Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Running With the Pack

One of my sons has spent the last year training for track and cross-county.  He started off as a mediocre runner due to having no previous running experience.  After training faithfully during last school year and during the summer, he has really blossomed as a runner.  My son keeps a list of all his times and splits from each race a sets a new goal for the next meet.  He usually finishes first or second for his team.  It's gratifying to place well, but my son's motivation is meeting his next time goal.    As a high school sophomore, he still has a lot of time to improve over the next few years.

During one of his recent invitationals, my son was the lone person from his team in the fastest group.  Several of his team mates were in the second group of runners, who were several seconds behind the first group.  A few members from one of the opposing teams were in my son's group. When the group reached a wooded area, one of the opponents purposely pushed my son into the bushes.  The pushing opponent's team mates then spit on my son as they passed him.

It was poor sportsmanship and a little disgusting.  My son was slightly taken aback.  Cross country runners aren't considered "jocks" and in general tend to be nice, slightly nerdy kids.  My son got off the ground and continued the race, but didn't do as well as he normally does.  It did inspire my son to work harder, so that he can beat these particular opponents next time.

This event got me thinking about how our society treats people who strive for personal achievement.  People who don't hang with the group.  There are advantages to staying part of the pack.  Bike racers usually ride in a pack to help the fastest racer win.  The team mates take turns riding first to provide a break by giving less wind resistance.  It also protects all the team mates from unsportsmanlike conduct by opponents.

Academically gifted students frequently don't perform to their abilities so that they aren't ostracized by less gifted or less motivated classmates.   Think about the nerdy kid who is picked on because he doesn't look or act like all his peers.  I remember the genius in our freshman class at high school was was frequently given "swirlies" because he was able to speak Greek and Latin.  The upper class-men were intimidated by his skill with languages and punished him.

Is it any wonder that we are becoming a nation of  under-achievers?  Yes, Steve Jobs' brilliance was eventually noticed, but there are other intelligent, gifted and ordinary people who never strive for excellence because they are squashed by society's pressure. 

Isn't it a shame that trying to do your best gets you pushed to the ground and spit upon?  It makes running with the pack instead of striving from improvement look appealing.

1 comment:

MaryAnn said...

Very well stated. So sorry for Joe, that was terrible sportsmanship. But he will persevere & be stronger than before.