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How to be a football dad

How to be a football dad

One summer evening, about 3 and a half years ago, middle child “accidentally” joined a football team. There we were, having a family game of boules in the park, when James spotted a group of boys his age playing football and made interested noises. We wandered over, asked if he could join in, and the rest, as they say, is history.

3 seasons later and we’re about to step up to the slightly scary world of 7-a-side. James has received the “Most Improved” award twice, and the team have progressed from being the league’s whipping boys in their first “character building” season to making a decent match of it most of the time.

The reason for this post is to try to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learnt as a “Football Dad” over the years. Maybe your 4 or 5 year old is showing interest, and you want to know what you’re letting yourself in for. Well, read on…

1. Make sure it’s fun.

No, not for you. You’re probably not going to enjoy the cold / wet / hot / dull training sessions and you almost certainly won’t enjoy the early weekend mornings on match days. That’s not the point. Make sure it’s fun for the aspiring footballer. If they’re not enjoying it, try to find out why and see if there’s anything you can do. Is it the position they’re playing? Maybe some issues between the kids in the team? Do what you can to sort things out. Remember, though, that you’re going to have hard sessions now and again – training sessions where everything goes wrong, or matches where you just don’t get to touch the ball and end up losing 12-nil. It happens, but if there is no enjoyment at all, week after miserable week, maybe (just maybe) football isn’t for your child.

2. Prepare for the weather!

Your child probably won’t care about the weather very much – they’ll be keeping themselves warm enough, thanks, running around on the pitch. You, on the other hand will be stood still for the most part, with just some occasional nervous pacing to keep your extremities from falling off. Warm coat, gloves and a hat for the winter, and a flask of a warm caffeinated beverage will make you the envy of the touchline.

3. Winning 10-nil teaches ’em nothing.

They’re playing to learn at this age. If your team is beating the opposition easily, don’t be surprised or disheartened if your best striker gets put in defence or in goal, or vice versa. Winning easily doesn’t add anything to the kids – and although the odd “easy win” may be good for the morale, they won’t learn very much, if anything at all. The best games are the ones you win (or lose, it matters not) 5-4 in the dying seconds. They’re the ones the kids talk about and they’re the ones they get the most out of.

4. Let ’em get on with it.

Tricky one this, and I fall foul of it most weekends. Don’t stand on the touchline barking orders at your child. Let the coach do that – that’s their job. You are there to support and encourage. “Well done! Keep going! That was excellent!” are all perfect. “Get goal side! Mark number 6! Pass to Wayne!” are not. At best you’re doing their thinking for them and at worst you’ll be one of about 17 conflicting voices. More often than not, the poor kid will freeze or hoof the ball out of play, just to stop the shouting.

5. Don’t take it so seriously.

They’re kids and they’re there to have fun. They’re going to mess around, be stupid, and generally make it look like you’re wasting your precious weekend, but you’re not. Remember number 1 above, and that you’re there for the kids, not necessarily your own amusement. Try not to be too scathing when it looks to all the world like your footballer is pirouetting between the goalposts (yes, he probably is – it can get boring in goal) or just chatting to his mate in defense (again, yes, he probably is – let the coach deal with it).

And we’re back in the room…

And we’re back in the room…

Or out of the room, and running that 5K route again.

Thanks to some motivational speaking from Mrs H, the running has started again.  Things took a bit of a hit from November through to March really, as illness and good old fashioned lack of motivation took their toll.  One run in January and another in February didn’t really do much to maintain the level I’d got to, sadly.

And so I’m almost starting again.  5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking for a week, and tonight’s effort was 6 minutes running, 3 minutes walking (except it felt quite good tonight so it was actually 6 / 3 / 6 / 3 / 10)



Damnit.  It must be that time of year.  3 days off work in the last 2 weeks, and no running since October 29th (2½ weeks ago).  But today I went swimming with the family (splashing about, no proper lengths or anything), and I didn’t die, so that’s a plus.

So the plan is to get back into the running in the following week, probably stepping back to the 15 mins run / 2 mins walk level.

