rather than the mini kickers of a few years ago. He encourages them to take more responsibility themselves instead of relying on their mums and dads to do everything (I might get Rak to tell Samuel to tidy his room, actually!).
With our team and our coaches – and I’m sure it’s the same with lots of others across the country – the onus is on creating good people as well as good footballers. Being polite, confident and hard-working is just as important as having a sweet first touch.
Anyway, with training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday just gone, one planned for this Saturday morning and a match on Sunday afternoon, training has been tailored to make sure the lads are cranking up their levels gradually rather than doing too much too soon after months out of action.
In their first session back, after the warm ups, there was a bit of aerobic work to get their hearts beating and some basic drills, before Rak let them get stuck into small-sided games much sooner than he usually would.
I say ‘small-sided’, that’s the number of players on each team of course, because none of our players are on the small side any more, not since the growth spurts of recent months anyway. Kids who you were patting on the heads after wins earlier in the season seem to have shot up overnight.
My own son is a freak of nature! He’s already as tall as me and with his toes poking out of the ends of the boots he was in before the latest lockdown we had to order him a new pair of 9-and-a-halves to resume training in. He’s only 13!
“How did the first session go?” I asked him the other night. Partly out of my parental duty to check his dodgy ankle had held up okay (it’s fine by the way) and partly because I wanted some insight from him for this latest Kick N Mix newsletter.
“Yeah good, can we get Maccy Ds on the way back please, Dad?”
We’re back – after three-and-a-half months – and some things never change!
A great guest article from Matt Kendrick of Kick N Mix, sign up for his weekly Grassroots newsletter below.
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