Learning life’s lessons

I played ball with an 8 year old this evening.

He has no fear.

Regardless of your size he’ll take you on.

When a teenager was messing with him and accidentally hurt him he went for a guy three times his size and twice his age

When the teenager backed off

he picked up a shovel and marched purposefully after him.

He’s probably learned already that most people back down when confronted regardless of your size.

When playing soccer he didn’t care if he made a mistake.

He kept trying.

He kept going.

He tried little tricks that he had learned to get past me.

Contrast that with my Smallest Brother who is now 13.

Soccer isn’t his thing

He stayed out of the game

The fact he’s not into soccer doesn’t bother me.

It’s more how I’ve observed him recently that concerns me.

He is very hesitant. He doesn’t like to do things where he can’t automatically succeed.

He has a fear of failure which isn’t unusual.

But sometimes he’s even afraid to try.

Another thing that concerns me

is the propensity among teenagers my brother’s age and older to celebrate oneupmanship

regardless of the triviality of the matter

regardless of how the point is scored

regardless of who it is scored against.

It creates a façade and a culture where messing up is to be avoided at all costs.

If you expect to go through life without failing

you’re in for some disappointment.

In fact, life will pass you by.

So I played ball with the eight year old and his friend.

Did I hold back in the game?

I held back from using my strength obviously

but I didn’t hold back any of my skill

or my experience

in playing with them.

This annoyed someone who was watching.

“Why are you doing that? It’s easy to beat the kids Why not just let them score?”

The point wasn’t to beat them

It was to teach them

and to see what lessons they could learn

in playing the game of soccer.

When defending you should rarely dive in for the ball

You should hold your position and jockey the opposition

angle your body to make them play the ball where you want them to go.

Each time I had the ball, I would tell my little opponents this.

“Don’t make it easy for me. Make it hard. Just stand off.”

Each time they had the ball, I would tell them:

“Make me work for the ball. Make me come to you and then pass it off”

Most of the time they didn’t listen

but towards the end of the game they had it figured out in parts.

The person who criticised me probably felt it was better to let the kids win.

Life doesn’t let you win.

When you praise a child only for their achievements

they become unmotivated when they don’t achieve

or feel that unless they can achieve

they’re isn’t any point in trying.

No-one was keeping count of the goals but they knew I wasn’t going easy on them.

So when they finally did get one goal

It meant more than a thousand they would have scored if I’d just let them do it.

When my two little tigers scored a goal

or got the ball off me

I didn’t say anything.

Things like that are their own reward.

But when something they tried hadn’t worked

or the shot they attempted went wide

I immediately congratulated them

“Good effort. You hit that shot really well”

“You’ll get it next time. Keep at it”

Success brings its own reward.

It’s when you ran your heart out

busted a gut on the field

and end up lying on the grass listening to those three cheers for the brave runners-up

one of the worst sounds in the world

that you need someone to tell you that the blood, sweat and tears meant something


when you praise a child for the effort they put in

for their hard work

they will work harder and longer for themselves

rather than for results

It’s part of my philosophy on life.

Try and leave a positive imprint, no matter how small, on whoever you meet.

My brother stayed out of the game

sitting on the wall

until a point came when the ball rolled away

and the lads and me were in a heap on the grass

and in front of an open goal

from half a yard away

he kicked it in

“OH YEAH! FAIL ON YE!” he shouted

and looked to me to applaud his efforts

I said nothing and looked away.

This is what breaks my heart.

I know he wants the praise of his biggest brother

I’m just trying to find a way to relate to him on his level.

He’s very sheltered from the world and spoilt in a way

like his three older brothers were

but we had things to teach us about the world

With me it was soccer

With the other two it was GAA and gymnastics/dance

He doesn’t have anything yet.

My 8 year old soccer player can solo the ball

His record is 17 times

and he kept on trying to beat the record in front of me

but he never did

Every time he tried

he failed

My brother wouldn’t do that.

He’d only show me something he knew he’d succeed or win at.

In playing computer games with him

he didn’t use a level playing field

he used unfair advantages to win the game for himself

and couldn’t understand it

when I told him I wasn’t going to play any more

I know a point is coming when he won’t long to spend time with me

or want to talk to me

or want to have me praise his efforts

but I desperately need to find a way to relate to him

that teaches him some of the lessons

an 8 year old little kid

has as part of his DNA.


1 Response to “Learning life’s lessons”

  1. 1 Karita Tuesday, 25 May 2010 at 08:42

    I take it your brother wouldn’t respond too well if you tried talking to him about this?

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