Sunday, May 21, 2017

And Just Like That, It's Over

No, not the school year, yet. Wednesday is our final day of school. Yesterday our middle school track season came to a close. I think if I was a teacher of middle school students, but not a parent of two of them, I might not understand the implications of this. Sports are just sports, right? Over the years I've heard many teachers, and parents, comment that they think student athletes get too much attention, sports has too much emphasis in our schools, etc.

I couldn't disagree more.

No, sports are not the pinnacle of one's life. As I've told my boys often, school is their priority. I've also told them that life is long and that how you do on a sports team - at any age - won't be your greatest achievement. That being said, my boys have gained immeasurable gifts from the teams they've been on.

Three years ago Luke joined the track team as a sixth grader. Sixth graders compete for seventh grade spots, so he really only got the chance to throw discus and shot at our home meets. Last year he decided to begin running as well. We were surprised to see that he was good at it and he headed to State to run the 400. He did well and got 13th, if memory serves. This year he switched to the 800 and still made it back to State. While he didn't get in the top 8 spots, which was his goal, he got 12th and shaved almost 4 seconds off his time - 2:10.8. I reminded him that to be 12th in our state as a runner is huge. He nodded.

When we got home I noticed that he was a bit quieter than usual. Asking if he was bummed that he didn't place where he wanted he commented it was more that the season - and middle school track - was over. It was my turn to nod, and step away before the tears came on.

Middle school has come to a close for Luke all too quickly. These three years have absolutely flown by. As he made that comment, memories flashed through my mind - some involving school, yes, but more involving moments outside of school. I could picture his baby face in 6th grade when he joined track, his first school sport. The basketball team in 7th grade. His crazy coach that had as much energy as one of the kids. Their exuberance in making it all to way to State that year. The time he would spend after track practice was long over with his throwing coach, working on getting the shot put to fly just a bit farther. Running through the fields on Cross Country this year. Standing and shaking the hands of the kids behind him as he won sectionals. And now, his last day as a middle school athlete is done.

By the time he and his brother are finished with high school in our town, I'm sure I will have racked up countless hours spent as a spectator for them - in sports, band, and more. But the lessons they have gained from their teammates, coaches, opponents, and learning their own drive is something that cannot be measured. Yes, sports are important - all extracurricular events are. They help kids discover who they truly are. They teach them life lessons. They help form unbreakable bonds. I will morn for a moment the times that have already passed, but I can't wait to see what the future has in store for my boys. I will also remember when my students come in from a loss, or at the end of the season, the weight of that on their hearts and, I hope, treat them with the kindness my boys have had many times over.