COLUMN: Back to school and back to the touchlines

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If like me, you have children of a certain age, the recent return to school will have also signalled the return of another hardy annual that parents seem to love and loathe and equal measure.

And that’s the junior football season swinging into gear once more.

There will be many mums and dads reading this with fear and dread, conjuring up soon to be realised thoughts of draughty, sub-zero touchines and mud in January, lie-ins cruelly forsaken for the joy of driving to some far-flung football field with a grumbling and half-asleep bekitted zombie at 8.30am.

Then there will be those at the other end of the scale - the ones who love nothing more to slip up on their trusty, well-worn boots and can be found rigging up netting and trying to put together complicated goalposts while the rest of us are still soundly sleeping in their beds.

Both my boys have been involved in junior football for many years now and I’ve become familiar with the Saturday training and Sunday match day routines. While I help out where I can, there are plenty more parents out there who put in much bigger shifts than me.
The coaching dads, the mums running the tea and snacks stall, the poor parent roped in to running the touchline.

I can invariably be found among the huddle on the touchline, braving the rain, wind and cold but cheering on our little loved ones and willing them on to win.

OK, we all know it isn’t about the winning, but of course, if you can return home in time for Sunday lunch with three points in the bag, it’s all the better for it.

What many parents fail to realise when they are bellowing at what they deem to be poor refeering decisions or are haranguing some weeping seven-year-old to “get up” after a crunching tackle is that those involved in putting on the games are just other mums and dads - and volunteers at that.

They’d probably rather not be splashing around in the mud when it’s minus two and barely light, but they do it for our children and to foster their love of the beautiful game.

Many treat matches like they are the World Cup Final - they’re not.

They are a fun, sporting activity and youngsters should be able to play without fear of being yelled at by Mr Angry from behind the Respect tape.

We all know things can get heated in grudge games - and believe you me, I’ve seen a few unsavoury incidents over the years, sometimes from the youngsters themselves, but more often than not, ranting and raving parents who have let their tempers get the better of them.

It’s the kind of thing none of us, and certainly not the kids, need to see. It is hardly providing them with suitable role models is it?

So next time you see your little Johnny scythed down face first into the grass, or a goal ruled out because someone is fractionally offside, don’t work yourself into a frenzy or a rage.

Take a step back and remember that whatever anyone might say - it is, after all, just a game.