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Sporting Memories

I vividly remember writing an essay at school on the subject of what I want to be when I grow-up.

It was an interesting subject and one of course that all youngsters think about. Now from the lofty heights of middle age I would question what exactly is the definition of grown-up.

Does it imply simply taking out employment. If so thousands of people in this country will not be allowed to "grow-up" through no fault of their own.

Better still does it refer to size and weight. If so I will always remain a teenager (unless of course the latest diet fails) or does it refer to some mystical measurement of maturity and being able to make decisions?

Anyway there I was aged about eight I should imagine, being asked to answer that question. What do I want to be when I grow up. I think today my answers might include the words accepted by others, valued, understood, cared for and treated like an individual. But of course the essay was not about that. It was about jobs.

Later on at secondary school I was able to make a realistic assessment of the question and answer it simply. I would like to be either a journalist or a teacher. Both of these aims were achievable - the fact that at the age of 45 I firmly believe that I settled for the wrong one is neither here nor there in this article.

At the age of eight of course all things are possible. Being a teacher or journalist was a mundane choice - all too easily obtainable and possible. No I had to think of something more dynamic. And I suppose that's where my love of sport or virtually every kind sprang from.

I answered that essay by informing the teacher that I intended playing football for Norwich City in the winter and riding speedway for Belle Vue in the summer. I saw no clash between these two aims - both were possible and the thought of not achieving them never entered my head.

At that time I had no clue where Belle Vue was - I just knew they were the best speedway team in the country. Why I chose them instead of Norwich I do not know.

Now some 38 years on I see the stupidity of that essay. I suppose I believed that when the last ball of the season was kicked at Carrow Road (the home of Norwich City Football Club) I would hang up my boots, don my riding leathers and take to the shale with no thought of pre-season training or overseas football tours or injuries to concern me.

Similarly at the end of the speedway season I would lay my machine down and return to football. Such is the immaturity of youth when all things are possible.

Over the years only two things prevented me realising my dreams. Firstly I never rose above village football level and secondly I have never ever and do not intend ever riding a motorcycle.

What that essay does tell me is that I had a love of sport from a very early age. And this has never died. Over the years I have been involved in coaching you teams at both cricket and football and am still capable of beating both my teenage sons at tennis and table tennis. The competitive spirit is still there.

The object of this article is to put down some of my sporting memories from over the years.

I was a relatively quiet youngster and suffered from this sports-wise for a number of years. Reluctant to push myself forwards I soon found out that it was the loudest boys who made school teams. My two sons, both of whom have representative honours at football and play numerous sports for their high school, have always been keen to push themselves forward.

At the top of the junior school I was average at football, but because I was fairly shy, was always left to play with the mixture of boys who hated sport or who weren't very good. So I supported the school team rather than play in it. When it came to cricket it was another matter. I captained the school team and opened the batting. That was purely down to one day in practice when the teacher tried desperately to bowl me out and I tried just as desperately not to let him.

I couldn't score off his bowling but neither did he get me out and I was seen as the best batsman in my year and the captaincy followed.

This good run in cricket continued at the grammar school where I must have shown up well in trials because I was put up a year and, despite qualifying for the under-12s team, played for the under-13s. Then the master who had seen my potential left and for two years I was back playing for the also rans. Talk about not what you know but who you know.

At the age of about a5 I had a dreadful dilemma for the summer. I had to chose between tennis and cricket. I loved both sports and was loathe to stop either. But the decision had to be made and I chose tennis - which I believed then and still believe to be my best sport.

I was not disappointed. That first year I played at junior level for the school and then the following year played for the senior team, went on to have Norfolk coaching and played for Norfolk Under-16s. Then the same thing happened. The tennis master left, was replaced by somebody who didn't know me and I was left to play amongst the also rans.

I couldn't believe that this new teacher was unaware of who had played for the school team the previous year. The result was that instead of standing up for myself I failed to turn up on games afternoons and the whole situation became very unsatisfactory. For two years after leaving school I didn't touch a tennis racket.

Being a rugby playing school I had no options in the winter. We were not allowed to play soccer although sometimes before the coaches arrived we tried to play soccer with a rugby ball which was difficult to say the least.

At first I enjoyed rugby but went off it quickly when everyone around me started to grow and I seemed to stand still. I was quite fast and wanted to play on the wing. I was made to play hooker and can remember the scrum continually collapsing on top of me.

As soon as I could I turned to playing hockey which I enjoyed and became reasonably good at scoring goals. Eventually, thanks to a new headmaster, the sixth form were allowed to play soccer. I think it was as much owing to the demands of a number of boys who openly stated that if they were not allowed to play soccer they wouldn't turn up for games. Thankfully the new Head was not anti soccer and gave permission.

Those were good times in my sporting life. We played two afternoons a week and I spent most of my spare time playing as well

To Be Continued