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The Wilkinsons

Jonny kicks the winning drop goal during the Rugby World Cup Final in 2003

By Phil Wilkinson
Father of Newcastle Falcons centre Mark and England's World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson

My wife Philippa and I are very proud of both our sons - we feel very privileged to have what we have.

We always encouraged both boys to get a good spread of sports, so it was a balance of cricket, rugby, football and basketball.

Philippa was a county squash player so she was big on that and also tennis. Her dad was a very good golfer too, so we encouraged that also.

Sport is important

The boys came to watch me play rugby and cricket and we always had a game at the end or practised during the week.

We never pushed them into anything. If they didn't want to go then that was fair enough.

Both of them played rugby from the age of five with Farnham Minis RFC.

We always believed that sport was important. When I played, my academic work was pushed aside which is something to try and avoid.

Jonny's brother Mark plays for the Newcastle Falcons

But we were always playing some sport and it is extremely healthy for kids to take part.

I was never bored but it's important to remember that boredom is the breeding ground for problems with children growing up.

When it came to sport, we always said that if you are going to do something, do it well and become as good as you can.

Give it a go!

Never look over your shoulder and say "I wish I had had a go at that".

If they wanted to do something in sport then we always said "go for it". As parents we'd always try and back them.

Practice to become as good as you can and always respect your adversary, be it a person or a team.

Jonny has done extremely well so far. Mark has progressed through about seven leagues and is now in the playing squad at the Falcons which is great.

He's also played alongside Jonny on quite a few occasions.

They never rest on their laurels and are always trying to improve on areas of their games to become better players.

Jonny smiles after being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2003

The clubs that the boys went to were usually known to us personally and so we knew exactly what they were doing and with whom.

It was the same with their coaches. The rugby was with me so I didn't need to check myself out!

It is important however to check on clubs and coaches.

It's also helpful for a child to go with a mate when they start rather than just turn up on their own. It makes it a little easier to break the ice.

The good thing is that most sport can be done cheaply.

It's no good having all the gear if you (the person doing the sport) are not willing to try.

Mark and Jonny always wore things out rather than just having new gear for the sake of it.

The better they became, the better the kit and gear we had to get for them.

So we had to buy things like trainers, boots, training gear, rackets and balls.

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My philosophy as a parent is that there are three things every child can take into adult life, sport, music and a language.
- G Harris, swimming coach


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