parent opinion

'I always thought only boys should play footy. My daughter proved me wrong.'

The hardest part about being a parent is admitting you’re wrong – and I have to admit I was hugely mistaken in a big way.

It was two years ago that my very petite 10-year-old play her first Oztag gala day. A day I almost didn’t let her go to when I found out there was a football involved.

Back then, a mere mention of the word football and my throat would immediately swell up as I envisioned my tiny daughter being knocked to the ground, or being hit by the ball in the nose, or worse still, dying from a head injury and not coming home at all.

Watch: The six types of sports parents. No shame… we’re all at least one of these. Post continues after video. 

Video by Mamamia

Natural parental worry instinct or pathetic parenting moment? I’ll let you decide.

I made my eldest daughter stick with tennis, much to her dismay. For me that meant no contact, no worries. However my daughter’s heart just wasn’t into it at all.

The truth is I was so ignorant, I didn’t even know what Oztag was, even though it’s a sport that seems to have taken over our locality by storm and its school-aged girls that evidently make up the majority of players.

No matter how many times my daughter said to me, “Please, let me play footy mum”, I regrettably replied with a big fat “no!”. I’d tell her it wasn’t safe and that she was too little to play.

Lidija daughter
Lidija admits she was wrong about stopping her daughters from playing footy. Image: Supplied.

But one day a school dad I have a lot of respect for, told me she was fast, a natural, and that I really should let her play. I mean, his daughter played, so why was I not letting mine. Truth was, I was looking at her small stature rather than looking at her ability and what her sporting interests were.

It was then I knew I had to start practicing what I preach. I'd always professed to my daughters that girls can do anything.

So when it came time to register for Oztag that year, a game I had actually never even watched yet stupidly feared, I finally let her sign up.

I distinctly remember walking onto the football fields with a feeling of awe as girls as young as six ran with such determination and strength along gigantic fields with footballs under their arms. Like little warriors.

Parents were cheering and conversing along the sidelines and thoroughly enjoying every minute of watching these fit little fighting females.

In that instant I changed. I felt ashamed that I had held my daughter back as long as I did. As it turns out my second daughter went from being her big sister's cheerleader from begging me to find her a team to play in this season. Only this time round, out came a big YES from me.

Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo chat about why so many girls give up sport at exactly the same age on Mamamia's This Glorious Mess Podcast. Post continues after podcast. 

I’m willing to admit that I was so wrong in holding my girls back from playing sports that I obviously had believed were for ‘boys’ only.

For once upon a time girls like my daughters were labelled ‘tomboys’ which in itself is such an outdated term. However when I was growing up, girls simply weren’t given the opportunity to play anything other than netball.

So I’m proud of all these young girls, like my daughters, I see out there on the footy fields each week playing Oztag, soccer, rugby or AFL. They really are doing our nation proud.

Now I am my daughter’s most avid supporter and I will be right alongside her when she plays in the State comp early next year. If she chooses to aim for the Nationals then I’ll be right alongside her then too.

I love that she gives me a big thumbs up from the field every time she tries, as it’s hard to miss me on the sidelines being her loudest cheerleader, but thankfully she doesn’t mind me being so one little bit.

Lidija Zmisa is a mum of three girls, wife and freelance writer. She is currently writing a book for middle grade readers. You can follow her on Instagram @lidijazmisa