USA to Australia- A young boy’s introduction to footy.

 

 

My boys were born in Melbourne we moved to California when they were 2 and 3, they have spent the majority of there short lives in the USA. After living there for a little over a year there was a heartbreaking moment when I realised that my kids now sounded more American than little Aussies It was what distinguished us from the masses, now it was my American wife, kids and the USA against me, I had no chance.

 

Not to be put off I was determined that my boys were going to be raised as Australian kids living in Pinole, California. I insisted that they write Mum instead of Mom and colour instead of color, you get the idea. They kept on bringing their school work home with corrections all through their spelling, confusing them even more. My answer was that I was right and the teacher was wrong but to go along with them just to appease them.

 

One thing I was determined to do was to continue there indoctrination into footy and to follow their old man into a life of misery barracking for St Kilda. For the brief time my wife lived in Australia she would see me yelling at the TV and writhing around on the couch or at the stadium, the constant frustration and exasperation that is being a St Kilda supporter. My wife would ask, why would I inflict such cruelty on my kids? I tell her that there is an unwritten code that your kids always follow their father’s team. The brainwashing was underway.

We would go down to the local field and kick the football, I would dazzle them with the magical skills of their old man (never telling them that my football career in the late 70’s and 80’s ended at the U16’s and was mainly spent sitting on the bench for the Oakleigh Districts in one of those old mothball smelling dressing gowns trying to stay warm in the cold south east suburbs of Melbourne, handing out oranges to the real players at ¾ time and only when the game was firmly out of our grasp was I unleashed on to the football world safely ensconced in the pocket were I could do as little damage as possible to our losing score), practicing our drop punts and handballs, tackling each other which they thought was the best part of the game.

Strange looks emanating from the local Pinole population as they walked by.

 

This would go on for years keeping them in touch with their roots and having to answer questions like “when was the last time St Kilda were Premiers?” and” how many times have they won it?”. When they digested the answers and compared them to other teams I could see there allegiance wavering. Nevertheless they have stuck with them and we are all proud members.

 

A few months before we moved back to Oz, my brother who lives across the bay in San Francisco came out to play with his nephews and we all went down to the local ground for a kick. After a while my brother comes up to me and says that Kadin my younger one is going to be a little champ, how so I asked. He is not afraid to take down bigger opponents he said, no fear, something I severely lacked as a footballer. While he said this and wondering where he got this trait from, he dragged down his 10 year old brother with relative ease and chose to remind him about it when they were getting up. Maybe he was on to something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back home and the 2012 season dawned and it was time to see if my years of teaching them the old man’s prolific skills had payed off. We agreed the best course of action was to get them into Auskick, do the fundamentals then join the local footy team. My eldest son Zach turns to me and says he wants to play soccer instead, “what the..?”. After the initial shock and quietly putting away the up for adoption papers, I reluctantly signed him up all the while still trying to coerce him ? Are you sure? Yes Dad I am. Damn!

 

Not so Kadin, he wanted to join Auskick and the local club, tears were welling up.

Before he even goes to his first Auskick the coordinator calls, we have a spare spot for Auskick during halftime at a preseason match at Etihad. Are you kidding me? This kid who has never played competitively, just off the plane from America is going to play his first ever game at Etihad stadium in front of thousands of people. I tried to explain to him how special this was explaining how I never had that chance ,I would toil away at the suburban grounds as a kid in subzero temperatures with water logged balls covered in mud,  and that was just training, and he gets to run onto Etihad stadium.

 

Seeing him run out there, my wife and I were full of pride I looked at my eldest son who looked back and then out to his brother on the field and suddenly he realised the error in his decision not to play Auskick.

