Yesterday was track and field day for the grade k-6 children at our school. I was able to sneak out and watch Mikey for parts of the afternoon as the grades that I would have been teaching were busy being helpers and running the events. I managed to get out to the soccer kick event just as all the children were lining up for their practice kick. The object of the event is to kick a ball in the net from lines that get further and further away from the net. Up to this point, Mikey had run slower, thrown the ball shorter, jumped less ditance...etc. then the other kids in his age-group. This did not seem to bother him in the least as he was just enjoying the time outside to run and jump and throw balls... really what can be better then that?
As he stepped up to the line to do his practice kick, the other children encouraged him the same way they had encouraged all the others... "Take your time! Kick it straight," and in the ball went. This continued through a few more and Mikey always managed to get the ball in the net. After a few lines, a couple of other boys were eliminated and off they went to sit on the sidelines. Mikey managed to stay in a few more rounds and got to the line that I was sure he no longer had enough power to get the ball to the net even if he could get it close. And so he wound up and kicked it once. The ball only made it half way there. The other kids encouraged him "Take your time... kick it a little harder... you can do it Mikey..." and again the ball did not quite make it there. This time as he lined up to kick, one voice started chanting "Go Mikey... Go Mikey... Go Mikey..." and soon all the other children joined in. Mikey pulled his leg back and kicked the ball harder this time... it still rolled slowly towards the net and made it the whole distance there but at the last minute, it swirved to the right and missed the net.
Mikey went to sit down by the other little boys who were already on the sidelines and as he went, each of the children sitting there gave him a high-five for getting as far as he got. As a staff, we debate each year about our track meet and giving out ribbons to those who win and how it makes the ones who do not get ribbons feel. Having grown up playing a variety of sports, I am a believer in competition but also feel now as a parent that it has to be nurtured properly as competition should be about striving to be your best and about competing with your previous best. I think those little boys that cheered Mikey on and gave him high fives had a complete understanding of the fact that although the ball did not go in... that last kick was the one that went the furthest and he managed to give his personal best!