David Preece: Harsh realities of trying to become a professional footballer nowadays makes me question whether I would make it in the game today.
I don't have any sons.
Not yet, anyway. I guess there’s still time if I want to try so I won’t rule it out at this stage, but there’s a small part of me that is glad about that too.
Why? Because I have never been faced with the dilemma of whether I would want them to go in to professional football or not.
Ok, it’s a little presumptuous that they would have the all composite skills and desire to actually have the choice.
After all, there’d be plenty of people out there who said that I didn’t have the skills etc pass down through my genes, but, for the purpose of this piece, let’s just presume my hypothetical son has his grandad’s genes.
I do have a beautiful 10-year-old daughter and if she wanted to take the sport seriously then I would have given her all the encouragement in the world if that’s what she wanted do.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to think about that with Ava. She has a distinct lack of interest in footbalL.
Any mention of it makes her pull the same face as when ask her to brush her teeth. A kind of scrunched up “Do I have to?” face.
So, if I’m so positive, I’d be happy and so encouraging for her to go as far as she wanted in football, why the dilemma if she was a boy?
Before she was born and I knew what sex she was, I played around with hypothetical situations in my head, wondering how I would behave if it was a boy and he wanted to be a footballer.
I wanted to be a goalkeeper because of my dad, so it was reasonable enough to think the same might happen again.
The main reason why I had doubts about them to go in to football was selfish.
I wasn’t thinking about them.
I was thinking about me.
I imagined I’d find it impossible not to be fully immersed in their world.
I wouldn’t be their dad and I wouldn’t get the least bit of enjoyment out of it whatsoever.
I’d be their coach and I didn’t want to split my personality at the detriment of our relationship.
I wouldn’t have been able to help myself and worried too much that I’d be hard on them as I was with myself.
You’d think I’d be ideally placed to give them the help from the lessons I had learned, but it would be hard to have distanced myself from them as I could with any other player I have coached.
To an extent, you invest emotionally in everyone you coach.
I certainly do.
But there’s always a line you stay the right side of that helps you keep just detached enough not to cloud your judgment, to know what’s best for them, whether or not they are going to like what they hear from you.
It’s not that I would actively encourage any child of mine not to play football, but I know the true joy of football isn’t in being coached before you have reached double figures in age.
Nor is it in the winning of games at that age either.
The true joy is playing football without any pressures that come with joining a professional club.
It’s in the playground at school or in park with your mates in the school holidays.
It’s in acting out the dreams in your head as you kick a ball around alone in your back yard.
For many, that dream becomes a reality far too soon and the pressures to perform are placed on their shoulders before they have matured enough to fully bear them.
The brilliant author, Michael Calvin, has made a documentary based on his book “No Hunger in Paradise” which is to be shown on BT Sport in the new year about youth football in England today and it’s a fascinating insight in to the harsh realities of trying to become a professional footballer.
Football has always been a brutal game of rejection, but it seems even more so now.
It has made me question myself many a time, whether I would make it in the game today.
More than that though, it’s made me question whether I’d want to play football at all.