Seriously, who voluntarily sets their alarm for 7.30am on Sunday morning?
Surely it’s just not a sensible move. I mean, once upon a time anything before 10am on the weekend was “early”. Then kids happened and now any and all sleep is precious. Even six and three quarter years since small boy was born, I still feel like I’m running at a deficit of sleep. Now the kids can operate the TV by themselves, I don’t get up until they need feeding and I live in hope that they’ll be able to do breakfast themselves sometime soon-ish, without breaking or spilling anything.
So what possessed us to set the alarm for 7.30am on a Sunday?
Well, I’m an idiot, that’s what.
Not just that of course. Firstly, the boys play rugby and that doesn’t make me an idiot. Nope, that’s a good thing.
The idiocy was that last summer there was no manager for the under 7s team and small boy was at the end of his under 6s season. So if no one stepped up, his season for this year would end up being managed by someone looking after two other age groups already. Cue me, an idiot, putting my hand up and saying I’d do it.
So there I was, September 2021, managing the under 7s with the under 6s thrown in for good value. Not the faintest idea what I was doing, what was going on with the club, who had what responsibilities and what political sensitivities to be careful about.
Since then I’ve figured things out in general. To encourage and reward the kids, provide cake. To reassure parents, explain that they’re two years away from any sort of contact. To avoid doing all the snacks, just say no.
A couple of months ago, the fixtures secretary (I know who she is now and what she does and everything) gave us the opportunity to take part in a festival of rugby. All the other managers said yes. We had a squad of six under 7s and we’d need six players, so as long as they could all make it, we’d be OK. So we signed up, they all said they could make it and we were good to go.
Which all lead to me setting an alarm for 7.30am this Sunday.
We took our littlest players (under 6s can’t play competitively) to the festival. Himself and I and the boys packed up the truck with gazebo and chairs and muffins and crisps and juice and a cake large boy made for his team. We headed out and everything went smoothly, we found our pitches and set up a base, went to the briefings and welcomed the rest of our little team. Himself took large boy off to the under 10s.
And then the magic happened.
My little band of kids who all go to different schools, don’t see each other between training sessions and who (mostly) hadn’t played rugby until autumn 2021, stepped onto the pitch and boom!
Sure they’d played a few matches, with, honestly, mediocre success. We could always see the difference between our inexperienced, young in the school year (only two have birthdays before May), team and the drilled, bigger groups, trained by multiple coaches. It wasn’t like they’d never played a match before or none of them had ever scored a try.
But they’d never played like that!
It was magic. Maybe all the parents had had a quiet word with each child, reminding them of the key points of play. But I don’t think so, they’d all being messing about like a proper bunch of numpties right before.
Somehow in that first game, they all rose to the challenge. There were tags flying and tries thumping and footwork dancing. Out of nowhere.
Sure enough, with the second game they were back to their usual form: forward passes, dropped balls, tags slipping through fingers. Then over the next four games, they built back up to almost the standard of that first one, maybe even better but in a different way. There were long periods of play: tag and pass, tag and pass, tag and pass. Rather than going from the start of a phase directly to a try. One of the team had his “click” moment where he just suddenly got it, figured out how to play and what to do and that he enjoyed it, that it wasn’t scary after all (kudos to him for getting involved before, when he seemed genuinely intimidated by the whole thing). We saw the beginnings of a rugby match, played by a team. Not a disparate group of unfamiliar kids, but a team of friends.
Friends now, because there was a good bit of sitting about. Over the 5 hours, from arriving to the end of the last match, they played six 8 minute games. The rest of the time they mucked about, invented games, ate huge quantities of muffins and crisps, mucked about some more and were generally as silly as six and seven year olds are supposed to be. That sitting around being silly gave them a chance to make friends, and they loved it.
Well, first I need to come down from the massive high. I feel really honoured to have witnessed that group of kids today. They pulled together and out of thin air they’ve formed friendships, trust, teamwork, a sense of humour, respect, and that’s worth dozens of 7.30am alarms on a Sunday morning.
But then again, the season is over now so we’ll have a break until September, when we start all over again as the under 8s.
PS large boy had a fabulous day too, but I missed most of it and himself forgot to take any pictures.