“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…” (Paul the Apostle, New Testament Writer)
My 7th grade daughter, Kya, decided to go out for Track this year. I wasn’t an overly ambitious athlete when I was a kid, so I had never gone out for Track, and therefore had no experience with the sport. One Tuesday evening, I attended the Parents Meeting as the Jr. High Coaching Staff explained how the season would work and all the rules and policies we needed to be aware of. By the time the short meeting was over, they were asking for parent volunteers to help run the meets. Stepping forward toward the sign up, my eyes were drawn toward the “Announcer” vacancy. “That’d be fun” I thought, and before I knew it, my name was written in ink across the top. In all fairness, while my wife Keri, wasn’t there, I figured surely she’d like to help too! Another blank space drew my attention… “Timer”. And with that, we officially became parent volunteers of a new sport that our precious child would dominate (in my mind anyhow).
And away she went, attending practice after school almost daily for about a month in preparation for the first meet. Now, you need to know, I love Kya. (She’s my favorite 2nd born daughter!) She’s full of life, energy and laughter. Her comedic style has me laughing in tears half the time! And…well…all kids grow at different paces, and for now, some might say she’s currently on the smaller side for her age. So, imagine my curiosity when I came home from work after her first track practice and she revealed, “Hey dad, guess what, I’m going to do pole vault!”
“That’s great!” came my reply, yet perhaps it was more like “That’s great?” Dunno, just trying to be a supportive dad.
Pole vault, quite an odd sport. Run at top speed toward a hole while carrying a large skewer pole. This pole must be placed, while running at top speed, in a small divot in the ground at precisely the right moment, and the momentum you’ve thus gained on your way there should propel you upward as you hold on for dear life as the skewer pole launches you upward over a cross bar. Then, gracefully, while suspended in midair, you invert yourself as you launch your feet first over the cross bar while not forgetting to push the skewer pole backwards away from you so it does not upset the cross bar, all the while contorting your body in just the right way so as not to break a bone, hip, leg, arm, foot or ego as you land on the mat. Interesting…to say the least.
Yet, Kya loved it. Apparently, a dare devil at heart, she began to learn and understand the sport more and more. And, to be fair, the coach also made encouraged the kids to try other events too. So, Kya was also signed up for shot put (did I mention she is on the smaller side?) and the 100-meter dash. And along came the first track meet. I was given vague and disjointed directions, a clipboard (to make me feel official?) and a megaphone (remember, I was the announcer). Oh, and Keri was given a stopwatch as she glared lovingly at me as she took her place as a timer on the track.
And away we went! I was super impressed with Kya as she cleared the 5’6” bar, hoisted a 6-pound ball 14 feet, and crossed the finish line in the 100 meter dash…last, but finished. An eternity Three hours later, the meet was done, I was hungry, cold and imagining how the balance of the season would go. I had to make a mental note that supper would be around 8pm on those nights so as to check my “I don’t like change” attitude at the door. (My belly gets hungry at 6pm…any questions?)
As the season progressed, the team was to have a meet at an ‘Invitational’. “Ohhh, invitational,” I thought, “that means they were invited, we must be really good!” Little did I know that “Invitational” is code for 5-hour track meet. It simply means that more teams than usual show up and it takes longer to run through the events. I was hungry, cold, and sunburned. But Kya was having the time of her life, and therefore, so was I.
Funny how parents adapt their interests and time based on what their kids do. I learned a lot about pole vault this past season. I learned that it’s hard. That not a lot of kids try it (one time there were only 2 girls that did pole vault at the meet, Kya and this other girl…and Kya got 2nd place…not too shabby!) I learned it takes a lot of practice and discipline. I learned that Kya loves Track and mostly she loves being with her friends. I learned that supper doesn’t have to start at 6pm. I learned that shot put is super awkward, and that yelling at her shouting words of encouragement at her doesn’t make the ball go further. I learned that the 100-meter dash looks short on TV, but it’s actually pretty far in real life.
But most of all, I learned that Kya doesn’t quit. No matter the meet, she gave her best. Sometimes, she came in last. Sometimes, she placed in the middle. Sometimes, she placed well. Sometimes, the wind was in her face. Sometimes, at her back. Sometimes the girls on the other team were tall. Sometimes she was eye to eye with them. Sometimes she got home late, and still had homework to do, but she got it done. There was never an assigned finish line she didn’t cross. She finished every event her coach signed her up for. She finished well.
At the last track meet of the year, in pole vault, she hurled herself through the air and cleared her personal best…6’6”…and in so doing, placed 4th in the event. I don’t know what the future holds for her. I don’t know whether she’ll go out for Track next year or not. But this I know…. There’s no quit in that girl. I think this attribute will serve her well in life.
I know a lot of people, when given tough circumstances simply give up, choose the short cut, or find an easier path. Then there are those who put their heads down, buck the wind, flex their grit, clear the cross bar…and finish the race.
In life, we all run a race. Let it be said of us, that we finished…and finished well.