I mentioned in a recent post that I am a newly recruited, rookie track coach (high jump and long jump). Today marked the long awaited meet.
I must say, the day went surprisingly well. No one was lost, sent to the hospital, or left behind. The count of students speared by javelins or knocked out by shot puts remained at zero. I have to take a moment to brag on the high jump guys, too – U13 boys took first and second place, while U15 boys claimed first, second, and third! And those were just a few of many ribbons awarded to SPH throughout the meet.
Despite all of the fun that I had hanging out with the students and cheering them on (sports aren’t that big here, and I miss them!), my favorite part of the day was watching the kids interact with their classmates and with the other schools. We were (as far as I know) the only Christian school represented at the meet, and our kids were such an incredible, consistent testimony. We were talking in class today about glorifying God in all that we do, and I was turning that idea over and over in my head throughout the day, pondering what that would look like for my students.
At the meet, they showed me such a clear example.
I tend to get competitive. Really competitive. I (lovingly :)) blame this on my father.
(Who my students think resembles exactly Nicholas Cage…)
Sorry, tangent. Back to what I was saying: competitive is a good thing (in my mind at least!), but I too often allow it to cloud my vision. It’s easy to let competition, whether it’s obvious – as on the sports field – or in less apparent situations – such as the working world, relationships, fitness, parenting, whatever – make us forget about the importance of people.
Today, I was totally convicted by my students. And these kids are eleven to fourteen years old.
I saw them, time and again, loving on the people around them. They not only encouraged their teammates, but the other teams as well. They cheered on their competitors, rejoicing with them and congratulating them. When they lost, they swallowed their pride, telling their opponent what a good race they had run. When they won, they acted in humility, remembering to tell those that they had beat that they had done a great job. They hung out by the fence, urging on other teams’ runners that were struggling to finish the long distance races, even when most people had lost interest.
One of my favorite moments played out during the boys U15 high jump competition. The field had been pared down to the four top jumpers, attempting a height of 1.4 meters. Three of the students were representing SPH, one came from the hosting school. My students cheered for each other, which I expected, despite the fact that they were all fighting to stand on the top tier of the podium. What stood out to me, though, was that they cheered just as loudly for their opponent, genuinely wanting him to do well. He had more support from our team than from his own! When only two boys were left (both SPH students), fighting for first, they both set new PRs. Each was even more excited for the other than for himself. This is what it looks like to let God’s love shine through you – my kids weren’t quoting Scripture at anyone, but they stood out like crazy amongst the other athletes.
Before my girls headed out to their events, I asked if I could pray with them. I wasn’t sure what their response would be, as we joined hands while all of the other schools sat in the stands watching, awaiting the imminent start of the games. Embarrassment? Lack of focus due to thinking about their events? Not at all. These girls were so excited to pray together. They thanked me for offering in relieved voices – this was where they found their peace. Every single one of them eagerly accepted the moment to forget about the stress and the events and focus on what really mattered.
Finally, there was so much joy. They had fun, and, though they ran (and jumped and threw) their hearts out, it was clear that they didn’t find their identity in their wins or losses. They laughed together, on and off the field. They joked and encouraged and energized each other and just enjoyed life.
Today is another one of those days that I come away from feeling like the student. I aspire to be like these twelve-year-olds.