My earliest memories of kicking a ball were as a toddler with my Dad and Grandpa. I remember my first competitive game as a 7 year old, playing for the U9’s. It made such an impression on me that I can remember that game to this day. I can still remember being terrorised by two “experienced” players called Andy Graham and Craig Napier. Losing 9-0 at that time felt like the end of my football career!! However, things did improve and I can recall, with great affection, all the clubs I played for. This started at East Mains Thistle, in East Kilbride as a 6 year old until I retired from playing at 29 with Neilston Juniors. A couple of bad injuries cut short my playing career but my love of the game has never left me. My biggest achievement in football was not winning all the leagues and cups (including the Scottish Cup three times!!) but the lifelong friends I developed during that time. All these friendships were developed either directly or indirectly through football.
These lifelong friends either played or had a love of football. Some friends, in life, you lose touch with as situations change and others you re-establish. I have found that as a coach some of these old relationships have come to the fore. It is great that the bonds we had over 30 years ago still exist and the common theme is our love of the round ball. When I look back and note that some friends were found in winning teams while others were in losing teams and conclude that it was irrelevant which type of team we played in. One of my oldest and closest friends I met at 18. We played together in what was probably not the best of teams but the friendships and times we had are still recalled to this day. We are both a good bit more grey now but can still recall these great times as we grew up and learned the ways of the world. I look at my own team and wonder how many will still be friends in 30 years time.
Football has been described as a portal by John Davies (Renegade Training). John is a fine example of someone who use football for development in terms of building a community. I doth my cap to him and the work he is doing. He is building relationships and friendships one person at a time. As a coach I am thinking how best to do this and can these friendships become lifelong ones. I am sure many will but even making a difference to just one will feel like an achievement. I believe the best way to do this is to create meaning. In Victor Frankl’s book ‘Life’s search for meaning’ it is the only thing that matters. This is what kept him alive in a Nazi concentration camp.
In short, this little round thing has the ability to create lifelong friends and meaning in your life. Quite extraordinary. So let’s encourage as many as possible to get out and kick it.