I believe athletics are a great teacher of valuable life lessons. It is also just as easy to substitute another extracurricular activity that people are committed to personal excellence.
On October 12, Matheus was pumped and committed to run his personal-best cross country time of the year. He had been progressively improving on his best times through late September and early October and was getting tremendously inspired by his progress. The October 12th race was the state district race, with individuals and teams advancing to regionals based on best times. We were realistic that Matheus did not have much chance to advance, but running his best time seemed easily in reach.
We were a little concerned when his right leg became tender the last two weeks of the season. He received a trainer treatment the on October 11 and felt he was ready to go.
The morning of October 12 was cold, rainy, and muddy. Jen, Ryan, Sawyer, and myself hauled ourselves to the meet to root Matheus on. We pushed the double stroller through the muck and waited for the runners to make the first pass by us. The herd came rumbling by, and we didn’t see Matheus. Jen and I became concerned that his leg was bothering him, and our fears were soon confirmed as we saw Matheus running with a severe limp as the last runner in the race. Jen and I became teary-eyed as we watched him run by us, trying to encourage him to finish.
Fifteen minutes later, most of the runners had completed the race and we did not see Matheus. We waited…and waited…and waited…
Our hearts sank when Matheus was hauled to the finish line and first aid station in a John Deere Gator. He told us he just could not go on, he could not put any weight on his right foot. In the matter of 40 minutes, his goals went from running his best time to simply just finishing the race…and he wasn’t able to do that. I was proud that he changed his goals, and proud that he tried to gut it out as long as he could. This was a display of tremendous mental toughness and intelligence when he stopped before sustaining too much injury damage.
I was so impressed by watching athletes giving their all to run their best times for themselves and their teams, to the point of getting light-headed and throwing up or dry-heaving upon crossing the finish line. These young people had my admiration for being willing to push themselves so hard. I hope these youngsters can take this commitment to all areas of their lives. If they do, they will be tremendous contributors to their families and communities.
Matheus has been resting and rehabbing his leg, and it is slowly returning to full strength. He has learned he needs to stretch and strengthen his leg muscles more to run effectively. He is learning how to deal with adversity, develop mental toughness to push forward, and how to balance his exercise activities. He listened to his coaches throughout the season, pushed himself hard in practice, and focused on continuous improvement. These lessons will serve Matheus so well. He also got to make valuable friendships that have eased his transition into the high school.
This incident was painful, but I think the lessons learned will serve him well.
I would love to hear lessons others have learned through extracurricular activities. Take care.