A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
180s IN A 220 WORLD
It wasn’t that Milo
was a bad athlete. He was good. Well, OK – he was average. He wasn’t a klutz – not by any means. But he wasn’t exactly an all-star,
either. At least, nobody thought so
until the day he shattered the school record in the 220-yard dash.
was in 6th period gym class when it happened.
In an effort to discover hidden talent the high school gym teachers were
timing all of the students in the “non-athlete” gym classes (all of the
athletes on school teams were assigned to a special 7th period class) in
various events. Generally, the search
proved to be futile. Most coaches
believed that any serious athletic talent would have been discovered long
before high school. Still, there was
always the chance of a late bloomer or a new move-in coming along who could
help some team, somewhere. So they timed
the “non-athletes” – expecting nothing, but hoping for something.
had always been pretty fast – not REALLY fast, but faster than . . . well . . .
some, so he wasn’t all that surprised when he finished first in the class in
the 220-yard dash. But he was surprised
by the look of awe that was on the coach’s face when he announced Milo’s
“Is that good?” Milo
The coach looked at him,
stunned and amazed. “It’s a new school
record,” he said. “In fact, I’m pretty
sure it’s a state record – maybe even a national record for your age group.”
was special. The coach treated him with
new respect. And the rest of the
non-athlete gym class viewed him almost heroically – even though his success
meant he didn’t belong among them anymore.
“Are you going to join the
track team now?” one of his friends asked.
“I’m faster than Johnny Bibler,” he said, invoking the name of the fastest guy in
the school until that afternoon. “I sort
of feel obligated.”
It was all very exciting –
until the gym teacher figured out that he had made a mistake in his placement
of the finish line that day, and Milo had run only 180
yards instead of the required 220. In
other words, if he and Johnny Bibler had raced
against each other, Johnny probably would have won by about 40 yards.
Or would he?
“I was running pretty well
that day,” Milo said.
“I might have run fast enough that the coach would have been willing to
let me join the team so he could work with me.
But I never got the chance to run the full distance, so I guess I’ll
Unfortunately, a lot of our
young people are running 180s in a 220 world.
Well-meaning parents, teachers and others shorten the race for them
rather than pushing them to the full extent of their ability – at home, at
school, in the neighborhood, at church.
We want them to like us and we don’t want them to be “stressed,” so we
allow them to think it’s OK if they pull up short of the mark. We accept C’s when the child is capable of
A’s. We consider “it’s boring” an
acceptable reason to quit piano lessons or going to church. We don’t challenge their excuses, as if we
actually believe that teachers, computers, umpires and that kid up the street
are out to get them. We think we’re
helping them by making their lives easier and less stressful.
But we’re not. Not really.
Eventually life will demand that they run a full 220 – all-out, no
stopping, no excuses. Those who have not
learned how to push themselves to go the entire distance will find it
difficult, if not impossible, to cope.
And, like Milo,
they’ll never know what might have been just 40yards down the track.
# # #
— © Joseph Walker
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