Father and Son Football and Bowling

You can stuff the Olympics as a family sport. It’s an elitist inaccessible pipe dream that’s impossible to take part in, has strict age prejudice and is usually taking place too far away to coincide with teatime viewing.
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For those of us who can’t throw a metal frisbee the length of a Saturday afternoon Sainsburys queue or run for 26 miles in the boiling heat, we have to make do with domestic exercise.  This isn’t always as easy as you might think. For a start Lucas and I just had a woman round here touting for a bit of freelance gardening and she pretty much guaranteed not getting the work when she announced “the first thing I’d do is move the football goals.”

As I pointed out to her, pretty much the main reason we have a garden is so that we can play penalties and matches upto 21 goals whenever the opportunity arises.  There are smashed up plants and bushes all over the place that used to look fantastic until one of us volleyed a shot through their stems and petals. Right now the garden looks like a small war has happened in it.

As healthy activities go the Father and Son Sports and Social has had a busy month. First up we sheltered from the summer storms at the All Star Bowling Lanes in a kids version of Big Lebowski and then we followed this by winning a Parents and Kids football tournament organised by his school. If you are wary of having an outside Birthday Party and want somewhere masses of kids can scream and shout almost un-noticed then you have probably already considered taking the kids bowling. If you want to do it in total style and can get into the centre of London then I’d recommend All Star Lanes.

Ok it was built for wealthy city types who want to hit strikes the moment they clock off work but the style and simplicity of the place works just as well for nippers. We hired the private room at the Holborn branch but all summer they’ve lined up special kids clubs at their All Star Lanes. They’ve got entertainers, kids t-shirts, side bars so the balls don’t drop into the gutter, training the lot.

If you want to see how children organise themselves give them something like bowling to do. 16 seven-year-olds fighting over heavy bowling balls, lining up the directional ramp, and then cheering like mad when one of them gets a strike is a wonder to behold.  What soon became apparent is the job of selecting the appropriate ball and giving it to the next bowler was more important than bowling it. It’s certainly a democratic game in that rolling the ball down the ramp offers no strength advantage and it’s just a case of pointing the thing in the right direction. Strangely though one little girl clocked up a score in the 130s that an adult would have been proud of. What with the bowling, the ride there in my mates Range Rover and as much apple juice and home made Asterix and Obelix cake as they could handle, Lucas’ mum and I were delighted to hear one little boy describe it as the best birthday party he’d ever been to. We’d only had to arrange getting them to and from the place, everything else was laid on.

"There are smashed up plants and bushes all over the place that used to look fantastic until one of us volleyed a shot through their stems and petals."

Lucas' insistence that we skip going to our country cottage to take part in a parents and kids football match arranged by the PTA at his school, looked like a bad call when our team – five year one and twos and two adults – lost our first game and then drew the next one nil-nil. There were wobbling lips, dep huffy breaths, and teary eyes all over the place. And some of the children weren’t too happy either. Like all good tournament teams it’s all a matter of picking up form as you go along and after winning our first game in the third match played we remained unbeaten until we lifted the cup at the end of the afternoon.

Played out on an old bowling green in Clissold Park, London N16, the tournament featured six teams playing each other once, a referee who’s dad owns a real professional club and masses of diving, well taken goals, and confusion.  At times some of the dads had to be reminded there were kids playing and there were some disgraceful tackles flying in from the seniors.

Not living in the immediate borough I don’t know many of Lucas’ classmates parents so the tournament was a welcome opportunity to make new friends. Needless to say I wish I hadn’t pulled one dad down on top of me in an attempt to get him sent off as I trapped my sciatic nerve and strained my psoas muscle in the process. What with the six serious mosquito bites and a hip and pelvis that now feels like they’ve been attacked with a sledgehammer I think I’ll stick to adults only matches.

Every parent thinks their kid is the best player but as a lifelong amateur footballer it was a delight to see which of them you would put in goal, who'd make the back four, midfield strikers and so on. When the best striker of the day burst into tears at the end of extra time because his own goal confined his team to defeat I felt terrible for ordering my son and another kid to mark him out of the game. Still if he doesn’t want childish abuse from adults he should stick to playing with kids his own age.