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?