CROSS-COUNTRY

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group runners 4My dad looked at me and said, “That’s disgusting.” You’re wondering had someone neglected to pick up after their dog, a teenager getting sick in an ally after too much drinking, was it the sight of me in yoga pants? Nope. He was referring to the parents at a cross-country track meet for 10-12 year olds.

The track meet started out well enough. That is until the man standing next to me suddenly ran across the track, sprinted across the field to catch up with his son who was clearly struggling to finish. I thought he might be the coach until I realized he was obviously right off the NYC train in a suit, tie, and really nice shoes. He was running along side his son. Running backwards while his son ran forwards, picture it…in a suit, shouting, “C’mon Connor, don’t give up. Keep your head up Connor. Lift your knees Connor. Keep it up. KEEP RUNNING CONNOR!”

Are you disgusted yet? Wait. There’s more.

A woman seeing that Connor had a leg up on the competition (for 10-12 year olds, I remind you) had the same running-with-her-daughter reaction. “RUN KAYLEE…RUN FASTER…RUN HARDER!” Unlike running-in-a-suit-dad, Mom was not dressed for success but rather in yoga pants and let’s just say that um…maybe she should try exercising more regularly before she decides to run… backwards…in yoga pants. Anyway, I digress. group runners

I looked around wondering if every parent would suddenly run backward to their child running forward. Maybe someone was filming a You’ve Been Punked television clip. But these parents were serious and that’s when my dad said, “that’s disgusting.”

I could picture running-in-a-suit-dad thinking, “If Connor doesn’t win this race he won’t make the high school track team, which means that his HS resume for any college won’t be good enough, which means that he won’t get an internship and then he won’t get a job, and will probably not even go to college, and will be a failure and live at home for the rest of his life. Thus, “PICK YOUR HEAD UP CONNOR. PICK UP YOUR KNEES CONNOR. FINISH THE RACE!” UPENN DEPENDS ON IT!” OK, he didn’t say the UPENN part.

I’m out of breath just reading that last paragraph.

Why do so many parents think their kids have to be destined for Division 1? Can’t anything be just fun and not so $&#?ing serious?

I know there’s no “going back” because so much emphasis is on winning, competing, being the best, and of course that college scholarship that needs to be honed from the age of 8. I spent 7 years watching Sarah Mintz’s feet kick in front of me during competition swim meets. 7 years of never winning. Thank goodness my father never tried to swim alongside.

I’m glad I grew up when I did. The music was better and parents didn’t have a role in our sporting practices or group runners6competitions. We had terrific school coaches to facilitate and encourage us. No traveling teams, no sports that lasted 8 months, no personal trainers, no parents running backwards while we ran forwards. We played whatever sport we chose whenever we chose. Parents? They picked us up at the end of practice, they cheered during competitions, they stayed put in the stands.

Growing up, I was on many teams yet despite the absence of parents, I managed to learn to throw a football, field a baseball, out-swim my brother, execute a pretty good lay-up, play a decent game of tennis, and cheer on the sidelines for The West Orange Cowboys. Thankfully that was good enough for my dad.

The only time I ever remember my father stepping in was when horrified, he realized I was throwing a baseball with the wrong leg in front. After correcting that problem he went back in the house. Other than that, it was hands off. Go outside and have fun, and it WAS fun!

So back to Connor and Kaylee, both of whom were sitting on the track not finishing the race despite their parent’s athletic ability. Coming around the last turn was one little girl who was not struggling to finish. As a matter of fact, she was winning.

This little girl stopped her race foregoing her chance at a win and went over to Kaylee. Offering her hand she helped her friend up and they walked to the finish line together.

Need I say more? group runners 3

About Tracy Buckner

The author contributes to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, New Jersey, and also blogs for the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Workshop, http://humorwriters.org and for The New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Morris County, NJ.http://www.newjerseyhills.com/observer-tribune/blogs/. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming.

3 responses »

  1. I can’t agree more. You know Ava and every week she asks why I won’t let her do one activity or another. I tell her because mama
    knows best. I want her to have FUN! Try lots of things. Unfortunately at 10 if she started something new she would be with younger kids. What has happened…… OK I’ll stop now because I am sounding like my mother:)!

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