I’m proud of my first non-teaching-related piece in a long time, so re-blogging it here. Originally posted here: https://www.instagram.com/p/C2HZtjfshom/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

If you’d told my 20-something self that I’d spend most weekends through my 40s standing by a football pitch, roasting in the sun or soaked to my toes, I’d have snorted. If you told me that it would bring me, and my family, such joy, I’d have laughed in your face. Our daughter, now 14, is a feisty and fearless goalkeeper, playing in the Junior Premier league, alongside two other teams. It’s been the making of her – and us

Like many parents, we tried to put opportunities our kids’ ways from an early age. At 6, gymnastics came to a shouty end, when she interrupted her routine in her first competition to stop over to the instructor, mid-teddy-bear-roll, to ask for clarification on the next instruction with a ‘WHAT?’ that could be heard across the gymnasium. Tragically, piano lessons quickly became a chore that risked putting her off music for life. She’s never been one to sit on the fence when expressing her opinions. Then someone on the school run asked if we’d considered football, and that’s where it began: Chipperfield Corinthians, a mixed village team of five year olds. What could possibly go wrong…?

Plenty did, though the setbacks were greeted with resilience and humour by parents and players alike.

They used to chase the ball like an angry swarm of bees, clumped together as we shouted ‘other way!’ from the sidelines. After 10-0, we’d stop counting the opposition’s goals. Did it put them off? Did it heck. The coaches (unpaid volunteers – even today, for many) were extraordinary in their patience, encouragement and tough love. Dom, Luke and Stewart deserve a name-check, a decade on.


Cut to age 12, when we received a phone call out of the blue. A parent had seen her play in her school team and knew a JPL team, London Football Talent Centre, looking for a keeper. I didn’t know what JPL stood for, but we grasped the opportunity. This took us straight into a residential tournament and took her, at the time a rather quiet and withdrawn type, into sharing a room with fellow teenagers she’d never met – to this day, one of the biggest acts of bravery I’ve seen. As we played Arsenal on ground the texture of razors from the heat of the sun, the temperature hit 38 degrees. ‘It would be cruel to send them on again’ said the coaches (as we scurried back and forth with water and they collapsed and rose in turn from injuries and heatstroke). ‘We’re carrying on!’ said the girls.

Being the parent of a goalkeeper is uniquely stressful. They’re literally the last line of defence and if they mess up, everyone knows about it. Trust me, we’ve seen the silent tears and the closed bedroom door. What we’ve learned is that these girls look after one another. Don’t get me wrong. The sense of justice is strong and I’m not saying that fruity language doesn’t escape when the opposition breaks the rules of decency. But they’re a team, and they stand – and fall, and break – together. They defy the toxic clichés that abound about teenage girls and some days, when I watch them, in this messed-up world, I feel reassured and optimistic that girls like these will be in charge of our world before long. They’re fast, they’re fearless, they’re strong – inside and out. They inspire me as much if not more when they lose as when they win.

The world is a terrifying place, but for a few hours each week, I get to lose myself, ever the embarrassing parent with the shouty encouragement, on the sidelines of a muddy football pitch . The sidelines don’t care about my to-do list or the stresses of my job. I get to watch these girls sprint and tackle and my daughter pouncelike a cat and dive like a dragon and I feel like the luckiest parent alive.

I’m Emma, and when I’m not a football Mum I teach teenagers and support fellow teachers. If you’re a fellow football parent, do get in touch!