As a boy, I was good at school and good at school work. Age 7, my family left South London for semi-rural Buckinghamshire. My teacher wished me well and gave me one piece of advice: “Don’t skip a year at school; stay in your own school year.”
This advice, that I never had to act on, came to mind this week.
On Friday night, I was watching no.2 son at the pro-club development centre, talking with a Dad whose son is also at our club about the under 8s season starting the next day.
Mid conversation, I received a text from the under 9s (not under 8s) head coach. He asked me what I thought about no.2 son “occasionally playing a year up in league fixtures” this season, starting as soon as the next morning. I replied that I was fine with that and sure no.2 son would enjoy it. Instructions to the next day’s game followed.
Little was familiar to no.2 son the next day: teammates, coach, format (7-a-side) were all unknown. But a ball is a ball, goals and fields vary but not in their essentials. No.2 son put in a forceful display, scoring a goal, marauding, tackling, passing and showing up well alongside the older kids. He enjoyed himself. And so did I.
Later that day, text from head coach, “Heard he did well!!!” and an invitation to no.2 son to “keep coming along”. I said I would think about it.
And that’s where I am still at. I discussed it with Mrs TL who was cautious. I asked for no.1 son’s views. He was adamant that his brother should stay with his year group. I am probably the most amenable to the idea.
In favour of joining the under 9s is the certainty of weekly 7-a-side matches against other teams. On Saturday, he showed himself ready, physically and emotionally, for that challenge, which would develop his football faster and further than the alternative. With his year group, until Easter, most of the games will be 4 or 5-a-side, within the squad.
I am also conscious that he is in his eleventh month at the development centre. It’s a benefit that could be brought to an end soon, which will upset no.2 son. The status of playing with older boys may be a timely boost to him.
The strongest argument against is that he won’t be playing with his mates. Having his friends as teammates was what restored no.1 son’s enjoyment of football and probably informed his opposition to his brother skipping a year.
I am candid in this blog that I seek and find pleasure following my kids’ sport. So, what’s in it for me? Watching matches, particularly when no.2 son’s game is developing so fast, is more appealing than Saturday practice sessions. But I have a social life, and running with my Touchline Pal, attached to those sessions. I think, therefore, either outcome will meet my self-interest.
We haven’t heard yet from no.2 son. That’s deliberate. I am only prepared to let him know he has options if Mrs TL and I are ready to accede to whichever route he chooses. I strongly suspect it would be to join the under 9s as that would sate his competitive appetite – but might not be in his wider interest.
How have you resolved the question of whether your child should ‘skip a year’ at football, another sport, school or other activity?