Ahead of schedule

Ahead of schedule

Last time, I said my target for the next couple of weeks was to be able to run the whole way round my usual 5km route. Well, I sort of did it a couple of weeks early, look:

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 00.25.36

OK, so it’s not quick by any means, but it was running all the way (in some pretty horrible sideways-rain weather too, I may add).

On to the 10km plan proper now…

End of plan 1

End of plan 1

I’m one run away from finishing the BUPA 5km Training Plan (pdf), which is somewhat surprising in itself.  I drifted from the plan slightly, and did 7 runs every 2 weeks, aiming for every other day rather than 3 every week.  I also had most of a week off due to work and a bit of a cold 1 so I’m fairly pleased to have completed the 8 week plan in about 8 weeks.

In those 8 weeks, I’ve gone from running for a minute at a time, with 2 minutes of rest in between (“a good walk ruined” 2) to running for 15 minutes at a time with a couple of minutes rest in between.  I’ve even experienced one or two of ‘those’ moments, where everything seems to be going well and you can run faster and faster (it’s all relative).

I think one of the most encouraging results of this first foray into running is that my asthma has behaved itself.  I’ve gone out when feeling a bit chesty and didn’t deteriorate into a sweaty, wheezy wreck (just a sweaty wreck).  That’s good since I’ve certainly used ‘feeling a bit chesty’ as an excuse to not do things in the past.

And now it’s on to the 10km plan (pdf).

The main aim for the next couple of weeks is to be able to get round one of my normal 5km routes without any walking (due after another 2 weeks).  I think that’s doable; here goes!


1 I sneezed a couple of times.

2 No no, that’s golf.



Strava just gave me my first achievement – the 40km MTS badge – which was jolly nice of it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 23.43.29

I’m just slightly below the median in the Strava rankings for this month (53% of people have run further than me so far this month), and a full 588km behind the leader, but it’s not about that.  The thing I like about Strava is that I can go back through my runs and see how I’m improving.  At the end of August I was walking more than I was running, averaging nearly 14 minutes a mile, and feeling like my legs were about to fall off when I got back.  Now, I’m still on the ‘run-a-bit / walk-a-bit’ training programme, but I’m only walking 2 minutes out of every 9 and averaging just over 10 minute miles.

I think I’ve got 6 more runs in me this month, so I should get up to about 70km.  Then October starts, and I try to beat it…


Getting further

Getting further

At the end of my third week of the BUPA 5k running plan, and things are going quite well.  The plan has matched my fitness pretty accurately so far, and I get home feeling suitably shattered, but I haven’t found anything out of reach.  I’m doing slightly more than the plan suggests, just because the route I’m taking is a bit further than the plan’s reps take me.

I’m up to about 3 miles in about 35 minutes, with about a 60/40 split between running and walking.

Mrs H and I are also doing one of those situp / pushup training plans; we’re up to 40-odd situps and 30-odd pushups. My stomach aches in places that haven’t known exercise for a long long time.

Fitness Stuff

Fitness Stuff

I’ve been having a go at getting fit for the last 6 weeks or so.  I started out with the ASA’s Swimfit programme, which is something I was doing last year until I, erm, stopped doing it for some reason.  This time, I found that the ritual of needing to go to the pool was providing just too much friction for me to get over, so I’ve started running instead.  You don’t have to fit into someone else’s schedule to go for a run.  And there are no ‘female-only’ running times (but that’s a rant for another day…)

Well, running and walking, to be more precise (and honest).  I’m following BUPA’s Beginner 5km training plan, and using Strava to track and record my efforts.  I’m a bit of a stats geek so I find having something that does all the recording for me to be a real motivator.  I particularly like seeing my mile time dropping, even at this early stage.

For a short time, I had a second blog (over there) to track my efforts, but I’m going to retire that now as Strava seems to do everything I was doing there and a bit more.

If you want to see how I’m doing, my Strava page is here.  If you’re already on Strava then follow me and remind me I should be running every other day – that would be great. (No really, that isn’t sarcasm, honest)

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