Monday 20 November 2017

The pure joy of sport through a child's eyes

Dave Devereux

Tiger Woods showed signs of greatness from a young age
Tiger Woods showed signs of greatness from a young age

It was exciting times in the household of yours truly this week.

The eldest got her first hurl amid much excitement. Of course the obligatory helmet had to be purchased too and Darling Daughter insists on wearing it around the house no matter what time of day it happens to be.

It's like sitting down at the table to have dinner with a five-year-old Darth Vader or putting a mini Hannibal Lecter to bed.

Of course the three-year-old chap couldn't be left out and had to get his hands on a hurl too.

As the little devil has a tendency to use everything as a weapon with an out of the blue burst like a Muhammad Ali uppercut I thought it best to a apply a bit of padding to the ankles and bubble wrap any breakables in the house, although I'll just have to take a chance with the flat screen television.

All jesting aside, to witness their wide-eyed excitement at taking their first steps into the world of sport is life-affirming and good for the soul.

It's a lovely reminder of what the G.A.A., and indeed sport in general, is all about - the sheer joy and thrill of getting out on the pitch, course or court for the pure love of the game, plain and simple.

No win at all costs mentality, no games plans encouraging cynical play, no diving to get your opponent in hot water and no using loopholes to avoid a deserved ban after being sent off.

After a summer of pretty humdrum and mundane championship action in both codes and more controversy off the pitch than riveting games on the field of play it's nice to lie back amongst the daisies and dream of utopian times of fair mindedness and fair play.

Of course this wonderful child-like vision in my mind's eye is only a fleeting thing and sadly the innocence and excitement of tender years will all too quickly give way to a competitive nature and a drive for glory but hopefully just an ounce of two of that fledgling, seedling of passion for playing sport can remain.

Alternatively I could be a pushy parent and take the more mercenary approach if I wanted my little cherub and the cheeky chappy to rise Phoenix-like through the ranks of professional sport, while I sit back and live off of the fame and vast fortune.

It might sound more than a little far-fetched but if it worked for the Williams sisters why can't it do the trick with my energetic twosome.

Serena and Venus aren't the only tennis players to be moulded into stars at an early age.

Martina Hingis, the daughter of professional tennis players, was playing the game by the age of two and entered her first tournament as a four-year-old.

When she was just 12-years-old, she became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam junior title with a victory at the French Open and made her professional debut just two years later.

Golf is another sport where many of the protagonists hone their skills from an early age with the likes of Rory McIlroy spending their salad days on the course.

It goes without saying that one of the most famous sporting child prodigies is fellow golfer Tiger Woods. Woods featured on The Mike Douglas Show when he was just two years old, putting against Bob Hope. By the time he reached five, Woods had appeared in Golf Digest and on ABC's That's Incredible, and at the age of eight he won the youngest division available (9 to 10 years) at the Junior World Golf Championships. In high school Woods became the youngest U.S. Junior Amateur champion, when he won the title at the age of 15.

Soccer superstar Pelé was another that was turning heads in his formative years. At the tender age of 16 he was playing on the Brazilian national team, and by 17 he had already won his first World Cup, not bad going for a lad barely out of short pants.

It's mighty tempting to draw up a fiendish masterplan detailing how my offspring can similarly take the world of professional sport by storm but for now I think I'll just let the little chislers go out and enjoy themselves.

They might take to it like a duck to water or like a colourful Chrysanthemum or Arsenal legend Ian Wright they could be late bloomers.

Maybe they'll never light up a sporting arena but as long as they enjoy the journey that's all that matters.

Wexford People

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