How shared interests bring families closer

Mark Lyall and dad Jeff as 'M & J Blues' on stage together.''Pic by Mark Stringfellow
Mark Lyall and dad Jeff as 'M & J Blues' on stage together.''Pic by Mark Stringfellow
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MARK Woodward hadn’t a clue about diving until seven years ago.

His son, Frederick Woodward, was scouted to take part in a nationwide diving programme - training up young children to be come fully-fledged, tournament standard divers.

Frederick Woodward diving.

Frederick Woodward diving.

Frederick was just eight, but he showed the panache of an international-standard diver.

“They looked at things like his physical body shape, his emotional well-being and his background - they are looking for children who can cope under the extreme pressure of a competition.”

And, wanting to understand more about the sport that would soon take over Frederick’s life - training as much as five times a week - Mark decided to have a go.

“I was introduced to it through Frederick and though I was always a decent sportsman - I always played cricket and football - I had never done anything gymnastic like that before but it was very different when I started doing the diving.”

Frederick Woodward diving.

Frederick Woodward diving.

But while not quite the Olympic trials standard of his son, Mark is diving at least once a week.

And that time on the board, understanding his son’s hobby and lifestyle, has - Mark says - brought them closer together.

“The fact I’ve started diving provides Fred with a mixture of amusement and respect for me, though that’s not articulated that much. I think he’s glad that his dad is doing something and not just sat in the stands watching.”

In addition to appreciation of his father’s forays into diving, Mark says its also deepened his understanding of what his son is going through.

“I appreciate the mental and physical pressure elements of diving now. We talk about training sessions, I have a good laugh with the other divers and talk to the coaches. In that sense I can be more supportive because I am involved.”

Mark, aged 54, who runs Green Directions renewable energy centre in Stannington, says that being involved with a new set of people has also kept him young.

“Sport is a great leveller, you’re exposed to a wide range of people with different cultural backgrounds and as a result it keeps you young, it keeps you stimulated and active.”

Mark’s not the only parent to have been introduced to a new hobby via children.

Frederick Woodward diving.

Frederick Woodward diving.

Tracey Barnes took her mum along to jive classes ten years ago and the pair haven’t stopped dancing since.

“It all started when I was out on a Friday night watching a live band and this couple got up and started dancing. I remember being mesmerised by what they were doing so I complemented them and they told me that anyone’s welcome at the dance class they go to. So I asked my mum ‘Mum, will you come with me?’ and she did.”

As a child, Tracey was always a daddy’s girl and went on bike rides and did marshal arts with him. “I was much closer to my father than my mum when I was a kid and when my parents split up when I was 13 it was my dad I moved in with. But he died when I was 32 and it wasn’t long after that mum and I started dancing.”

Going to classes together changed both their lives. Her mother - now in her early 60s - met her partner through dancing four years ago and Tracey has made dancing her livelihood, she own a dance company, SmartDanceWorks and even runs dance holidays.

“Mum even comes on all the holidays with me. Dancing has meant that she can come out and socialise with like minded people - we now share friends and she’s supported me while I was going through a divorce and setting up the dance company. I’ve just started a new dance class at the Niagra Conference Centre at Hillsborough and she comes along to that too.”

“Dancing has really brought us together,” says Tracey.

Mark Lyall as a 12 year-old boy and his dad, Jeff, playing guitar together.

Mark Lyall as a 12 year-old boy and his dad, Jeff, playing guitar together.

Mark and Jeff Lyall are another dynastic pair who play blues music together at various venues across Sheffield.

“It’s funny really,” says Mark, 39. “It was me who dragged Dad along to doing all this and now we play together all the time. It’s really good having a cool dad though we have always been close.”

“We bounce off each other musically so on stage we understand each other and it means my dad is friends with lots of people much younger than him too, which I think keeps him young.

“I’m in another band as well as M & J Blues and we play at trendy student venues like the Frog and Parrot on Division Street and dad always comes along to watch us.”

Though Jeff, 62, has played in bands most of his life, it was Mark who encouraged him to take up gigging again.

“It’s as if the sons and daughters are bringing their parents out to do stuff rather than the other way round.”