For a woman of rather advanced years, I spend a disproportionate amount of time playing sport... watching sport... reading about sport. A borderline obsessive. For me, it's the drama of it all. I will never achieve any of the great sporting heights but sport has given me a lot of fun over the years and, surprisingly perhaps, the best bits have been when I have been standing on the sidelines.
Four children - so I don't want to begin to calculate how much time I have spent spectating at the swimming pool, diving pool (lots of those all over the UK), lacrosse pitch (this has no side lines so if you're not paying attention you can find yourself in the middle of the game), rounders, tennis, netball, football, rugby, cricket and so on. And aside from dealing with the occasional disappointment, this has been a really enjoyable experience. Watching number 1 play lacrosse for Scotland was a massive moment and one I wish my father had lived to witness - though he would have found her change of allegiance since she played rounders for England hard to swallow.
And it's not just my own children playing sport. A few years ago, with a few like-minded parents, we set up what we euphemistically called 'Tennis Fun Hour' on our village courts. Fun for the children, probably fun for their parents who may well have skipped off to the pub for an hour of peace, but sometimes hardly rising above crowd control and fairly stressful to boot. Anyway, we encouraged the little treasures, organised drills and fun games including the infamous Death Ball where the children ran in front of the net from one side of the court to the other trying to avoid the balls being thrown at them by the adults and anyone who had already been hit. And amazingly, the children's tennis skills and enthusiasm for the game grew in leaps and bounds.
Then a couple of years back, I found a junior league where we could enter a team of under 17s. Doubtless we would be hammered by the more experienced teams but it would at least give the children some match experience, I thought. They won the league at their first attempt and retained the title last year. Proud doesn't even begin to cover it and the pleasure of knowing that they shared my enthusiasm for tennis and applied what they had learnt (truthfully, from other 'proper' coaches but they still chose to play for their village club) made all those hours of hitting balls slowly and softly over the net only to watch the fresh-air shots coming back all worthwhile.
And my children have been on the receiving end of other enthusiastic parents dutifully giving their time and patience to teach them sporting skills. Most notably, Skip (married to Mrs Broccoli, of course) who has spent many, many hours teaching my number 3 child and his friends cricketing skills. Each year, the team would make it to the area finals of the relevant age group only to fall at the last fence because these finals always come during the school holidays when a third of the team are gadding about in foreign parts.
But last weekend, in the glamorous venue of Pateley Bridge Sports Centre, Burton Leonard Under 17s finally came good and it was, for them, for their parents (we were a big team of supporters!) and most of all, for Skip, a massive moment. All those hours of encouragement, patience, skill and enthusiasm often on fairly inclement days were worth it. So well done, boys. Their last season as juniors starts this week and here's hoping they can pull off the treble (well, anyone can dream...).
Deserving winners of the Nidderdale Indoor League Under 17s Champions: Elliot, Ed, Max, Connor, Robbie and Crawsh and their very excellent coach, Skip.