By MARK KENNY
IT’S freezing cold. The temperature is still minus five, the wind chill makes it feel like minus 10. It’s barely light with the sun just glimmering over the top of the hills. It’s Saturday morning and wouldn’t you like to stay in bed, tucked beneath a great weight of blankets with the electric blanket keeping the temperature just perfect?
But that’s not where thousands of Canberra parents and their kids are most Saturday mornings this winter – and, indeed, every winter.
No, we’re out and about, freezing our butts off as our kids play football, rugby, soccer, netball, swimming, hockey, horse riding, ice skating, dance and ballet, or whatever sport they love.
Sporting parents are the unsung heroes of winter. It’s not just the freezing mornings, the days that often start well before dawn and the countless hours spent on the sidelines, barracking, cheering, encouraging and offering support and sympathy when kids come off the field with knocks, bruises and sprains. It’s all the other things that parents and relatives do – volunteering to coach and referee, taxiing kids to venues and raising money with sausage sizzles.
And it’s not just Saturdays. It’s all the other nights spent helping training, match preparations, organising club finances, sitting through long committee meetings and dealing with the complicated rules and massive red tape that accompanies every sporting code.
For many sports the financial costs are considerable with family budgets stretched to get kids the equipment and coaching they need and to travel to interstate competitions.
Of course, sometimes parents can go a bit too far – be it sledging from the sidelines or driving less-than-enthusiastic kids to persist with something they don’t want to do. There are a few parents who seem determined to live vicariously through their children’s sporting performance and that’s something that can bring its own perversity.
However, by and large, I see parents who love their children, who believe that sport brings great benefits in terms of fitness, skills, resilience, determination to achieve, and team spirit, and who do everything they can to help, support and encourage.
Without committed parents and family members, sport would simply not exist. They are the foundation on which many of our kids’ fitness, social skills, growing self-confidence and sense of achievement rests. They are the often-unrecognised foundation for sporting industries worth hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in Australia’s economy.
Behind every football champion, tennis great, winning jockey or breathtaking ballerina are parents and families who got up early on Saturday mornings, who passed on holidays to pay for training camps and interstate competitions, who kept their old car long after it could have been replaced in order to pay for equipment, coaches and opportunities to excel.
So as we stand around muddy fields and many other bitterly cold winter venues, we should all quietly raise our cups of coffee or hot chocolate and say a quiet thank you for all that work and commitment that keeps our sporting nation going.