Wayne Rooney is konwn for a lot of things on and off the pitch, but he is not known as a role model for Dads.
He was recently awarded a unique send-off at Wembley. The end of an era, but what was there to celebrate. This is the guy whose antics, would definitely raise an eye brow with the grandparent, even if he is one of the greatest footballers England has ever produced.
Rooney has baggage. Serious baggage that most families would rather avoid, but I think it is Rooney’s underreported quality that fellow dads can learn from.
I only saw Wayne Rooney play once. It was a mid-week game at Fulham. Fulham were my adopted club as I could see the ground from my bedroom window in Putney on the other side of the river to Fulham. On this cold December night, Fulham was playing mighty Manchester United. I was with my dad, a red since he worked in Manchester during the George Best era. I remember the night so well as a football match is great for father-son bonding, but my other memory is watching Rooney.
In particular, on that November night, my stand out memory of the football was Rooney’s work rate. On the ball, Rooney was dangerous and attacking but what stood out, even more, was his work rate off the ball. He was all over the pitch. When you are in the stands, you see the true performance of players and the work they put in.
Was Rooney the greatest ever English footballer? The stats highlight he has scored a lot of goals, nearly as many as the national treasure Bobby Moore and 120 appearances for England is phenomenal for any player. However, I am going to stick my neck out and say he was not the greatest player ever. You might look at Rooney’s physique and wonder if he has ever done activity down at the gym. He looks like he still trying to shift some of that baby fat. But whilst he does not look like a natural athlete but, I think Rooney has what all athlete need: an abundance of grit.
Grit has become one of the latest buzzwords in psychology. Grit is that special quality in people that never give up, persistence. It is that iron-man quality in everyday life that is the reason that some people make it, and others don’t. I think grit is a quality that parents develop, as we have no choice. We can’t wake up one day and say, I am not going to be a parent today.
Personally, I think that it is far more important for my children, my babies (now 5 & &) to develop grit than to be top of the class. When I look back at my school year, in my mind the kids who have been most successful, were the gritty ones, not the academics. The guy that was top of the class became a cog in an investment bank, making the money go around, whilst paying a mortgage he can’t really afford. No one hears from him, as he is too busy turning the cogs. I would not describe it as living the dream, but many would say he is doing well.
Another friend from school dropped out of school at 16 and started cutting lawns. He started cutting more lawns until he got to the point where he needed people to employ people to cut lawns. He now has a hugely successful grass cutting business, cutting lawns across several counties. I admire him massively as he has done the basics well, consistently and has not given up. He has the ambition to start a business and he set his targets high. These were two very different characters whose lives took very different turns.
Will Smith, the actor who has been twice nominated for an Oscar and hits such as Men Black, made a comment that he may not be the greatest at what he does, but he is the last to get off the running machine. Angela Duckworth tells this story in her book “Grit”. Her point was that Will Smith might not be the greatest actor ever, but he has got to where he has through grit and persistence. It was also Will Smith also said that “Being realistic is the most common path to mediocrity.” He set his targets much higher than being mediocre.
We should not accuse Rooney of being mediocre. Take aside the rumours of gambling and the other women, or what type of father he is to his three children, when Rooney steps out onto the Wembley turf, we should remember Rooney for his football and where he has come from.
Rooney was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was bought up on a council estate, he wanted to play for England and he has achieved everything he has through grit and hard work. I think Rooney has a rare quality of ambition and grit.
As dads, if we can instil a Rooney like ambition and work ethic into our kids, I think we have achieved our one of our roles as a dad. Here is my tribute, I would make Rooney an ambassador of ambition and grit.
Believe, keep going and make it happen.