Monday, February 1, 2010

Who is the Winner?

You couldn’t help but notice the School Sports Captain at my older one’s Sports Day. There was something almost magnetic about his smile and the way he carried himself. His wild mop of curly hair was not unlike that of my younger one, and I did wonder for a moment if my son would grow up to be as charismatic as him. As an athlete, he was clearly superior to the rest of the kids in his class, and you could only stand and stare while he blazed down the track.
He crossed me in a blur and his timing would definitely have been a meet record, if the races were being timed. When he had nearly reached the finish line, he looked back, so how far ahead of the rest he was, and slowed down to a walk. He did the last few meters so slowly, a boy who was far behind him, almost caught up with him.
“That’s not very sportsmanlike.” The remark slipped out unconsciously. In my moral code, you always give it your best – you don’t slow down just because you can afford to do so.

In all the clapping and cheering that accompanies any Sports Day, I soon forgot about the boy. Then I saw him again. The last race of the day was a relay race of the senior class, and he was naturally running the last leg for his team. Though he was the third to get the baton, he soon narrowed the gap and shot into the lead. Watching him was sheer pleasure, but a few meters from the finish line, he did it again. He looked back, saw his lead and slowed down to a walk. Once again, I was disappointed. Why did a boy so obviously talented shy away from giving his best?
While I was thinking about the champion, the last runner passed by. He had been the last to receive the baton, and his speed, or lack of it, had only increased the gap between him and the team that came third. The race was over by the time he passed by, but he didn’t change his speed. At what was his top speed, he ran down the track, and slowed down only after crossing the finish line. I gave him a standing ovation for the last 10 meters – the race was over, there were no honours left to gather, and yet he gave the race his best- one had to applaud his spirit.

On the way back home I asked my husband which of the two boys he wished his sons would grow to resemble. To my surprise, he chose the Sports Captain. Talent and individual brilliance, he told me, mattered more than doing your best. While I don’t deny that I would, as a parent, love to see my sons on the victory podium with medals around their neck, I think there is more to life than just talent. The boy who didn’t let up, has already learnt one of the most important lessons in life – that you have to press on regardless of what life throws at you. He’ll succeed where it matters most – in life.
And the other one? He’s brilliant and talented, but I wonder how he will react when he encounters a serious challenge for the first time. Maybe he will find hidden reserves of strength- I definitely hope so.

Obviously there are no right answers and no wrong answers. But I would still like to know what you think. Of the two, which would you want as your son? Who do you think is the real winner?
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dipali said...

I think I'd also perceive a winner as one who's constantly focused on the goal, rather than on the competition. Why look back at all?

Jan Morrison said...

I'm not sure...I don't know why the boy who slowed did so. I'd want to ask him if there is a reason he does that. I wonder which boy would need me as a parent? Perhaps the one who slowed would be the one who would need me more than the other one who does his best. Which parent would I be? You or your husband? I think I'd like the balance of both of you and I certainly had the balance of both those boys in my two sons!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I don’t think we can ask more of our kids than to do their best. I think if we encourage kids to always do their best, then they’ll eventually find the niche they’ll shine in although it may not be in the area we hoped for as their parents.

Al said...

To answer your questions: I would be happy to call either my son. Each of us has a totally different view of the world and a different approach.
I have three daughters and each approaches life in a different way. Each has different strengths and weaknesses. My youngest is a competitor, in sport or life in general, she throws herself in and gives things her all.
My eldest is entirely different she never wants to be "first" at anything, for her life is a social event and she takes pleasure from participating with others and the result almost does not matter.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ dipali - we seem to think alike.

@ Jan - I really wish I had your wisdom. While I was concentrating on what the boy did, you went to the more basic question of why he did what he did. Wonder if he would have slowed down if the race was being timed - I would think not.
And I guess all of us are shades of grey - black and white could both get so boring.

@ Jane - isn't that the only thing we can do, and then hope for the best.

@ Al - that is such a wonderful attitude to have towards parenting. All we can really do is to do our best and hope for the best - may as well not hope, and accept that they would do what they do. But I do hope neither of my kids gives up - whether they win or lose doesn't matter to me as much as giving their best.

Dream Runner said...

Hello. Stubmled accross this via facebook. Your question is very relevant, but if one thinks further, there's only one option - the one you chose. Why? Because people are born with and without certain abilities like running. No one can teach a child how to run fast enough to come first. But one can always teach a child to give his or her best.. so there you go :)

Your writeups are intriguing, please keep on posting!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Dream Runner - welcome to the blog, and I do hope you keep visiting.
Giving your best is the only thing you can do, isn't it? And that eventually pays off.


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