It's the Participation and Effort That Matter

By John McAlpine | Apr 29, 2013
Photo by: John McAlpine Action from the 2013 Shoreline Invitational

It's the Participation and Effort That Matter

Obnoxious John



This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend a few hours at the Shoreline Invitational Track Meet. Teams from all over the state, 78 to be exact, gather to see which can accumulate the most points and take home the title.


Track and field meets are enjoyable to me because of the 'circus' atmosphere, meaning there is always something happening during the event. Very little down time and coupled with runners, sprinters, throwers, jumpers and vaulters stretching and warming up on the infield, as other runners circle the track, the whole thing resembles controlled chaos.


I wandered around and observed the athletes, the coaches, the track officials, the parents and the weather. The promise of rain sat on everyone's mind and coupled with a brisk breeze and already low temperatures if we did get rain it would have been very uncomfortable. But the rain stayed away, for which I, and everyone else I'm sure, was grateful.


In order to make a track meet this size work efficiently it is set up in a qualifying type format. As each of the participants had a, pardon the pun, 'track record', they were seeded into flights (groupings) according to what they had done during the year.


For example, the high jump competition started with those who cleared 5 feet followed by 5 feet 4 inches and so on, all the way to a jumper who had cleared 6 feet 9 inches. An athlete starting off in the early flight would have to defeat all the others on his way to competing against the ones who had jumped nearly a foot higher. If they got to that level at all. This makes the competition much fairer as athletes of similar abilities seem to gravitate toward a competition with one another through this process of elimination.


One of the most striking demonstrations of talent/experience differences shows up in the distance races. Even when the racers are of similar skill level someone always seems to be running way dead last. So far off the pace they could be forgotten if not for the fact their teammates and coaches knew they were still running.


But what I observed, time and again, was the unique and wonderful spirit of teamwork and camaraderie among the athletes. As the distance races wound down I'd see groups of kids in green or blue or black shirts run to the side of the track and encourage their teammate to continue to run hard and finish the race. This shows me the youth of our community are pretty darned mature for their age. They recognized that the real payoff in competing is just that, competing. The real value in being in the race is participation. The real beauty of being on the team is exerting the effort toward a common goal.


I thought about this and realized those are things these young men can use moving forward in life, getting involved, participating and making an honest effort toward goals and dreams. If I were to share what I got from observing the track meet with the participants, it would go something like this; 'In the end, no one is really going to care much about how fast you ran or how far your discus toss went. But people will always admire the fact you participated and made an effort. May you do so the rest of your life.'


Now get out there and take one for the team!

Comments (1)
Posted by: Nathaniel R Brown | May 03, 2013 15:04

An excellent article - thank you!

I'm a three-time Olympic coach (cross-country skiing & biathlon), and the most treasured moments - aside from a few medals - were all about the people:  the East Germans sitting on the floor in our ski room visiting and trading pins; the 8 different countries that used to attend our dry-land training camps - and the camaraderie at the World Championships when we'd meet again; being able to hitch a ride from the Slovene Ski team or giving a ride to some Russian skiers, or crashing with the Italian team on a road trip...   And now, years later, the enduring friendships, born out of shared effort and mutual respect...

Those are the things that stick years later and warm the mind and the memories.  And how far from all that are the big money contracts and the drugs.

Sports were born in joy and health and enhanced life beyond measure.  I hope these kinds at the invitational will find as mush richness in what they are doing as I did in my career..

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