With a palpable air of excitement, many of the children were committed to a team and passionate about the game. However, some they had no allegiance and had never held a footy, never mind kicked one, and were not quite sure what all the fuss was about. Some were still dreaming about the Matildas and the ‘footy’ with the round ball that we call ‘soccer’ here. Whether or not the children were already engaged with Australian-rules footy, the sessions with our senior footballers were fabulous for a few reasons. The mentoring, the care and thought, the encouragement, the collegiality of the big kids and the opportunities for cross-age connection, among many other factors, all demonstrated Carey’s values in full: care, respect and growth.
However, one thing really stood out for me after a conversation with a couple of the Senior School teachers really got me thinking: what we offer with these footy clinics is the opportunity to have a go, to learn a new skill, and not to be pigeonholed as ‘non-sporty’.
There were of course children who had a passion for football who spent many hours practicing their kick-to-kick and handballing and refining their skills. But there were a few children whose family would be likely to say, ‘We aren’t sporty’, but who demonstrated highly developed hand-eye co-ordination. Some of them had never held a footy before but looked like a natural.
Over the years I have heard many of these lines. Not just in relation to sport, but to the arts, to maths, science, drama, music etc. It is not a statement of fact, but it is a negative self-fulfilling prophesy. We all have the capacity to develop skills, aptitudes and passion, as long as we are exposed to many different activities and opportunities. Sparking the interest is the most important part. Offering the opportunities throughout children’s lives at school and home, showing encouragement, support and a positive attitude are critical. Some will find the skills and learning to come more easily, but with the interest and the determination, all children can find fulfilment in any area. This is not to suggest we can all be elite just because we want to or work hard, but deriving satisfaction from our effort and enjoying the sport, music or other skill is truly a gift.
Our sincere thanks to Mr Andrew Hamilton for his willingness to organise and support this loved event, and to the senior girls’ and boys’ teams: you are inspirational, not just for your footy skill, but for your care, compassion and thoughtfulness with the children, many of whom have not stopped talking our ‘the footy day’. You are amazing roles models to these three-, four- and five-year-olds.
Director of ELC Kew