You don’t have to be the favourite to win! Lessons for kids from World Champs

During sports day some years ago, my daughter fell during one of her races because another person ran into her lane. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she courageously got up and put everything she had into getting back into first position. She didn’t win, but that silver medal is one of my most prized possessions, even amidst all the other gold medals she has copped over the years. Indeed, my 9-year old is a promising athlete and understandably the World Championships has been mesmerizing for her over the past few days. We watched most of the races with excitement, amazement, patriotism, tears and gratitude and as a parent there are quite a few life lessons that I want us to reflect on especially now as we begin a new school year.

1.You don’t have to be the favourite to succeed

Sometimes the industry experts and other predictors have someone else pegged out to win. They have crunched the data, know the fastest times, the unique abilities and the experience of the athletes and have their 2 or 3 favourites which may not include your name. But that is ok. You can still, without noise and public pats on your back, train and work hard at your craft and come with the mental fortitude and fight to win. You don’t need to listen to the populist voices. Danielle Williams and even Usain Bolt (this time around), will remind us for a long time that you don’t have to be the favourite to win.

2. The importance of talent, mental fortitude and ‘fight’

Of the over 7 billion persons in the world, only 8 or 9 persons will compete in the final of an international sporting event. Only a few milliseconds will separate the speed between each athlete and determine who will be crowned with monetary reward, glory and fame. Arguably, each athlete has to put in just about the same amount of training, nutrition and sacrifice to get in the superb shape that is required to be in an international final but it is the depth of talent, strength of mental fortitude and fight that will determine who wins. Usain Bolt reminded us of this, so too did our ‘heart of champion’ 4×400 women relay team! We must teach our children to be overcomers and fighters. Involve them in projects and activities that will teach that unique quality of never giving up.

3. Sometimes your best won’t be good enough for others

During one of the Championship reports, we heard a sports reporter describe a Jamaican long jumper who secured 4th position as having been able to “only manage” that position. It was kind of heartbreaking to hear that description of her well-tried performance but in the context of other gold medals being won by Jamaican athletes, her best was just not good enough for those sportscasters capturing the moment. 4th in the world in her event, but not good enough for the commentators since there was no medal. The world has created standards of performance in every field – academics, sports and the arts – and once you fall outside of those standards you simply don’t qualify for the prize. Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take pride in your efforts – 4th in the world is quite remarkable after all. Chin up, be positive and do the after event interview if asked

4. Sometimes ongoing victories make people take your efforts for granted

Jamaica has been a powerhouse in track and field for decades and so when we send a contingent to an international meet or championship, we expect nothing less than medals, particularly gold medals. Indeed Jamaica amazingly stands in second place in the medal tally. And so, if a Jamaican doesn’t medal, there is a sort of frown on the performance and not many will remember the athlete’s name or appreciate the effort it took to get into the final. Jamaica should be careful not to take the continued successes of our athletes for granted. Some countries after all wouldn’t mind scooping up the same athletes who we fail to acknowledge, fund them and imbue them with a brand new nationality. But even if Jamaica or in the case of my daughter, if the school doesn’t recognize her efforts in athletics, academics or other worthwhile area, our job as parents is to acknowledge, support and celebrate the diligence and hard work of our children.

5. People will sometimes forget how great you were

Veronica Campbell-Brown and Asafa Powell have had illustrious sprinting careers and have secured some amazing medals and records over the years. Today however, bringing much fame and glory to the Jamaican flag, Shelly-Ann and Usain are the deserving superstars of the sport and some mean-spiritedly assert that Veronica and Asafa should retire. This is a sad part of our culture where if you aren’t the best of the best you are oftentimes not given the respect that is due. Veronica and Asafa remain among the best in the world but sadly people sometimes forget how great they were and still are!

This last point will be an important one for years and years to come. It feels good when people commend you, cheer for you and reward you for your efforts, but at the end of the day, we must remind our children that they should do track and field or pursue any other worthwhile field of endeavour primarily because they love it, have a passion for it or feel called to it. The cheers and support of the crowd is ‘brawta’!

Congratulations to all of Jamaica’s superb athletes and may we as a people cherish their stamina, talent and hard work and use it to inspire our children to be the best that we can be.

Shelly-Ann Harris is the Editorial Director for Family and Faith Magazine. Check out her blog or connect with her on twitter @harrisshellyann

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