Sunday, 11 December 2011

When Winning Is Not The Most Important Thing

Today was supposed to be the little athletics relay carnival. This is one of my favorite carnivals of the year because It is simply so much fun! Athletics is predominantly an individual event. In the relay carnival the kids compete in teams and this gives a entirely new dimension to the sport. The carnival is held at the Australian Institute of Sport track (shown on my blog background). The kids love to feel like the real grown-up athletes, running on it’s bouncy surface.

Unfortunately the stormy, rainy weather caused a cancellation, much to the dismay of the girls. They had been awake dressed since 5.30am. My daughter, Muscles (7)  was super excited to be running on the AIS track for the first time. I have just now, put a still disappointed little girl into bed with promises of next year…

Last year the relay carnival was a resounding success for my daughter Flash….but not in the way you might be thinking. ….

There is a little girl in Flash’s age group that loves little athletics. She comes to just about every event and her mum is a great organizer and helper. When this little girl runs, she gives it her all and always has a smile on her face, even when she dramatically ‘collapses’ over the finishing line. The other girls are quite happy to drolly inform the alarmed officials…..

 ‘don’t worry…she does that all the time’

In the sprint events, this little girl usually runs last, by quite a long way. This doesn’t seem to bother her in the slightest and we are all very proud when she achieves a personal best. I’ll call her smiley.

Smiley, was on the relay team for the under 8 girls. The girls sat in the stands that morning in nervous anticipation. They discussed tactics and running order. They shared snacks between themselves, played hand-clapping games and eagerly awaited the announcers call. Once given the green light, they shot skipped off hand in hand to the marshalling area.

Flash is used to doing well at athletics (there is more here), but the girls didn’t place. Nevertheless, they cheered, encouraged each other, hugged at the finish and sprinted back to the stands holding their participation ribbons high, smiles wide! Smiley ran happily into the arms of her mum, exhausted and happy saying 

“…did you see me mum??...”

I’ll admit that I was a little worried about how my daughter would react to not doing well. But I was very proud of her that day. Not because of her individual sporting achievements, I was proud of her because of the maturity and sportsmanship she showed. It would have been easy for her to get upset and blame others in the team for not winning. But, there was no sign of any of this kind of behavior.

Later that night, after the carnival, I asked her how she was feeling. I was wondering if she missed or regretted not placing in the relay events. She was the last runner and had impossible distances to make up and I wondered if that had dented her confidence. My daughter just said that she had heaps of fun with her friends. She said it made her feel good that Smiley was so happy. She said that it also felt really good to just run, without having to worry about winning or doing a personal best.

I have always loved the relay carnival because it teaches kids that they are not just focusing on their own achievements and happiness. They are  working for the achievement of the team and the happiness of the team members. Certainly, winning can be a very satisfying and special feeling. However, there is a certain joy and satisfaction to working as part of a team, sharing your successes and failures with others who are as equally committed as you. I have heard that some Olympic level swimmers actually swim better times during the relay events. I wonder if the individual pressure is removed as they focus on something bigger than themselves.

Now I have a new reason to love the relay carnival because it has taught my daughter that sometimes there are more important things than winning. Things like friendship, teamwork, sportsmanship and empathy. As a parent these are important values I would like my children to learn….I think that my daughter has learnt lessons about friendship, personal integrity and respect for others feelings regardless of their athletic ability. I hope she will carry these lessons with her not only  throughout her sporting career, but for the rest of her life

…….She did tell me that she couldn’t wait for the next carnival, the Northside Regionals.. ……

…..that healthy competitive spirit is still there!

No comments:

Post a Comment