The Other Side

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Parent and Child

The Other Side

Who’s that player? What’s your story? No, not the warm and fuzzy one. The other one. The kid you once coached that broke your heart, sent you to your knees and is your reason for change. It’s the reason you now speak up against the very ways you once practiced. It’s the story about the kid that walked away from the game, had dreams shattered by the very system that she relied on. It let her down. Actually it shot her down. And you played your part. You were one of the reasons why she quit. Your intentions were honourable, but because of pure ignorance you were sucked into the very same system that’s spitting out kids daily. You were adding to the machine that is; THE OTHER SIDE OF KIDS SPORT.

Sometimes we need a hit of reality. Here’s a living, breathing example of what we’re dealing with. This is a story behind our story at GAME PLAY LEARN. It’s not a nice story, in fact it’s quite sad. But it’s the reason behind our reason for change. And it just needs to be told. It’s about a kid who wanted to play, whose mum wanted only to provide, but in the end would see devastation for her child who would walk away from her beloved sport at 17. There’s no names here, no faces, because this belongs to many names and many faces.

Talent is the graveyard of evidence. Nobody looks at the dead bodiesJohn Kiely


“If I had my time again, I would never subject her to that, because the aftermath has been huge on her as a person.”

Is this ‘another disillusioned parent’ or an innocent voice advocating for a child?

“She’s lost now, she’ll never get another chance…”

“She came to me when she was 5, she wanted to play football. Really? Football? Because we had nothing to do with football as a family. But you want to provide for your child. You just want to give her an avenue to play. I didn’t even consider any talent or dreams she may’ve had. So you join a club. There’s no idea of what’s ahead, but when someone says ‘she’s got talent’ you go to the next level, then the next, then you get swept up in the whirl-wind of ‘this is what you’ve got to do now’.”

“Originally, it was wonderful watching her natural ability. The kid could play. Then around the age of 12, it was about watching the devastation unfold.”

“It went from ‘Wow, she got in!’ to ‘Wow,this is horrible.’ Being told her legs were too skinny, being excluded from the process as her mother because not communicating to parents was a given. “Don’t question, I make the calls, I don’t have to give to reason…” So you were at the mercy of ‘Joe Bloe’ telling you what your child is capable of. I didn’t think she was necessarily the best player, but she had a gift, talent that could’ve been nurtured.”

“This pathway, you were told, was the only way to move forward in the sport she loved. We were integrated into the system. We had to listen to them, not ourselves. We came to think, ‘They are the experts. Thats when it becomes confusing to look out for our child.”

“You either conform or you stand and protect your child.”

“I chose to stand and protect my child. But she paid the price. Her mother had a voice. I wasn’t supposed to have a voice.  I wasn’t supposed to step in when I saw her dragging her tired body, ‘Sorry, she’s trained enough this week, I’m taking her home’. When I looked out for my child, she was penalised. She paid the price for a mother having a voice and questioning them. The parents I saw agree and agree, their kids got in but eventually got burnt out, psychologically and physically, they were never going to get there from the regime that was mandated.”

“You saw the confidence diminish. In the whole pathways structure, it doesn’t allow for players individuality but what all players had to adhere to. It was never about ability but fitting into the society of football and its such a different world.”

“The self-fulfilling prophecy, not for the child but for whoever was running the program. So another player went on, not because she was better than but because of the boxes being ticked. They are boxed very early. ‘Tick’ your good, ‘cross’ your not.”

Select some eggs. Put eggs in a plastic bag. Throw the plastic bag at a wall. Show the world the egg that doesn’t break – The system works!Mark O'Sullivan

“When you think she’s got something but one person says she doesn’t, where to then?”

“She walked off the field at 16, after she was benched for majority of another season.  We had other coaches ringing her with the same so-called promises but she pursued her studies. An Outdoor Recreation degree, now travelling the world, you’re happy on the scale of things, but there’s that piece of you that wished she could still follow her dream. I know it’s in the back of her mind. She often says “Mum, I really miss football.”

“4 years later, you could put this girl on a paddock today at 22. She could still play, but the system let her down and wouldn’t allow her to just play football. It all comes down to one person’s opinion. It wasn’t about her ability, but fitting the mould they thought she should be. It wasn’t that she wasn’t good enough, but that she didn’t fit the mould for that particular coach.”

ABOVE: ‘The kid’ at 22, with a profound tattoo…


“So at what point do we lose our child for the sake of a game? For the one per cent that go through, the price for the others is too high.”

“We’ve lost the art of nurturing the player, because it’s all about the win. Even in so-called player development, it still comes back to the win. Not allowing them to have a good game whether they win or lose. Nurturing their confidence and supporting them apart from results.”

“What they need is time. She did go through the growth spurt. That should’ve been nurtured but instead she internalised, ‘I’m no good, I can’t play.”

“It was also realising coaches were protecting their own daughters, and the thought that she was a threat. I just knew. The agendas took over the sport. This is only the half of it.”

“Then there’s being selected but being benched. You’re here but you’re not really here. What does that tell the child other than you’re not good enough. Why not equal playing time? Equal opportunity to do their best and then after the duration of a season, make your call? It’s children we are dealing with. This ‘Joe Bloe’ has decided you’re not as good as the others. That’s an adult concept and even as adults we struggle with that.”

The whole family is affected.  Her sister adds to mum’s story. “I remember, sitting in the car waiting for her after the game and I had to ask mum if she won or lost, because if she won we could talk in the car, but if she lost, we knew not to say anything to her. Because if we did, even if you said,’ You did good’ to cheer her up, she’d scream back at us ‘No, I didnt! You’re lying!’ I just remember it affecting her so much.”

Mum wouldn’t cater to it. “I didn’t care whether she played or not. ‘Take off your boots then’ I said, ‘I don’t care if you play or not, it’ll save me the expense, the time.’ Our family holidays were sitting at a paddock, but she kept going, until there was nothing left. No confidence, no joy, no soul. That’s our experience of kids sport.”


“Do we want them to aspire? Of course. Do we want them to achieve? Absolutely. But not at the expense of losing themselves. When it’s no longer healthy for our child, we need to say no. Us, as parents, need to say no.”

So here it is. This is our Why?

Why the call for change in the current Sporting Landscape?
Why be critical of current youth development practices and their linear pathways?
Why seek an alternative to the traditional coaching and teaching approach?
Why hope for a day when we let kids be kids and just let them play?

Because now we know better. We know The Other Side.


One Comment on “The Other Side”

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook - July 2017 Edition - drowningintheshallow

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