At Cross Country practice, we try to teach our kids “life lessons” with running. We coaches see the kids for a few hours a week, and we strive to send them home zapped of energy so that they eat dinner, go to bed, and stay (relatively) out of their parents’ hair.
Hey, all of us either have or work with kids- we know the parents love that :).
We also hope the kids leave the track with lessons about self-respect, sportsmanship, integrity, teamwork, and persistence– lessons they can use in the 164 hours a week when they’re not on a trail or track.
Our whole philosophy is pushing the kids (most of whom are between the ages of 6 and 11) to do their best. Notice I didn’t say “be the best”, but “do your best”.
A few weeks ago, during a hill workout, a few kids cut corners and didn’t run around all the flags or touch the fence. Maybe they thought they could get away with it. They thought wrong. Tonight, another coach and I ran hills with the team and made sure the kids pushed themselves and got a strong, tiring, and honest workout.
I ran behind one of our younger kids and noticed him cut off a few flags. After making him come back and run around the flag again, I found myself saying something I never thought I’d say at 26.
Ladies and gentlemen, those words make working with children so much easier and more enjoyable than dealing with adult attitudes. It’s also why I’m grateful XC season is in the Fall, Nationals are close to Christmas, and we have kids who still earnestly and innocently believe.
“Santa is watching you” doesn’t work with junior high kids. It’s an easy way to lose the respect I earned by being able to drive, living outside of my parents’ house, and showing guys how to do a “CrossFit Style” push up.
“Santa is watching you” doesn’t work in the professional world- aside from causing most of my coworkers’ blood pressures to rise since they have to play Santa in a few weeks.
Santa aside, kids -and people in general- are highly impressionable. Others take what you say to heart. Others pick up your habits and lifestyle. After I said it, I thought a little about myself. Am I touching the fence at the top of every hill? Am I “cutting corners” occasionally? What about you?
Do your best. All the time. Even when you think no one’s watching.
Santa may not be watching, but someone is.