I want my son to play football, but not only for the game. I want him to learn work as a team. I want him to
be able to trust in others, and have others trust in him. I want him to build memories. I want him develop
bonds that will last a lifetime. I want him to feel confident. I want him know that sometimes it’s possible to
be selfless and selfish at the same time.
I want him to feel nervous anticipation one hour, two hours before kick off. I want him to take his time
getting prepared, spend a few minutes with his thoughts. I want him to allow himself to feel a moment of
invincibility, before reality crashes in.
We all have moments when we feel invincible. They’re moments when we were young, brash, and even
a little stupid. There’s a lot of growing that comes with these moments. We either learn how to stay competitive.
Or more likely – as was my situation – we are quickly brought down to reality by defeat.
Football is much more than a game. It is one of the best outlets for growth. Our ego is faced with the
harsh reality of our actual ability. We overcome our limitations on our own – no one does it for us. We get
faster. We get stronger. And most of all, we learn to adjust.
I want my son to play football, because the skills gained from football are skills gained for life. He’ll learn
to move on from his mistakes, and try again. He’ll learn to work effectively with a team. He’ll be able to coexist
with people he likes and maybe doesn’t like so much, and have a unified purpose.
I want my son to know that football is a tool to help him be better at so many other things
in life. In the end – it’s only a game. And all games come to an end. I want him to know
how to walk proudly away from the game with his dignity intact. It’s not forever.
I want my son to use what he learned in football to be great off the field. I want him
to learn how to co-exist in less than ideal situations and turn them into something
good. And when he does figure out how to do that – maybe he could teach me.
Before I ever played football – I was lost. I was nothing more than the product
of my own shattered dreams, wandering aimlessly through life. I won’t go so
far as to say football turned my life around, but these experiences were the first
step towards a long journey of getting back on my feet. I don’t know where my
journey in life would have led without football. I probably still would have been a
lost soul, wounded by my dream of being a writer not coming to fruition.
I want my son to know I was never very good at football. I was clearly outclassed. I
was an out of shape little man playing a big man’s game. I was smaller, slower, and not
very savvy. But my teammates kept encouraging me. And I kept trying. I really put my
heart into it. I guess heart must count for something. I learned how respect comes from
honest effort. The benefits I gained from my experience have continued to live with me
and nurture me.
I want my son to be aware of his greatest asset – whatever that may be. Mine has
always been my written words. Football was a vessel that helped me fight through
adversity. It was a great tool.
It’s been about 15 years since I really wrote anything. In the back of my mind I
always knew someday, I’d write again. Maybe football just helped me get there a little
Donnie Leung is a Calgary-based writer and father to Dante, who is almost two. Dante
tackles the world head on, which will hopefully come in handy on the gridiron.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2013.