When Sebastian was in middle school, he joined the cross country team. I was thrilled about him participating in sports, until he signed up for winter wrestling. Early on I approached the coach.
“I just want you to know, I’m not the type of mom who will insist that her kid gets time on the mat. There are safety issues and it’s up to you to determine if he’s ready to compete. We’re in this for the life lessons.” The coach looked at me like I had five heads.
Before I was a mom or a special educator, I was a modern dancer. Throughout the years I’ve incorporated dance lessons into motherhood. I’ve written an entire book about it, which I hope to publish in the near future.
It has been my goal to use Sebastian’s love of running to help him generalize skills from sports to life. Running has given him a greater sense of independence and accountability. It’s a work in progress, but he is learning to communicate with his coach and teammates and follow directions. He independently organizes his workout schedule, and packs his workout clothes every night. His meet results offer concrete data showing how effort and commitment lead to progress. These are all areas Sebastian has struggled with in his academic life. Now I can point to these experiences and show him how they relate not only to running, but to the classroom and beyond.
Last Saturday at a meet, I watched a runner from a neighboring school team purposefully block Sebastian. When the race was over, several of Sebastian’s teammates and their parents told me they witnessed the same thing throughout the entire race. I spoke to our coach. She spoke to the other team’s coach-who sent the athlete over to apologize to Sebastian.
I watched Sebastian’s teammates stand with him. I watched them struggle to hold their tongues when the opponent gave what they considered a lame excuse for his behavior. Being the teacher/parent that I am, I told this boy, “Have some confidence in yourself.” Seriously, he wasted a lot of time and effort turning to look for Sebastian in order to reposition himself and block the path. Maybe his strategy was to keep kids from catching up to his faster teammates. I don’t know, but I’m sure he would have run a much faster pace himself if he’d just focused on his own race.
He responded to me by saying, “I do have confidence.” So I added, “Then don’t do it like that.”
Sebastian shook the boy’s hand and told me. “He did the wrong thing. It doesn’t make him a bad person.”
“No it doesn’t, but his behavior is an embarrassment to his school. Remember the agreement you signed with the school district about conducting yourself in a sportsman like manner?”
I sincerely hope this boy’s coach makes an effort to teach his athletes about how to honorably represent their school and the consequences of cheating. I can’t control what happens on that end, but I can help my son learn from and value this experience.
Sebastian knows he acted in an appropriate manner throughout the race. His teammates congratulated him for posting a personal best time…..good enough for a medal.
Later, Sebastian confided that he was getting pretty mad during the race. I congratulated him for staying calm and focused under pressure. Just a few short years ago, his tolerance for frustration was low. I was quick to point this growth out to him and reinforce the idea that his ability to manage a frustrating situation without negatively escalating his behavior can apply to situations outside of sports.
Sebastian, when confronted with adversity, take deep breaths, stay focused on working hard, embrace your community’s support, and keep that beautiful ability to forgive and see the good in others.
I will work on following your lead.