Good parent or a pompous tool?

Does imperiously dispatching my six year olds half volleys around the courtyard for 20 minutes (in 33 degree heat) make me a good parent or a pompous tool?


I’ll tell the story and let you decide.


After a laborious day behind the desk trying to unsuccessfully get my head around a project I have put in the ‘Penske File’ category, I picked Jack (my eldest son aged 6) up from the neighbour’s and headed for home. Once back at Dodson HQ I suggested a game of courtyard cricket to pass the time before Mrs D and Harry (my other scallywag) arrived home.


“I don’t really like playing cricket anymore Dad”, said my four foot Dictator.


The words cut deep. Cricket has been an obsession at Dodson HQ over summer. Every day we have played and bonded over the summer sport.


“Why not mate”, I implored?


“Cricket is too easy. I get you out all the time and hit you for lots of sixes.”


With 20 years of suburban turf cricketing experience under my belt, I knew how to take a sledge.


Playing first grade in the Melbourne VTCA I once deceived former Victorian Shield player Paul Broster, with a superbly flighted off spinner that beat him all ends up, before taking middle. Over sausage-rolls at the tea break he nonchalantly made a bee line over to me and said, “I can’t believe I played over the top of a shithouse half volley from you.”


When I am at the MCG I still delight in walking past the Victorian First Class Cricketers honour board, finding his name and telling anyone who is within a 50 metre radius that I’ve cleaned up someone on that list.


Jack’s words lit a fire underneath me. I didn’t even swap the Hush Puppies for the asics. I simply loosened the Van Huesen shirt, picked up the size 1 Kookaburra, set up the plastic stumps and tossed Jack the pill. We WERE playing cricket. This was a directive, not an invitation.


Prior to this line in the sand moment, I’d always pretty nonchalantly played cricket with Jack. Essentially I fed him with half rat power half volleys to help build his technique, interest and ego (much like the Poms did to Steve Smith this year) until which point I’d decided he/I had enough and then I would get him out.


Slowly I built a little competition into our games, as much as anything to help Jack with his counting. On average I’d probably let Jack win 4 out of 5 games. I figured that he had to learn how to lose and that this was an important lesson. At first he would ‘toss the toys’ at every loss, however, he has been slowly improving, and I’ve been driving home the good sportsman line at every opportunity.


I was going to prove a point today. I knew I was ‘on’ when Jack delivered a good first pill from the top of his mark of our little 6 yard manufactured deck. Full and just outside off, I was drawn in, I committed to play, yet withdrew the blade at the last moment, not wanting to edge. I must be watching the ball closely.


Jack steamed in and dropped one short. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner. My eyes lit up like Viv Richards when Simon Davis dragged one down. I dispatched it with blunt force trauma into the neighbour’s roller door. “Don’t drop short again champ”, I advised Jack. Yes, I was now ‘champing’ my first born.


I was concentrating like my life depended on it. Jack was going to learn, rightly or wrongly, that the game of cricket doesn’t come easy to anyone and that you should never get ahead of yourself.


I was punching back foot cover drives like Steve Waugh, hooking with the calypso flair of Gordon Greenidge and caressing through the covers with the grace of David Gower.


I hadn’t felt this good at the crease since the day I dispatched the St Michae’ls cricket club attack of balding 44 year Tafe teachers and pimply faced year 11 students who couldn’t pull a date, to all parts of Forrest Hill Oval in Wagga Wagga for my one and only Century.


Jack, to his credit, kept steaming in like Mike Kasprowicz on the 2008 India tour. He was sweating profusely and extracting every ounce of effort from his 20kg frame. The Scallywag has some genuine character (most likely from Mrs D).


Jack was probing and got a few to jag off the aggregated concrete. Still no return for his 20 minutes of toil. I kept asking if Cricket was all too easy for him? I was secretly hoping my neighbours weren’t recording footage that could be subsequently played at a future Child Services hearing.


I put a stop to things and offered Jack an opportunity to take the crease.


He took guard with the weariness of Kim Hughes when facing the West Indies for the 15th time in 20 Tests. I started to bowl off Jack’s 6 yard mark. Jack protested:


“That is the kids’ bowling line, the Daddy bowling line is back at the palm trees!”