My son Kadin has an extreme sense of what he perceives as right and wrong and fair play when he plays games, or anything for that matter. Unfortunately the real world sometimes doesn’t play by those rules and frustratingly, he is finding that out. In Auskick there is no tackling, he was pinged the first time he came near the ball when he tackled another young boy text book style, “ball umpire”. When told no tackling he reluctantly gave it to the opposition to kick. When he was tackled and no free was given he was incredulous. He then proceeded to grab the ball, stop the game and explain the rules to the umpire and why he should be getting the ball. This is an AFL players dream, lecturing an umpire about the rules and what he has done wrong and how he should rectify it all in the middle of the stadium. Walking off, the other kids were cheering on the AFL players to the field, not my son, he was in deep conversation with the coach seeking clarification of the tackling rule. Welcome to the world of dubious umpiring decisions son.

 

First official Auskick practice arrives. Kadin extremely calm and collected in the face of so many kids and potential opponents, me an absolute nervous wreck. Well for a kid who has never formally played, my fears were allayed. After they did there drills they had a game and they section it off and put players in defense, centre and forwards to avoid a roving pack. Kadin was a defender, up walks a really big kid as his opponent. He was pushing everyone out of the way, and the other kids were scared of him and ran away, not Kadin, that was just more of a challenge, he was like an exocet missile and just homed in on him and dragged him down, the umpires then came in and told him he couldn’t tackle, undeterred by the no tackle rule, he would bump, scrounge, anything just to get his hands on that ball  (unlike me, at his age I would do my best Craig Bradley impersonation and dance around the pack waiting for someone to give me the ball).

 

Bursting with pride walking in the front door I announced to my wife with all the fanfare I could muster, I now have a favourite son, you can take care of soccer boy I’m going to Auskick. A journey to be continued.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo10, Anna8, Evie6. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Ian Syson says:

    And how does Zach feel about your attitude? How long did you say you were away from Australia, 60 years?

    Things have changed since the 50s Jason. I hang around with a lot of families whose kids play soccer or footy and never once, until now, have I heard a parent denigrate one over the other. They are always proud of both and are quite comfortable with the idea that their kids can play either or both or neither.

    This is a site for kids and so you are transmitting ideas to kids when you publish on here. Celebrate the fact that your sons play sport and seem to love doing so. I look forward to your piece on Zach’s exploits.

  2. John Harms says:

    Warning: this comment is playful.

    Ian, thanks for your comment, the timing of which is remarkable, and illustrative. I’m not sure which august institution conferred on you the doctorate which has served you so well, but it certainly wasn’t from a campus which included a literature department where there was an emphasis on tone.

    Clunk!

    Call me demotic. Call me the numbskull from the school of narrative nothingness. But I reckon Jason was finding a playful way of ending what was a really interesting story about his much-loved family.

    We have good writers at the Almanac, but we have even better readers. And I don’t think they will have been concerned for Dad’s relationship with Zach, nor for the future of the world game in this country.

    However, the warning light bulb for one-dimensionalness might go off on their computers when they spot another comment from your good self.

  3. Ian Syson says:

    Hmmm. Having had another look I can see where your coming from John. I borrowed my wife’s tone detector and that gave me a different perspective. Sorry Jason if I over-reacted and went in a bit hard there.

    Though it would be terrific to see you reporting on Zach’s games as well. As I understand it the site is meant to be a broad coverage of kids and sport, albeit with footy at its heart.

  4. John Harms says:

    Ian, I also take your point, that the discourse around soccer has an impact. I hope we get reports on all sports and all enthusiasms. The whole idea is to get kids writing, and dads and mums and coaches and teachers also writing, to celebrate active involvement in the things we love.

  5. Damien Holloway says:

    No Ian, I think you are right. We need to question my brothers parenting skills, I mean after all, what loving father would foist St Kilda supporting on their off spring?
    p.s. green with envy about the upcoming almanac function at my old place of work, The All Nations, enjoy!

  6. Simon Holloway says:

    Jason , I think you should give Dr Ian an insight into the travails of selecting a soccer team for Zach , and your efforts in that area . Amusing and an interesting exercise in comparison to selecting an AFL team for Kadin .

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