I am getting ready for the onslaught. After nine years of children playing netball, I think I am almost used to it. But if you’d told me thirty years ago I would be spending Saturday mornings and several Sundays of my life ferrying to sports grounds, watching children play netball, rugged up to the hilt, I would have laughed out very loud, in your face.
Saturday mornings are for leisurely cups of tea, a bit of toast and honey – à la my favourite Kaz Cooke cartoon, lying in bed, with a day’s worth of reading, treats and tea lined up. I can dream, I guess. Toddlers put a stop to all of that, years ago. And then came netball, the winter sport … and we live in Canberra where winter starts in May and goes to late October.
Come the age of eight, our elder daughter wanted to play netball, no two minds about it. And her sister followed in her footsteps not too many years later. Every year since then, we have given them both the option of playing something else – basketball, soccer, AFL, hockey, even swimming squads. But no, netball it is. And not just one team, but two, because the local club’s representative program is a great way of developing skills and making new friendships. Plus they wear body suits, which are very cool – apparently.
So the Saturday competitions and the day-long Sunday carnivals once a month mean that in winter, very little gets done around our house. In preparation to get us through the long, hard season of barracking, car parking woes and fold up chairs, I compiled the list of last minute chores we needed to get done before the competitions start, else they won’t get done until September. That’s because – surprise surprise – my other half is also involved in netball; he coaches a team (and very good at it he is, in my view) but that’s its own little bucket of exhaustion and angst. There’s very little energy left each week for much more than getting washing done, buying the food in, and a bit of cursory vacuuming.
I used to play, of course. But I wasn’t very good at it. It was in the days where a pair of Dunlop™ volleys was all you needed in the way of footwear, and there was less focus on fitness, or stretching to protect knees and ankles. I pay for it on colder mornings. These days the most common sideline comment is about the number of children playing with ankle braces and how expensive they are. Better that than the risk of ankle stress when they are older, though.
I tried coaching and umpiring too when I was younger, but there was no such thing as a code of conduct for parents then. The kids were great, but the parents’ sideline comments were just too hard for a shy adolescent to handle.
So now I stand, be-hatted and close-lipped except to call out in support, “good pass” or “excellent intercept”, and most importantly, “good call, umpire”. And wait for spring, when I can have a cup of tea in bed again.