For the record… this post is not about any person in particular, or anyone I know personally. Just a compilation of thoughts after standing among random strangers at different sporting events. If you think I’m talking about you, just… quit thinking already. 🙂
Cross country season has just ended here, and I’ll miss watching my three runners compete. I’ll never be an athlete, and I don’t have a competitive bone in my body, but I do enjoy cross country. I love the fact that your biggest competitor is yourself – you’re always trying to beat your last best time; if you happen to come in ahead of all the other kids, well that’s just icing on the cake. (And… maybe that’s how middle and high school kids see it – maybe not.) 🙂
One thing I don’t love about cross country is the cold weather at the end of the season. Like, shockingly cold. As in, so cold that I’m jealous of the runners who are out there running 3.1 miles – because they’re being forced to raise their body temperature instead of standing around for 35 minutes or so (per race.) When the temperature happens to be 30-something, well, it turns into a pretty miserable spectator sport.
And speaking of spectators, there are some crazy people at some of these meets. Along with other people who aren’t necessarily crazy, just really intense and focused on seeing their kid finish well. I’m there watching my kids run, and not exactly eavesdropping as these other adults are yelling “encouragement” at their kids. I try to tune them out and keep from making sarcastic comments (out loud.) But there are things I want to say to some of those coaches and parents; things that would never come out of my mouth in real life. Things like:
“Let me see you dig in! When have you ever run 3.1 miles?”
“Why don’t you push it up that hill?! Could you even walk it without getting out of breath?”
“You middle-aged crazy. I would just love to see you pass up that next runner.”
“How can you yell at these kids about something you can’t do yourself?! How about a little admiration maybe? These kids are really in good shape. What they’re doing is incredibly impressive!”
Surely these parents and coaches just want to be encouraging – they really want to see their kids succeed – but sometimes their voices border on harsh. Belittling. Those kids are out there doing something that 95% of us spectators couldn’t do without dropping dead in the mud. Or at the very least, complaining about it for a week afterwards.
Maybe some of these kids really are spurred on by that kind of spectator yelling. Maybe? In the informal poll I took, 2 out of 2 people said being yelled at would not encourage them to run faster. I’ve never run a race, but if I did, I imagine I might appreciate some solid encouragement. Something like,
“You’re awesome, Ruthie! Keep doing what you’re doing.” or “You’re running really great today – keep it up!”
Or maybe some practical words, like: “You’re in 6th place right now.” or “Right now you’re at 12 minutes.” (When you’re in the middle of the race, you just can’t keep track of this stuff.)
Like I said, I’m not an athlete. And I only polled two people. So I could be completely wrong about the right way to encourage people in the middle of competition. But it only makes sense that basic life principles still apply in sports.
Kindness matters. Words carry weight. Everyone deserves respect.
But, whatever. These same people are in the bleachers at every sporting event. Yelling at kids to do things that they’ve outgrown. And I guess when it comes to our kids… we’re all a little crazy, aren’t we?