Mark Chapman on Parenthood, Sport and The Love of The Game
His brilliant new book, The Love of The Game, explores the many ways sport can shape our attitudes, our ambitions and, ultimately, our lives; it will resonate with anyone who has participated in sport, at any level, whether a coach, a supportive parent, or a mid-week five-a-sider. In this piece written for Waterstones, he outlines the inspiration for the book and the many positives he discovered while researching the role sport plays in his own family.
Photo: Mark Chapman (c) Bill Waters
Most of my life has revolved around amateur sport, from my early years at cubs through school and university, to amateur sides and now if time would allow it veterans sport. A veteran at 43. How did that happen?
Sport has always been important to me and to my family and now I have children of my own, I have started to understand what my parents must have gone through as I stumbled my way through football matches, cricket games and swimming races. I have wondered whether they also cheered on the wrong child in a swimming race, like I did, because they all look the same in their swimming caps. I have realised that they have must have felt that sick feeling in their pit of their stomachs when I came into bowl as I do now when my son starts his run up. Playing sport taught me so much growing up and now watching my children do sport is teaching me so much about being a parent. When to encourage, when to admonish. When to help them, when to give them space. When to buy more kit for them because they have lost a whole load of stuff again, when to disappear to the toilet so that I don’t have to do my daughter’s hair for a gymnastics competition. The big issues.
My friends have been sick of tales of my own sporting achievements for many years (yes, I did score that goal from 40 yards) but as we have grown older and produced our own children, we discovered that our touchline anecdotes were matching up. We were experiencing the same behaviours, the same feelings, the same joy and the same despair. I am hoping this is a book that a lot of people read and a lot of people recognise. If you are a sporty parent with sporty children, I hope you nod along to it as well as laugh and maybe even cry.
I also wanted to write this book to show the fun there is in amateur sport and in kids’ sport. There is so much bad press around about what children do nowadays. The Playstation generation who never get off their backsides and if they do then they are shouted at by aggressive parents on a touchline, trying to relive their own sporting careers through their offspring, hoping that they might be a meal ticket to untold riches. Well yes, they all might exist, but over the last decade I find myself in a world where children are wanting to exercise. They are wanting to try different sports, having been inspired by successful Olympic games. But in order to do that, parents need to sacrifice so much. Sport tends to cost both in financial terms and in time. As a parent it feels that you need to be as dedicated as your children as well as more organised as you ferry them here, there and everywhere.
I wondered when I began writing it, whether the book would be cynical and if I am honest, a little bit moany, about all those car trips and money spent on new boots and leotards, but as I wrote, I discovered positive after positive about the role sport plays in our family. I live up to the northern male stereotype of rarely showing emotion, but I can admit it here that, as I wrote, I also discovered and understood more my love for my children, my love for my parents and of course my Love of the Game.