The loneliness of the long distance raker

This summer we won’t be down at Newport track for Little Athletics. Our daughters have outgrown it, so after eight years we have Saturday mornings to ourselves again.

We can lie in bed until noon now we don’t have to be there for the first call. We can have coffee and read the papers instead of loading the car with chairs, bags, sunscreen and children, spending four hours marshalling little athletes and running the long jump.

No more dreaded ‘set up mornings’. No more erecting sunshades, hauling equipment trolleys,   connecting loudspeakers, heaving mats into position.

No more hours raking the sandpit. No more calling Harley and Lachlan and Max, Hayden, Brayden, Aidan and Jayden, Ella and Stella, Henry and Archie, Emily and Emily and Emily, till our voices are hoarse.

No more Paul the Irish announcer’s lilting tones over the loudspeaker: “First call, under-8 girls, to the hurdles. Could parents help us lower the hurdles by one notch.”

No more chasing the sunshades when the wind blows them away.

No more hot children tugging your elbow and asking for money for a frozen Prima, just as you are cross checking a list of under-10s and trying to remember if it was Jayden or Hayden who jumped.

No more telling the under-9 boys to stop strangling each other in the line.

No more kids practising cartwheels between events.

No more yelling “Stella! Stella!” like Brando when she forgets it’s her turn to jump.

No more careful explanations to under-7s that the long jump take-off involves one foot, not two.

No more watching kids trying their utmost as they sprint around the bend. Straining every sinew, bursting with effort. Some grimacing, some smiling.

No more driving to tracks in Geelong and Colac and Bendigo for regional relays. No more holding your breath at the baton changes. No more wild cheering as they come down the home straight.

No more telling a kid “You got a PB!” and seeing them grin.

No more presentation nights in the local guide hall, with a jumping castle out the back, parents bringing a plate, and a couple of dads on sausage duty. No more end of season trophies for the dresser.

No more of any of that.

But maybe one day we’ll drive past the track again. Go down to the pit when there’s no one around. Quietly rake it level, one last time.

About Nick Gadd

Melbourne writer of novels and non-fiction


  1. mickey randall says

    Lovely piece. As one who is about to become as Auskick dad, it resonated. Thanks.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Well written Nicko the old golden rule yep sport with kids has it’s moments but geez we miss it when it’s gone . You bought back some memories Thanks Nicko

  3. Great article – brought back childhood memories for me – took me years to work out the one foot take off for high jump.

  4. The hockey pitches still call us – I’ll treasure whatever years we have left.

  5. Nice work Nicko… works the same for MILO Have a Go and Auskick too….

  6. Poetic Nick. Much appreciated.

    As it did for Sally T, your piece brought back a lot of memories. I was a Red Devil at Shepparton in the early 70s. Any other Red Devils out there? I reckon Paul and Chris Connolly (of footy fame) were champs in Shep in those days. And the Crawfords. And who else? Give us a yell if you were running about on the beautiful green grass of Princess Park 1970-72.

    We are about to launch our young ones into it,

  7. Great stuff. I am hoping to be able to embark on a similar journey.

  8. Thanks for the comments, folks. I hope your kids get as much out of their sporting endeavours as ours did. Yes Sally – that one foot take off sure is tricky, but the triple jump is even worse!

  9. Nick, I look forward to pedalling past the Newport athletics track and seeing a pensive man raking the sand in the shade of the Newport power station. A man happily alone in his thoughts, the track empty, the children gone, the sand finally perfect. And I look forward to your next Almanac contribution.

  10. I hear you. And you’ll look back at those Saturdays as the best of times.

Leave a Comment