The junior football season is capped off with a get-together, which fulfils a number of functions: celebrating success, reminding the parents of the club’s ethos, thanking coaches and helpers for their efforts, building a bridge across the four or five weeks until the season restarts. But really, as any junior footballer knows, it’s truly about one thing: bagging a trophy.
My boys’ club rewards every player with a trophy. They often get medals, too, for participating in a tournament. The American writer Gore Vidal observed, “It’s not enough to succeed, others must fail.” Not so, if you’re a junior footballer. There’s no devaluation of the trophy in these lads’ eyes, even if all their teammates pick up one that is identical.
A feature of the presentation evenings that no.1 son has attended for the last five years is that each player receives a dedication from the coach as they make their way to collect the trophy. The tradition began when the head coach was a particularly articulate and charismatic man. His anecdote about one of the boys has stuck in my mind. The lad performed a trick in a match and the coach turned to his opposite number and said knowingly, ‘his mum’s Brazilian’. A few moments later and the boy mis-kicked the ball. ‘But his dad’s Scottish’, he clarified.
Unfortunately, the bar was set too high by the head coach who has moved on. Typical dedications now are along the lines of, “He’s been consistent all season, particularly in the second half of the season when his game’s become really consistent.” There’s also a strain of comment that has the coach ascribing any improvement or achievement of a player directly to a tactical change or word of advice from the coach. The coaches do a fine job of running the team. I wish someone would free them (and us) from the awkwardness of them ad libbing in front of an audience about each player.
No.2 son’s group has a different tradition. The presentation is followed by a Dads v Coaches match. I took the precaution of coming straight from work last year so attended in suit and shoes. This kept me safe from the match in which unexpected levels of pent up frustration were vented – by both teams. The same trick worked for me this year, too.
These events see every player ‘trophied’, but some are ‘trophied’ more equally than others. Once each squad member has received their trophy, the coach announces three special awards; usually ‘most improved’, ‘players’ player’ and ‘coach’s player’. It’s hard not to be drawn into the before-the-event speculation and post-event dissection of these decisions. But in my experience the coaches have selected sensibly and sensitively and everyone has been pleased for the boys chosen.
That’s not the case at every club, as this Mumsnet thread starter shows.
My youngest DS plays for a local football team. They are still very young but as a team they are very good. Many people who’ve seen them play have commented that for their age they are a very talented team.
There are a couple of very good players. Boy 1 is very knowledgable about the game, a great team player and can play in all positions. Boy 2 is very speedy and scores lots of goals.
Next month there is a presentation evening where all the players will receive praise and a trophy. The kids have been asked to vote for their favourite player to receive a special mention and another trophy.
The majority vote has gone to boy 1.
Boy 2’s parents have called a meeting to ask why their son is ‘hated’ by the other boys. They’ve asked if the other kids are jealous of his ‘success’ of if the voting was rigged.
Then they phoned up the coach to ask if there was any other award available that he could receive as they were going to find it very difficult to explain to him that he hasn’t won the award they were fully expecting him to win.
As with most of the things that can go wrong with junior sport, it goes wrong when the parents get (over) involved.