The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

Footy brings fun into focus

- William McInnes is an actor and author

Football’s back. All codes. All ages. Went for a walk with the dogs and came across a group of kids being given a pep talk by their coach. They jiggled about in front of him.

They would have been about 10, and were paying attention to everything except what the coach was trying to say. “Focus! Come on focus!” he said. Coaches. On a hiding to nothing really. But this fellow was having a go. “Focus guys. Time for game faces.”

A couple of kids pulled ridiculous eye-popping faces and then they fell about in peals of laughter. One little boy focused on what he was picking from his nose. Another was intently studying a stem of grass and wafting it to and fro. Kids being kids.

The coach then offered a collection of hoary old chestnuts that countless coaches had uttered since time began.

He pointed out that to be a good team, “we have to look like a team! Tuck your shirts in and pull your socks up!” “Why?” asked the boy with the grass. “Why what?” asked the coach.

“Why tuck our shirts in and pull our socks up?” “To run faster. It makes you run faster.” The kid with the grass gave a suitably sceptical look that made the coach almost laugh. “It’s a known fact, Ryan,” said the coach. Ryan held his look and wafted his grassy magic wand.

The boy who was picking his nose said, “They’re big,” as he looked over at the opposition. I thought to myself, “Don’t say it, coach” but of course he did. “They’re not that big.”

The kid stopped picking his nose and outdid Ryan’s look. Being told by a grown up, “They’re not that big” gives no comfort because the first thing a kid thinks is, “Yes, well maybe not to you, you’re a grown up!” It’s a stark lesson in relativity. The coach raised his coffee in salute and half gave up. “Off you go, get out there and enjoy!”

And with socks pulled high, shirts tucked in and Ryan wafting his wand they shambled out to play. I walked on with the dogs thinking how lovely it was that footy, in all its guises, is back.

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