Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Missed Opportunity...


moving on to Regionals, 2011-Recreational Track and Field

Let me clarify this letter prior to your reading…it was written (and sent) to the coaches of the middle school (7th and 8th graders) track team to which my son didn’t make the team.  Although I risk being viewed as a disgruntled parent, I’m not. I’m more upset with the principle that these coaches missed a gigantic opportunity to send a message to invite all kids, regardless of talent, to get up off the couch, get active and to start young in developing a healthy lifestyle. Instead, it appears the coaches persisted to send a ‘win at all costs’ message that society continues to perpetuate.
Dear Coaches,
As a parent of a child who did not make this year’s middle school track team, I felt a strong need to question and understand your objectives and goals for such a sport. As in most sports at the middle school level, coaches have an unenviable position of having 50-plus students try out for a single team and then whittling those names to a roster to 12-20 kids. Granted, these teams; soccer, baseball, football and basketball are definite sports of skill and ability. Most likely, the kids who make these teams have been in the sport for a good part of their lives in order to develop these skills.
So while Nicholas did try out for basketball and soccer, we feel he probably knew as well as we did that there was little chance he would make the team.

However, in trying out for the track team and the perceptions toward such a sport I thought might be a bit different as running is a unique kind of sport. If the correct goals and objectives are in place at a middle school level as well as the desires of coaches, track can have the irreplaceable benefit of developing youngsters into their abilities as well as evolving kids into a positive and healthy lifestyle.
I’m finding it difficult to understand how in a sport where numerous runners can be placed into most given events (multiple heats) that you would have a rooster of only 15 or so students? Track is the ideal environment to get many students involved not only during practice but giving many a chance to compete in at least one event.  What considerations have you given to injuries or kids that drop out?

Having been a track coach (my husband) that qualified athletes for the state finals I was able to grow my program by encouraging every student that wanted to be a part of the team to come out.  Needless to say I was never surprised by a student who matured into a competitive athlete. But perhaps the most rewarding part was having the knowledge that each student felt a part of the TEAM.  So despite wanting to build a team that was competitive I did not do this with a win at all cost mentality. Nonetheless it appears obvious your interests lie elsewhere.
Allow me to share with you the link to USA Today where a school in your own backyard, Green Hope High School has developed an outstanding cross country program dedicated to students for the joy of running and the desire to be part of something bigger than them; wouldn’t our middle school children be so lucky to have such an outlook? Other schools are showcased in the article as well and granted they are speaking of students at a high school level, but I can assure you many of these runners developed as middle school students who were given an opportunity to participate, belong and advance whatever abilities they encompassed.

In researching records set by 2011 North Carolina Middle School runners; the very individuals you are coaching, a fourteen year old youngster ran the mile in 4:58-Very Impressive! A seventh grade student ran and won a meet with a 5:29; again, good for them!-however those students are few and far between since many other North Carolina Middle School runners completed events and placed in the top twenty with times over 8 minutes.  While they were not in the medals they came away with something even more valuable, again they competed as a member of a TEAM. 

The point is that while winning is the reason we keep score much more can be gained by any kid that has a strong desire to be part of something.  I’m convinced they had dedicated and caring coaches to foster, nurture and encourage them and their love of running. I only wish Nicholas would have been afforded that same chance!
the Spaine's

32 comments:

Wanda's Wings said...

It is truly sad that the opportunity is not given to all.

Happy Days said...

I think your letter was very well put and hope that in the future they will keep your words in mind. I'm sorry your son missed this opportunity. As a mother of two kids, a son and daughter, who were both in track from middle school to high school and for one in college, I know where you are coming from and agree with all you said....debbie

Sylvia K said...

I do so feel the same way!! My kids are grown now but they grew up in a relatively small town in Montana -- and it was a blessing that we are all grateful for today. The schools were different then, the principals, coaches and teachers were different -- it wasn't all about winning, it was about fun, learning and doing new things as a group and supporting each other! I've never been more grateful for that environment my kids enjoyed then than I am today. A sad, but excellent post, Tracy!

Sylvia

Daisy said...

Well-written letter, Tracy. What a shame that your son and others were denied the opportunity to participate. Our local track coach puts the emphasis on the kids doing their personal best and then trying to improve on it. Winning is nice, but setting and meeting personal goals is what the coach tries to teach them.

Catherine said...

My son liked phys ed until grade 7 at which time they introduced competition. He was never good at sports and so when that became what gym was all about instead of just moving around and having fun, he started to hate it. Good for you for writing that letter!
xo Catherine

Madi and Mom said...

WELL ONE THING MY MOM KNOWS FOR SURE AFTER MEETING THIS OUTGOING, FUN LOVING, HANDSOME, AND ALL AROUND YOUNG MAN...IT IS THE COACH'S AND TEAM'S LOSS.

A YOUNG MAN LIKE HIM COULD HAVE CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH TO ANY TEAM!!
NOT TO WORRY YOUNG MAN YOUR TALENTS ARE MOST APPRECIATED BY THOSE WHO ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO KNOW YOU.
HUGS MADI AND MOM

Old Kitty said...

