It all begins again on Saturday: Dash's Soccer Season. Wahoooo! I'm telling you, this kid is absolutely soccer-mad. I have never met a kid like him.
I mean, he's only six years old, and he memorises soccer stats, knows the names and positions of tons of players, and is forever writing lists of his favourite teams (great for practising his writing and spelling!)
He endlessly kicks anything that will roll (if he can't find a ball), spends every school break playing soccer, then comes home from his soccer training and says to his dad: "Will you come and play soccer with me???"
When he can't play actual soccer he plays table soccer (Sabbuteo) and names all the players; live soccer games and football DVDs are his viewing preference - Dash basically can't get enough of that round-ball sport.
Did I also mention that he is good?
I mean, he can score goals with both feet. He practises curving the ball (like Beckham); he takes on players much bigger than him and gives them a run for their money, often taking the ball from one end of the feild to the other and scoring. He has a shelf full of trophys already: "Most Valuable Player", "Outstanding Player of the Year" etc etc.
Last year his team scored 63 goals in total. 32 of them were scored by Dash.
Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up: "A soccer player, for Newcastle United and England" is his unwavering answer.
Ahhh, but small problem. With all this passion comes intensity. He can get himself so worked up, that if things come unstuck (Newcastle loses, Dash doesn't score, he gets a bad tackle, his team doesn't play well) he can fall apart. I'm talking, curling up in a ball and sobbing like the world is ending.
Last year, Mr G and I knew that helping Dash become a Good Sport was (and is) our most important challenge.
We focussed on it, majored on it, explained it, talked about it, praised him and rewarded him when he did well at being a Good Sport.
That meant: getting up quickly if he got knocked down and not crying or running off the pitch; not crying and making a fuss if he didn't score or his team lost. Playing his best and having a good attitude, whatever the result. Big Ask!
We gave him opportunities to practise losing gracefully by playing games together as a family where sometimes another member of the family would win(!)
We encouraged him to congratulate others' successes when he played games with other kids (shaking hands, saying, "Well done!" or "hey, good goal"). We whispered encouragment to him to let other kids score when he's playing for fun at home (he is great at this now).
We praised his efforts on the pitch and rewarded them with a family Breakfast at McD's after a game, if he had a good attitude, did his best and didn't cry if they lost.
Whew. After a year I have to say we have come a long way. But it's still a work in progress!
We still sometimes get dramatics if Princess wins at Jungle Buzz, or Daddy beats him at Subbuteo. But at least those incidents are getting further apart.
And at least now Dash has a very good idea of what a Good Sport is. It's not just about having the skills, it's about having a great attitude, doing your best and being a graceful winner or loser.
That's what separates a good player from a Champion. And we totally believe our Dash is a Champion in the making.
Roll on the Football Season!