How junior sport can help teach boys to be good men
By Morag Ramsay
A group of like-minded families came together to form a team with a focus on our kids enjoying their sport, not just winning. (Supplied: Michael Aungle)
Our summer sporting season is coming to a close.
It’s time to pack away the swimmers, the cricket bats and helmets. And I find myself reflecting on what a powerful thing sport can be in teaching young boys what it means to be a good sportsman, and a good man.
It comes at a time when one of Australia’s most powerful storytellers, Tim Winton, has been posing the question: how do boys become men?
This week he’s been speaking about the troubling themes that drive his new novel — how does a male, living in a world of mindless, wordless rage, where he’s valued for his toughness, find tenderness and decency?
What can men do in the face of what he calls this toxic masculinity?
Teaching a boy to love others
I’m the mother of a son. No longer a baby, but many years off being a teenager.
At times I have felt unqualified to guide this beautiful boy that I am lucky enough to call a son.
I remember one piece of wisdom, in the many books I have read, that in loving our boys we teach them how to love others.
But how do we prepare them for a world when talent, skill and disappointment are not something a mother can outwit?
Good fathers, good sons
I found out this summer on the dusty suburban cricket fields in the unrelenting Australian sun.
A group of us came together to form a team — like-minded families, who wanted our children to enjoy their sport, not just to win.
Up stepped a group of fathers. They all have big jobs. In their adult lives, they are managing major retail chains, running our IT systems, teaching our kids, and building our infrastructure.
They could be forgiven for guarding their spare time. Instead, they gave up afternoons to train our team and Saturdays to run our matches.
On the field, out there in the sun, while they were umpiring, they would stop play when an opposing team member got the wobbles.
If the bowling was wild, they’d give some quiet, encouraging coaching. If an opposing batsman shed some tears, an arm would go around them to encourage them on.
They insisted that our team clap every opposing batsman from the field and shake hands at the end of every match.
They took endless pains to help each of our team members have a crack at being their best. There was no screaming or recrimination.
The best moments were when they would call out “good cricket boys”, when both teams gave it their all.
And at the end of every match, win or loss, the first question was “did you have fun boys?”
Our boys would march from the field and plonk themselves down on their dads, instantly transformed from mini versions of their cricketing icons to little boys who simply love their fathers.
And watching all this I realised: these dads weren’t just teaching cricket, they were teaching the team how to be loving, giving men.