First Rugby Tour: through a mother’s eyes

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Earl Marriott Senior Boys Rugby team

 

My 17 year old son’s high school rugby team have just returned home after their tour to the Sanix World Youth tournament in Japan. The tournament is by invitation only and Earl Marriott were the only team in Canada who were invited to go.  Here is an account of the tour through my eyes… a nervous, rugby-loving mom.

 

Day One: I drive Liam to school, where he will board a bus to the airport, and I am feeling quite weepy. I go early with plans to take photos as I wave the bus off, and to generally turn the event into something emotional and memorable. I arrive at the school and am instructed by Liam to drop him off and drive away – quickly. Ah, I think, he wants it to be over fast; he must be feeling sad about leaving. He gives me a quick half-peck on the cheek and doesn’t look back. Come to think of it, he doesn’t seem to be all that sad. Well. That’s good.  I slink off home, this day no different to any other. Except my little boy is about to embark on a 5000 mile journey alone (albeit with 30 of his friends) and will play the hardest rugby of his life over the next two weeks. No big deal. I console myself with the knowledge that I will receive many calls, texts and emails over the next two weeks.

Day Two: I wake up to an empty, silent house. It feels really strange. One child is 5000 miles away in the UK, and now the other is 5000 miles away in the opposite direction, in South Korea. I think it`s the opposite direction anyway. I realise I have no idea where South Korea is. After consulting an online map, I check my phone; they have landed. I know this because the text from Liam says: “Landed”. I wonder what the time is there. I know they are 16 hours ahead, but for some reason my brain is incapable of devising an efficient way to work this out. I finally settle on a method: I deduct 8 hours from our current time, which gives me the time in Korea, but ahead. So, if it’s 8am here, I deduct 8 hours – which gives me 12am. Now I know it’s 12am in Korea, the next day. I proudly tell friend Kathie this, and after she has stopped looking confused, she says “Or you could just put it on your phone”.

Day Four: The boys land in Japan, allegedly. There is no contact from my son.

I am still trying to find ways to get to Japan. I just feel like I need to be there. But it`s so expensive. I consider starting a crowd-funding campaign. I could call it the “Get this pathetically needy mother to Japan” campaign, but realistically it`s unlikely to generate enough for a sushi roll, let alone a flight. For me, it’s not just about being there in case my son gets injured. It’s about the whole experience. I know there is limited time left to watch my son play rugby, and annoyingly I have only just started to enjoy watching him play. I have wasted eight nervous years watching his games from behind my hands.

Day Five: It’s our first game and it’s against a tough Japanese team. They are fast, strong, and skilled. It doesn’t end well.

Day Six: Our friends Jim and Donna Moore (Liam`s parents) are at the tournament, and they are keeping the rest of us updated with Facebook posts and photos. I devour these posts and am very thankful for them. We all are. Jim also keeps us informed via text with real time game reports. As Husband Lee and I sit waiting for updates, we feel as much tension as if we were there.

Day Seven: What? They have another game already? And it`s against New Zealand? I need a rest.  At this point I stop caring about wins and losses, and just want everyone to get through the tournament uninjured. Sadly, they don`t…

the liams
Captains Liam: Liam Moore, Liam Morrison and Liam Sullivan
Photo by Jim Moore

Day Eight: I am starting to get used to this. Yes, the house seems empty, but so is the laundry basket. And the fridge seems unusually full.

Day Ten: Daughter Kerri asks how Liam is getting on. For a minute I am confused. Liam? Who’s that?

I am joking of course. But I realise I haven’t been in contact with my son for five days and then I realise that I have only just realised that. We have been told that there is currently no WIFI at the “compound”. I imagine this is a life-changing experience for the boys. As well, of course, as the fact that they are playing rugby against the best youth teams in the world. In Japan.

Day Twelve: I manage to get through to Liam on Facetime. The team is on a high-speed train to Tokyo for one last night before coming home. I used to worry about my 17-year-old roaming the streets of a bustling foreign city, but somehow, it seems, I no longer do.

Day Fourteen: The boys are back in town. As they walk through Arrivals at YVR, wearing their new Japanese headbands and rugby-player’s tans, they are greeted with a round of applause from their fans and parents (which happen to be the same thing), who are relieved to have them back, and very, very proud.

The team look tired, battered and bruised. There have been a few nasty injuries, and in fact they have had to return one man down – leaving Second Row player Stefan behind to recover in hospital from a spleen injury. He will return home this weekend.

It’s been a tough tour. I am really glad that my son got to experience it. I feel it has had a hugely positive impact on him as a person and as a player. I feel too that as a mother I have changed; maybe relaxed and matured a bit. But this tour has exhausted me, and I really hope I won’t have to do another one any time soon.