I have no idea how the system works over there - here we all have to do sports once a week for two hours whether we want to or not!

I do like your letter! I hope it gives these coaches some food for thought! Your boy is super amazing and I can totally see where he gets his amazingness from!

Take care
x

Sylvia said...

Hello Tracy,
Thanks for your nice comment on my blog, yours is interesting too !
Well done to write that letter and I enjoyed your post about faith.
And your cat is so cute :-)
Wish you a nice week,
Sylvia

Marg said...

I think that is so terrific that you wrote that letter. All kids should be given an opportunity to play sports, especially as a team member. We applaud you for writing that letter. Well done

Mamma has spoken said...

It's sad when a sport such as track is limited to such a small number. At our local schools, there are a few sports that the students know that as long as they show up, they're on the team and track is one of them. It's not uncommon to go to a high school football game and see 100 boys in uniform because of this.
Glad to see your son is willing to keep it up and not let those coaches limit his abilities.

Brian said...

Well I agree, it is a shame that those who want to participate don't get the opportunity.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Tracy,

Great letter. I'm sorry you had to write it. You're right. Running especially is unique in that there's room for the kids to grow in practice and plenty of opportunities to participate in events.

That should be the focus of school sports--to help the kids develop their skills. But winning has become the main goal, if not the only goal. It's sad.

Lin said...

Amen, sister. It's ridiculous that at that level, all kids aren't accepted and encouraged to be on the team. Okay, I get that you would run your best during an important meet, but can't we let everyone work out with the team? Or is it a cost thing? Do they need to buy everyone a shirt/shorts and supply transportation to the meets? Then, I can understand. But why not allow them to all work out together?

Coming from a mediocre-at-best swimmer, I wasn't competitive enough to be a first place finisher, but you know, I had a blast on the high school swim team. I think I would have been booted with today's standards--which is a shame. CAn't they just be kids anymore?

Nancy said...

Your letter was well written and to the point and I can only hope they "heard" what you were saying....It's a shame that all kids don't get the opportunity to participate in some sport while in middle school...After all, isn't the goal to teach health and setting of goals outside the classroom....

I am proud of you for standing up for what is right...

Dianne said...

beautifully written
hope they "get it"
my son played a million sports throughout his childhood and I loved the coaches that made it about the game, not the score

Corine said...

Good job! :) It is so sad to see coaches more concerned with the pride they get in having a winning team - than with actually being there for the kids (all of them...)! I think more parents need to speak up as you did and maybe they would find less pride in making such selfish decisions...

Sarah (Nikki) said...

Tracy, I totally agree with what you said. I went through something similar with my youngest. Well said and your son is a winner!!!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

I find it sad that everything in life now seems to be about winning and losing... Where's the fun in life anymore? Things have changed so much --and kids are being taught that it's all about winning at any cost... Too bad about that...

Hope you get a response--but they probably will just think of you as another unhappy parent... Kinda sad --what is happening...

Hugs,
Betsy

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Your letter is very eloquent. What a bummer he didn't make the team - back in my day they let everyone who wanted to do track on. As a mediocre runner myself, I'd encourage him to run in local races if it's something he enjoys. There are plenty around and it's a lot of fun.

*Sheila* said...

Well done to have written this letter to those short sighted coaches. While winning is great, participation has it's own merits.
I hope they took note and take a fresh look at any future events, with an eye to team work, and the benefits of exercise.
Who was it said 'it matters not if we win or lose, but how we play the game!'

Remington said...

Well done, my friend....

Laura said...

Well written!
We live in a small, but very sports-oriented, district. If you want to play a sport, you join the team. Of course the more gifted play more than the rest, but everyone is given an opportunity to play. My son was in high school track for three years. He was not there to win any awards, but to be part of the team.
I've had a lot of complaints about our district over the years, but I've always admired that they never caved on this policy. And they have won state championships in both football and girls' volleyball (and maybe more), so it works!

Arkansas Patti said...

Very well said and I hope it struck a nerve where it could do some good.
And we wonder why we have obese kids. They are discouraged from participating unless they can excel.
Your son is adorable.

Rita said...

What is our world coming to? Good for you for speaking up. Hopefully someone will take notice.It really is a shame.
Rita

Reena Walkling said...

Great letter and there should be a way that all kids can participate!

Nancy Claeys said...

While I can understand your frustration as a parent, perhaps this does not have to be a missed opportunity for Nicholas. Is there a program at the YMCA or perhaps a running club he could join to continue this sport? Just a thought. :)

"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

Bravo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gentle hugs,
"Auntie"

Jenny Woolf said...

Kids need first to feel they are welcome and belong, and everything will develop from that.

Just Be Real said...

A very well written letter. Blessings.

Kim @ Stuff could... said...

This is a tough thought...I hope he feels better with sports

Just Be Real said...

Just came back by to give a ((((Tracy))))

Pat Tillett said...

I read this out of order and my comment on the your latest post, also addresses this one.