Scotland football team celebrating a win on penalties
Children, Fitness, Politics & Equality

Emotional Football

Or “why watching football with your dad is important for boys”. (Where “dad” means father figure, male respected adult, whatever, just someone not in the “soft and fuzzy” stereotype.)

Now, I’m sure that anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I’m fiercely anti-stereotypes and pro-equality and fairness in the face of any sort of bias.

I’ve written about unfair preconceptions, my own bias when surprised to meet gentleness in a gruff carpenter, and my admiration for my equality advocate colleague. I also get cross when people approach equality of gender (or non-traditional gender) with suggestions that anyone other than cis white males should be advocating for themselves. No, I believe that young boys need to see strong, successful women around them – it shouldn’t be surprising to them that women and girls are in positions of power and responsibility.

I also steadfastly promote the idea that the future mental health of young boys can be strengthened by teaching them that emotions are not something to hide and be ashamed of. I cite this article regularly: The Boys Aren’t Alright.

Don’t be surprised

So, given all that, is it surprising that I’m writing about why I want my sons watching football with their dad?

Is there anything more quintessentially blokey?

Possibly not.

But watching football, in our house at least, is one time you can be sure that himself’s emotions will be running high. We’re talking the Scotland national team here, they’ve just qualified for the Euros – the first time at a major tournament in 22 years. They’ve played a few times in the last month or so, each time himself is anxious beforehand, excited and excitable when the game’s being played. He’s joyous when his team scores and disappointed when they concede. If they lose he’s frankly sad and if they win he sheds tears of relief and elation.

Photo credit: BBC

Aren’t all those emotions that we want our boys to experience freely and honestly?

If we want our boys to grow up secure in their emotions and considering expression of sadness and despair to be just as valid and shareable as happiness and frustration, then they need to see examples of those things demonstrated by the men in their lives that they respect.

Whether that’s their dad, or uncle, or teacher or sports coach.

Emotional Football

So, for me, the boys watching football with their dad is an important part of their upbringing. Not so that they can “learn to be a man” or because “boys will be boys” and they can all have fun “with the lads”.

But rather, because it can combat all those stereotypes too.

Watching their dad get excited and disappointed and shout about it, it’s just beautiful. He’s not one for shouting at the referee, cheering bad tackles or encouraging exaggerations of injury. When his team misses a goal, he shouts out and then calms down, explaining “it was a good chance, there’ll be others, it was a great save.

More to Come

That’s not to say that our house is an idyll of equality. How much better would it be if we watched women’s football with just as much passion?

We’ve all still got plenty of opportunities to improve the equality stakes between all genders. I’m determined that its not only down to the parents of girls to teach them to be fierce. Parents of boys need to teach our children not to be surprised by fierce women or emotional men, not to be shy about their own emotions. Nor should girls be surprised by boys who are openly emotional. All our children, irrespective of gender, need to feel safe and secure expressing how they feel, what they want, fighting for their dreams and supporting one another, and handling disappointment when things don’t work out.

It’s time to throw away those ancient preconceptions about the roles of men and women, their emotional expression and what they should be doing.

And watching a football game with an invested parent isn’t a bad place to start.

37 thoughts on “Emotional Football”

  1. Even in this day and age, there remains a mentality out there, albeit perhaps subconscious: Men can take care of themselves against sexual perpetrators, and boys are basically little men.
    I’ve noticed over many years of news-media consumption that when the victims are girls their gender is readily reported as such; however, when they’re boys, they’re usually referred to gender-neutrally as children. It’s as though, as a news product made to sell the best, the child victims being female is somehow more shocking than if male.

    Also, I’ve heard and read news-media references to a 19-year-old female victim as a ‘girl’, while (in an unrelated case) a 17 year old male perpetrator was described as a ‘man’.

    I wonder whether the above may help explain why the book Childhood Disrupted was only able to include one man among its six interviewed adult subjects, there presumably being such a small pool of ACE-traumatized men willing to come forward for the book? Could it be evidence of a continuing subtle societal take-it-like-a-man mindset? (Note: I tried contacting the book’s author on this matter, twice, but received no reply.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow thanks for your thoughtful comment. I totally agree that men and women and boys and girls aren’t treated equally by the media. I’m doing my best to teach our boys that the only difference is the physical one inside someone’s pants and that’s a private matter. It’s very important to us that they are emotionally secure and open to showing, sharing and supporting others’ needs. Hopefully they’ll help their friends learn the same lessons just by being honest about their own feelings.

      Like

  2. Great post! It’s so important for young boys/men to learn how to express their emotions freely. I think the world would be a better place if people could just say what they’re feeling.

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi SS&GP. Well said. I have to say (shhh – don’t tell anyone!) I often find it more enjoyable to watch a game of women’s football. There seems to be far less diving and general unsporting behaviour – which I would have thought is something that many youngsters would benefit from seeing. Or perhaps I just haven’t seen the right women’s matches 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We only tend to watch the internationals as himself follows Scottish teams not generally on TV. But the sportsmanship and respect is what I love about rugby and that’s one of the reasons (as well as their enjoyment) that they play rugby rather than football.

      Like

  4. Brilliant read. You’re right. It seems quite an unimportant subject, but I agree that boys should definitely see that range of emotion in a role model and particularly a dad. It’s OK to let go in the right circumstances.
    I watched that game and found myself willing them to win, even as a proud Englishman. It just felt right. Brilliant result in the end!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The one last Thursday was a nail biter for sure. Large boy wasn’t staying up that late though, not on a school night, so he watched the Slovakia game on Sunday and loved it.
      Yeah I really want the boys to grow up comfortable with their emotions and comfortable sharing them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this! It is so important for our children to have strong role models. They learn more from watching our everyday routines, like watching football, than they do from any kind of formal education. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Football isn’t about goals, there’s so much more! What I love about your article is encouraging parents and kids to watch sports, build bonds, and learn from each other. And importantly for kids to learn about emotions and express them.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. As a mommy of girls, I very much appreciate this approach to teaching gender equality. I will normalize girls being strong and assertive as well as boys having emotions. As parents we do have to teach them in a well-rounded way and I think you hit the nail on the head in this post.

    As an aside, because we live in the US, our women’s team is WAY better and more fun to watch than our men’s team. So we actually watch them more in our house 🤣

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fab to meet someone on my wavelength, I was a bit worried about posting this and getting feedback about making boys soft and “what’s wrong with girls liking sparkles, men should be gentlemen and hold doors/pay for dinner etc”.

      Like

  8. It was a tense game. My boys stayed up to watch it as they have never known Scotland in a major tournament. It was emotional. My niece loves football too as does my daughter, it’s a whole family thing here. Football dominates a lot of our life as my husband runs a club and coaches two age groups. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was so tense last Thursday. The game yesterday was more suited to large boy’s age and a more sensible time for him to watch. His first time watching a whole game at home and he loved it, got so excited too. Lovely to witness.

      Like

  9. They isn’t anything better than watching football with your old man. I’m glad your writing isn’t bashing it as teaching men that they have to be macho,but rather the idea that it just brings enjoyment to the parties involved.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.