What’s Sports Got To Do With It?
“In about four years, I’m going to move to a town up north where kids want to run and throw like its their life.” I remarked to another parent at a recent County track and field meet. It wasn’t the first time I stated such. But this year I’ve become more outspoken about the lack of heart of some, when it comes to track and field events. No, it’s not about the spectators attending the meets or perhaps the lack thereof. Nope. It’s not that. Many in our small town appear to be enthused either when in person or online in our parent and sports’ high school’s social media sites.
It's about some of the high schoolers performing at the track and field meets. It’s not about the coaches. Part of that is we just don’t have the draw. So, we are sometimes short-handed in having enough coaches. Which I think happens at most small schools. That’s not the issue I’ve arrived at. Track and field meets are seemingly the best times for me to connect with parents of other towns. I listen to their concerns. And funny enough the same thing I hear is, “The kids are soft...” I’ve spoken with and listened to parents from low-income families to wealthy families. From recent migrants to those of ancestors going back to the beginning of the birth of our nation. I listen to them. And then I wonder what is the message these parents are telling me?
Since about 2016, when our oldest was in seventh grade I’d attended many of our daughters’ sporting events. Before that, like many parents, my husband and I would attend their dance, karate, rec-soccer, rec-softball, practices, and events. Their Chinese tutoring, dance, and art—it was mostly myself attending their after-school lessons, tutoring and such. My husband would cover when I was either working late or I had an athletic event, most times out of state. Yes, I competed in sport since age nine and still do going in my fifth decade of sport competitions. So, I have a clue. For decades I didn’t know what it was to sleep. Two careers, two children, a great husband, on a middle-class income we did everything ourselves. And compared to my childhood, life was better.
As a child I always had chores. I remarked to a parent at a County meet, “Yeah, I was changing diapers at age eleven. I had to clean the kitchen every night since age seven.” The parent appeared dumbfounded. Then I realized I was speaking a foreign language. Chores, I had them always—well, at least since the age of four. This parent was not a Boomer. Most Boomers had chores. I was ten years or so her senior and a Boomer. Too, we had no automation in our household when I was a child.
When it came to our kid’s track and field meets, I ‘ve attended most of the events. Then I increased my presence to nearly all of them—if not at work or at another event for the other daughter by 2018. Although life changed drastically for us as we’d lost my husband in the summer of 2020, never mind the pandemic. The pandemic was just a chink in our way of living. We’ve lived simply, and I welcomed the extra time we could spend together in my husband’s last months of this life as we knew it. The pandemic was our little blessing. Too, because of my therapy practice I was warned years ahead of a possible pandemic. So, I was prepared.
Going back to our high school’s track and field meets. The teenagers at this point should know what their team needs and where they need to be. All they have to do is listen. That was one of my mother’s pet peeves. Way back in the 1960s as my brother and I attended elementary school, there were marks and comments on the back of our quarterly report cards. At the end of each quarter, we’d walk home with our report cards for our parents to view and sign. Afterwards, we had a few days to return them to our teachers.
The back of the report cards had a list of twelve characteristics the school would grade a child on. Things like: “Respects other people’s property.” “Respects school property.” And the one my mother always bemoaned. “Listens to and follows directions.” Yes we never heard the end of it—if it was just a check mark and not a check plus. There were four possibles gradings with checks and the bottom of shame was no longer a check mark. If that particular characteristic were ever a check minus, we would be grounded. Oh yeah. No getting by on that one.
Listening to and following directions is a safety issue. It’s the one a mother bear wants their offspring to adhere to ensure survival—Being aware of one’s surroundings. The other one is to understand that there are times when the saying, “No man is an island.”, holds true. It’s about teamwork. Individual sports at the end of the day is about teamwork. On some level, it is teamwork. Track and Field events may appear as individual sport performances. Yet, it encompasses the team and the school in its entirety.
That being said, if a member of the track and field team does not understand this in high school. Then how will they apply such ideology when it arrives at group projects concerning their future past high school? Such as attending a technical school, an apprenticeship, a university, military service, or the workplace.
Our oldest is on a geeky career path. She noted recently as she attended a workfare—that the students from the university she attends were not all team-players at the workfare. Too, she noted, neither were some of the attending students respectful of the people that were offering a potential for internships. The workfare she’d attended she had to dress up for business, and dine with hundreds of students, HR managers of a variety of Fortune 500 companies and the like. Much schmoozing had to be attended to. I coached her a little bit the week before. But she appeared to have a handle on the general concepts. Also, what a good corporate HR manager would be looking for in a chemical engineering student for a potential internship next summer.
When she finished all the schmoozing and such, she called me. What she did surprised me. She was always the shy kid who feared asking adults questions. However, she realized that listening to other students’ questions and listening to the affects of attitudes from other students, was just as important. I wondered how she ever figured that out. After she told me what transpired on many levels—she felt some connection to a manager of a defense contracting company. Although, she asked questions of others and took their business cards—one in particular she’d connected with. And over the next month emails and a zoom meeting ensued. Good enough, as she made herself known to them.
I can say you cannot perform well during interviews of any type if you do not have interest in other people. So, on the track and field team, if you are only interested in how you appear to others. Or think that just ‘showing up’ and doing an event or two or is good enough. You will have a tough time performing to your fullest potential not only now in track and field events—too, that job interview in the future may not land you the job you want. And that will resonate with you till you correct your attitude. And at this point, as a teenager it’s not on anyone but you. And that’s life.---Jody-Lynn Reicher