“No mate, you said Cricket is too easy, so I’ll be bowling off your line today”, I implored to my deflated little man.


The next delivery is not one of my proudest moments, nor likely to see me win any nominations for Father of the year. I tried to land a Yorker and was out by a foot. The subsequent fully (in my defence it is hard to judge distance over 6 yards) caught Jack on the hand. Jack ran inside quicker than Usain Bolt. I swear your Honor, it was not intentional, rather a lack of talent that lead to the poor delivery.


It took 5 minutes of delicate negotiations to bring Jack back to the crease.


I knew now was the time to back-peddle a little from my militant approach to teaching humility and the game of cricket. I served up a few gentle half volleys, which Jack dispatched with interest.


Just when he thought he had me, I rattled the pegs. I figured I had gone this far, so I had to hold the line.


We debriefed on the Couch about the importance of trying hard at all times and to not be arrogant, because everybody loses some time. I implored Jack to simply play the game because he loves it, not because he is good or bad in relation to his opponent.


At 6 was he too young to absorb the message? Most probably.


Did something sink in? Maybe.


Have I killed his interest, with my brutal exhibition? Hopefully not.


Did I enjoy feeling dominant at the crease for the first time in two decades? Sheepishly yes, your Honor.


Is it too late at 40 to correct a technical flaw that sees me play the ball out in front of my eyes when driving? Sadly, YES


In hindsight, I think I started with the right intent, yet failed with the execution (much like my cover drive). Time will tell. Jack did mention this morning that he wanted to play cricket with me when I got home tonight. The battle lines are drawn.



About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. Grand yarn Craig. Can Jack read yet? Hope not. Remember he will be selecting your nursing home.
    Dad played District Cricket in Adelaide and knocked up making centuries around country SA into his 40’s.
    When I was 10 I spent the school holidays with a tennis ball and “The Art of Cricket” working on my googly, top spinner and leggie. Eventually I got up the courage to ask Dad to face them when he got home from work. He went to the shed and came back with the bat, then said “I’ll give you a chance” and went back and got a broom handle. He proceeded to cover drive, square cut and pull my best all around the back yard. Right out of the centre of the broom handle.
    50 years of therapy and I think I will be over it soon. (I can recommend good rehabs for Jack).

  2. Dave Brown says

    Love it, Craig. The short answer from my perspective is, no, he’s not too young to absorb the message. It’s exactly the same message he’ll be getting at school about ‘growth mindset’ and that the concept of being naturally ‘good’ at something can be troubling because the moment it becomes difficult they go to thinking they are bad at it. It’s a constant battle I have with my nine year old in the nets – trying to build his ability to play balls on a good length on off stump without leaving his thighs bruised and/or his stumps frequently asunder. Treat it like a computer game, gradually ramping up the difficulty level, giving some legside junk to practice dispatching, then some offside stuff to get the front foot moving, then plug away at the top of off until the feet are moving, the elbow is high and the bat is straight. This parenting stuff, hey?

  3. This is brilliant, Craig.
    I have not laughed so much along with an Almanac piece for a while. Why? Because I have been there, too.
    In our house, it was the epic backyard soccer matches, which I would more often than not let the boys win. But occasionally I would take delight in knocking them down a peg or two.
    Great stuff.

  4. DanielleSpicer says

    That was thoroughly entertaining Craig. Loved it!

  5. Craig – when I was about 13 or 14 I got a bit big for my boots and challenged my old man to a race over 40 metres. Just before the start he said “this isn’t fair, you’d better walk up 2 metres”. The psychology was already at play. Mentally he already had me done.

    He caught me just on the line and never raced me again!

  6. craig dodson says

    Peter – I hope at some point mid session you abandoned the leggies and at least dropped in a few short ones to see if he could hook with the broom handle?

    Dave – good advice. Good to see you teaching the merits of feet are moving and elbow high. By the time jack is 9 I’m guessing I’ll have to learn how to teach the ramp and reverse sweep.

    Smokie – glad I’m not the only one to take pleasure in Victory.

    Danielle – appreciate the kind words.

    Dips – great story. I’ve still not beaten my old man at golf (and he is pushing 70)

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