Like the rest of the world, we in Australia are in the grip of Olympic fever. Now Australia has always done pretty well in the medal tally, considering the amount of people who live here, particularly in swimming. This year however, we were given a short sharp shock when our swimmers didn't do as well as we expected them to do. I personally think they did great to even get there in the first place, but it seems that I was in the minority.
Every adult who has or has not ever swum a lap of a pool had an opinion on why it was that our swimmers weren't captured on the middle of the podium, gold swinging around their necks while our national anthem blasted through the arena with pride. Who knows what happened. Perhaps on the day, other countries who wanted it as much as us and who trained just as hard were better on the day.
It seemed that even the swimmers were judging themselves as more than one or two swimmers were captured by reporters so upset that they were unable to speak because they got silver not gold. Seriously people? Silver...second best swimmer in the world. When did sport become so harsh and judgemental?
Yesterday I was given the chance to witness what true sportsmanship was about. I was at my son's sports carnival. My youngest is eleven and the carnival was typical I guess of most school carnivals where all the children are all in one of four house groups. The rules are simple, you have to go in your age race and every other race is optional. Winners and place getter's win points for their house, although all the kids get points for going in a race regardless of where they come.
Now I have to say that running is not my son's favourite or best thing. To say he is not a natural runner is an understatement. But I watched him run in his age race with all the pride that a mother could have, clapping wildly as he came in last. I thought that would be the end of the day for us until the tug a war, well for him, I was sitting in a chair, but I was wrong.
I was stunned as the next race started. There was my boy lined up again ready to race the two hundred metres. He was determined that if he couldn't win then he would get points for his house. Did he win? ...no but he did once again get points for his house. Enough? I thought so. No apparently not, as half an hour later he was lined up for the eight hundred metres. I could tell he was tired and that not only was he going to lose but he was going to lose badly. I was worried that the kids would tease him if he came noticeably last. I almost considered going over and asking them to pull him out. It seemed cruel to sit there and watch your child knowing that they would fail. Finally I decided that it would most likely embarrass him more if I intervened so I waited and watched.
My brave boy ran for a lot of the race and walked for some. I could tell he was exhausted and at one point I didn't think he was going to be able to finish... I almost cried. I didn't know what I could do without making a giant fuss. Eleven year old boys do not want their mothers to come help them off the field under any circumstances. So once again I held my breath and waited. I am so glad that I did.
All of a sudden some of my boy's friends ran over to the track where he was losing heart, being the last one still running and they started to cheer him on. These were friends wearing all the different colours of their house groups, who didn't give a damn for the competition while they helped a friend who needed them. By the time he reached the end of the race the entire school was clapping and cheering for a boy who tried his absolute best.
Sometimes I think that we could learn a lot from the simplicity of childhood. When we're teaching our kids how to play sports, maybe we could try to cultivate rather than repress their natural instincts. Maybe they know better than we do what's fair.
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