The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The spontaneous generation of football.

Some games are so simple that I think they were certain to be invented, no matter what. Football is one of them.

Today, I watched my five year old son Fintan playing with a ball with his younger brother Tiarnan and another boy of his own age. The ball they had was a rather unusual one: not much less than a yard across, it was a giant toy for them. It was bright red, which made it rather easy to see against the green foliage and grass on which they played.

Now, what was interesting about the way they played is how, something akin to football emerged spontaneously from them. I know, for sure, that my kids haven't watched football, so it is not something they are familiar with. Yet, football like behaviour soon emerged.

At first, they kicked the ball from one to the other, then somehow along the way, the rules changed. Suddenly, when the ball ended up in a flower bed, Fintan cried out: "Two points!"

For reasons, unknown to me, this act was apparently suddenly worth two points - unless I had missed the first point.

It wasn't an arbitrary decision to mark that area as point bearing - for it formed a natural boundary to the garden area in that direction, cutting a wandering line across the grass and playground for perhaps fifty metres.

The game continued. It wasn't long before the other boy cheered himself when the ball crossed a line between some trees in the opposite direction. Again, it was easy to construct an imaginary line across the space between them, of some fifty metres or so. These were big "goals" they were dealing with - hardly easy to defend.

All the other behaviours of football were soon to be seen: tackling, chasing after the one with the ball, intercepting it and so on. It all emerged purely as a function of competing for the ball and trying to prevent it from crossing the respective imaginary line.

Football, on this evidence, is as inevitable as any game could be. Simply inventing a ball and putting people in competition for it leads almost inexorably to all the football behaviours fans will know. The "rules" seem quite inevitable.

It was fun to watch the game evolve and complexify in the space of forty-five minutes. By the end of it, it was, in every way, quite a strong echo of football - yet it had all begun with two boys passing a giant red ball back and forth between themselves. Apparently, a competitive game was more fun than the cooperative one they began with.

So, yes, football may be noted as a British game...but I have a feeling that it would have arisen anywhere else, given the tools of but a ball and two teams to compete for it. It even seems to arise spontaneously, from children at play - children who have not been exposed to the game, at all.

Then again, to say that football is inevitable, is not to say that it is without its skill. Football is inevitable, but David Beckham (and the like) are not: that takes a lot more than the typical kids at play scenario.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching the spontaneous generation of football, today.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:05 PM 


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