When picturing fatherhood in my mind all I could imagine was a little boy, cloned in my looks, kicking a football to me in a park. Honestly, it was just a visualisation I had etched in my brain after we began to think about starting a family. Reality was very different as I found myself playing dollhouse and make up with the arrival of my two young daughters now five and three, who have both made me the happiest man I could wish for. All my hopes and dreams of the Betsy name being passed on to a new generation and my visualisation became a reality came on September 7th at our local Berkshire hospital. My son Kaycen was born. It indeed was one of the most powerfully emotional experiences I have been through and I must thank my wife for all the physical labour that a pregnancy can inflict on a woman and delivering our family a boy! I can finally have someone to back me up in the future as having a housefull of Women can be very challenging experience.
Now we have our new arrival home and settled, I find myself plotting his future moves. Am I one of those Pushy Parents, you might ask? Indeed, unashamedly I am - a little. I make no secret of the fact that I will aspire like all parents to help and give my children the opportunity to help them succeed in life, whatever direction they wish to go in. This in itself can often be the problem of living in a country where we have freedom and vast choice and distractions to live with.
Behind many top athletes there comes a strong support system and that is from the parents. I admire to a certain extent parents of athletes such as The Williams sisters, Andre Agassi, Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton, The Polgar sisters and there a so many others example’s of parents who have instilled in their children focus, drive and determination and given them the opportunity to fine tune their talents to an extraordinary level not to mention the taxi service provided.
But what now for young Kaycen, well health is the priority and happiness in his life of course. I will just try to point him a direction where he can focus a large portion of time on one activity and let him excel at that, I want to encourage training without him thinking he is under pressure. Finding a balance is vital. Variation in learning and development is important to the mindset, whereas misunderstanding and pushing to hard can often result in problems long term like resentment of the sport and family.
Not everyone that is successful in sport comes from perfect families and has role models to look upon. Some have had to make it to the top without support from parents/guardians but this has triggered other characteristics that are vital at top level sport and that is Hunger and Passion. Former World Chess Champion Bobby Fisher was a prime example of a tough family upbringing but his personal focus and dedication helped him become one of the World's greatest Chess champions of all time. So my choice of parenting for my children will be that of support, guidance and to try and channel their time into one direction whether it be sport, academic skills or the arts as much as I possibly can. Bill Gates became a computer whizz because he did thousands of hours of learning and developing in front of a computer. Brazil's endless production line of footballers is no secret to me as the boys in the streets of the Favela's have nothing else but football to get them and their families out of the life of poverty and crime. Choice and variation is limited which in turns produces specialist.
Our young son may have an advantage if he decides he wants to choose football as a future career path. I say this, as unless things dramatically change in this country, there is a bias in Youth football towards children with birthdates that fall in the first quarter of the academic year (Sept – Dec). The awareness and education of coaches in this area over the last few years is vitally important. My son may be a beneficiary of this, as along with showing the correct potential a Premier league survey in 2009 outlined that 57% of boys born September- December from U9- U19 where predominant in our academies. This meaning that sometimes the more physically developed players are getting selected and receiving more advantages than those born in the summer months of the year.
Current World and European champions Spain run their Academies inline with UEFA and FIFA which run on a calendar year of January 1st – December 31st. Spain selected 22 players for the Euro 2012 of which 10 players were born Jan - March and only 4 players from Sept – Dec, showing the bias is still there just in a different time of the year.
Perhaps we just need to be more aware as coaches and parents that we should take birth dates into account when assessing our players against each other. Gareth Bale (born July) and Alex Oxlaide Chamberlin (born August) are two fantastic examples of what happens to some players when somebody in their care has the knowledge and expertise in talent identification.Bale & Oxlade- Chamberlain both youngest in year
Malcolm Elias is Head of recruitment at Fulham Football club and Huw Jennings is The Academy manager. Both men played a pivotal role in the signing of both players for their previous club Southampton. Bale and Oxlaide Chamberlin struggled in the early years of youth football due to their physicality. Perhaps at another club they may have been discarded. The patience and understanding of the importance of birth date from Elias and Jennings resulted in the club and us as football fans seeing the talents of two excellent young British players and the staggering revenue these players yielded for the club that produced them. In the future the month of birth will hopefully be only an indication to a players current mature state and hopefully we as a collective will be more patient with the selection of players and have a education and understanding that can look further than today.
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