Winners and Losers
It’s that time of year. I can feel it in the air. It’s time for Sports Day! At least in my mind it is. Do they have Sports Day in schools anymore? Last time I looked was about 20 years ago when our daughter was decorating her bike for a bike parade that was part of the Sports Day celebration. From what I remember, there weren’t the type of events that we had when I was in Elementary School. And, yes they did have Elementary Schools that long ago! My school was Lord Kitchener Elementary School in the Dunbar neighbourhood of Vancouver, with a big dirt field that was used for soccer, baseball and Sports Day!
Sports Day was a big day we all looked forward to, mainly because it meant a day out of class, and we’d get to run around and celebrate being a kid. We had Coke, Orange Crush, 7Up and glazed doughnuts that we would always put over the neck of the bottle so we could drink the pop and eat the doughnut with one hand. To add to that healthy menu, popsicles, bags of chips, liquorice ropes and to top off the perfect day, it was always sunny! Talk about Heaven on Earth!
Our sports events were fairly simple back then. I remember the “slow bicycle race.” That event is pretty self explanatory. Ride your bike as slowly as you possibly can without falling over, and the last rider still upright without crossing the finish line was the winner! A nice touch for kids who were afraid to ride fast, and much safer than a fast bicycle race that would probably have filled the nurses office with skinned knees and knuckles! Oh, and fractured skulls, as we didn’t have bicycle helmets in the 1950’s.
Another one of the thrilling events was the block and spoon race. The block replaced the egg in this race for obvious reasons. The block, or the egg had to stay on the spoon as participants ran as fast as they could to the finish line. If you were first across the line and still had the block on your spoon, you were the winner! Not everyone made it to the finish line with everything intact.
Then there was the 3 legged race. The idea was to have a partner to hold on to, while one of your legs and one of your partner’s legs were tied together, in a sense, making one big leg! Ready, set, go and off you ran trying to be first across the finish line. It was a wonderful exercise in teamwork, partnership, setting a rhythm and cooperation. It inevitably got lots of laughs from the spectators. Again, the first team across the line was the winner.
Have you ever tried to “run” a race in a burlap potato sack? Do they even have burlap potato sacks anymore? For those that remember, you didn’t really run the race, it was more of a hopping down to the finish line. Participants would climb into the potato sack and try to make it from start to finish, which was quite the accomplishment. Most “racers” ended up flat on their face more than once! As I recall there was no shortage of contestants for any of these races. There were winners of a number of heats that would end up in the final race for the ribbons.
Of course there was the good old fashioned running and relay races. The running race was simple, you start here and finish down there. First one across the finish line was the winner. Again, there were many heats for this race because let’s face it, running is something every kid can do. Granted some are faster than others, but running is strictly a kid thing.
The running race turned out to be a major lesson in my many years of life lessons. I hadn’t had too many at this point in my life, after all I was only 9 or 10 years old, but it was a lesson my Dad taught me that I have never forgotten.
For the first 4 or 5 Sports Days I was a pretty fast runner. We would always compete against our own age group in all the events, and after a few years of winning the Blue Ribbon (first place) I had come to expect it was going to be that way every year thereafter. But as the years went by, kids grew bigger and stronger and faster! Faster runners, and as it turned out, faster than me. What? How could that be? This particular day I won my heat, but in the finals, against all the other winners of all the other heats, I didn’t win the Blue Ribbon! I wasn’t first!
If a 9 or 10 year old can be devastated, I was devastated. And yes, I’m not ashamed to say there were tears flowing after that final race. As usual, my Dad was there to watch the Sports Day events, and witnessed my crushing defeat. He gave me a moment, then came over to me while the tears were still falling and said, “That’s enough of that! You didn’t win the race, but you tried your best and that’s the important thing. But I’ve also told you that it’s not only important to be a good winner, but also a good loser. Now, wipe those tears off your face and go and congratulate the boy who won the race, that’s called sportsmanship!”
As the best selling author John Maxwell once said, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”
Lesson learned, Dad.
Till next week...
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White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2