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Today I have given over my space to a visiting writer, my son, Dan Klinger. He is, according to his mother, about 6’6” of solid, masculine magnificence. To me he is also a paragon of everything that’s wonderful, albeit a little smaller and less perfect than she would have it.

His article is a great tribute to amateur sportsmen and women here and everywhere. Those that do as well as watch are the real backbone of sport everywhere, not the rich and bloated investors in our big time professional sports.

I will always remember the pleasure I got from participating in team sports when I was a younger man, and Dan has given both himself and our family great pleasure from the many years of his participation. Now, as he waxes lyrical about his experiences I still remember when, as a boy he turned aside offers of beginning a possible professional sports career made available to him in football, ice hockey and tennis. Instead Dan picked hockey where it is more or less impossible to make a living, and I applaud the fact that he did what he was passionate about rather than chase the path to easier money.

Amateur Sport by Dan Klinger

After another weekend playing amateur sport, in my case field hockey, I ask myself the age-old question, why do I bother?

Week after week I drive the length and breadth of London and surrounding Counties to play a 70-minute game of hockey. This 70 minutes becomes about 6 hours when travel time is included plus associated aspects of amateur sport.

Inevitably there seems to be a ritual that comes with these 70 minutes;

- Do we have enough players for a full team this week?

- Who went out last night and isn’t in a good way?

- Both teams have the same colored shirts, so the away team end up wearing an odd mixture of bibs and multi – colored tops.

- The home team has to supply two umpires, as it was hard enough for the away team to get 11 players let alone someone to officiate.

- Enthusiasm and passion spills over into arguments and pushing and shoving.

- The fact that your team begins to struggle must be down to the biased umpiring.

Now don’t get me wrong I am as guilty as the next person at complaining about these various atrocities in amateur sport. I have played my fair share of sport Rugby, Football, Hockey, Cricket, Tennis and this pattern seems to appear in most.

The frustration is evident on everyone’s faces, player, spectator and officials alike.

And on top of this is what I like to call ‘The Subscription Dance’. This is where players seem to find a way of avoiding paying their annual subs week after week throughout the season until they face the threat of being thrown out of the club.

It does feel unfair that for the delight of traveling all over London it costs me £225 for the season plus £7 a game. Furthermore, it costs me the petrol of driving to the various games each week. In addition for my sins I am a goalkeeper and my kit cost approximately £1000. So what do I get for my money? Well one thing is for sure it is quite rare that there is any post match tea on offer at the majority of places we play.

So why do I bother to go through this rigmarole week after week?

Quite simply because I LOVE IT!

I love the build up to the game. The distraction from day to day life. The butterflies in the stomach. The catching up with friends and team-mates. The psyching up before the game. The psyching out the opposition before the game. The camaraderie. The team ethic. The fight. The tension. The post match reflections on what went well or badly. The thought of doing it all again next week.

My wife, who often comes to watch and support my team, increasing the spectator section to 1, gets upset at the verbal and physical outbreaks on the pitch. I try to explain that it is simply testosterone and a case of boys being boys. She refutes this explanation and simply doesn’t understand why it is necessary. It just wouldn’t be the same if people didn’t get so passionate about the game. Granted it means nothing win, lose or draw, but it would make the game a lot more boring if everyone just agreed with everyone else and spent the game apologizing.

It is well known the benefit and impact that sport has on young people and now that I have turned the wrong side of 30, I can categorically say that these benefits continue. If you look hard enough you can find fault and problems in everything. But the escapism and enjoyment that I get from playing a simple game every week for 6 months of the year is immense. And now that I am an expectant father, I will be doing all I can to encourage my child to get involved in sport. Not as a pushy parent after fame and fortune, but for the key principles it encourages teamwork, self-esteem, discipline, communication and many other positive outcomes.

Our country thrives on this amateur sport-taking place and it would make many peoples lives a lot duller if it did not exist. So I would like to thank the volunteers behind the scenes making it possible, the umpires who come out each week to face a barrage of abuse (even if you are wrong most of the time!), and the opposition who like me go through this performance year after year and I am certain also ask themselves the question – Why do I bother?

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