Monday, March 11, 2013
Football for Fun
What comes to mind when you hear of Chris Kirkland? For many it is the thought a highly promising player who would probably be one of the top keepers in the Premier League if his career hadn't been hampered by regular injuries.
Yet just as many people associate him with the bet that he would play for England placed by his father when Chris was still fourteen years old. In fact, it is the most popular Google search phrase containing the words Chris Kirkland with 23,900 articles mentioning it (which will rise to 23,901 once this goes on the site, I guess).
Although he surely did it as a sign of faith in his son't ability, you'd imagine that if he could go back Kirkland senior would never think of placing that bet. Because that act of faith ended up haunting his son throughout his career, to the extent that when he was indeed on the verge of making his England debut (against Greece in August 2006) his chief comment was "hopefully I can get it over and done with as soon as possible and then people can stop talking about it (the bet)." Not the most effusive of comments from a man about to represent his country for the first time.
At least Kirkland got to play for England; he won the bet for his father. Many others don't manage to do that. Youtube is filled with videos showing the next Ronaldinho or the next Messi, young kids with a bucket load of trick moves and, perhaps over-zealous parents. Just a couple of weeks back there was a piece about a four year old who has been invited to train with Sunderland's U6s and who has been compared to David Beckham and Yohann Cabaye.
Of course, every one of these kids is young enough to go on and have a career in the game. And if they do I'll be more than happy for them. The point, however, remains that they've been hyped up to a point where they don't really have an option rather than be a success in football. Will they keep playing football because they enjoy it or will it be because they feel pressured to do so?
Even worse, what if they don't make it? Will they manage to get to terms with the fact that they didn't fulfill the expectations that others had placed on them? Or will they end up resenting someone or something; channeling on to them the frustration for not achieving that which was always was going to be a very difficult target? Hopefully that won't happen but it would be interesting to know whether they keep on playing if they don't make it. My guess is no.
As a parent, it is natural to want your children to excel particularly if you can see in them a talent that they don't as yet appreciate. But the surest way of getting them to hate doing something is to drive the fun out of it. And undue pressure can do that and worse to them.
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