Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Track Kids Out of Focus

I was approached last spring by our head track coach, who is also my brother, and was asked if I would consider being the assistant track coach for this school year.  It was explained that the paycheck for this position is basically non-existent and the hours of coaching are many. 
Who can say "no" to that kind of offer, right?
I gladly accepted the position and my reward has been great this track season.

We are finishing up a very successful track season. We set several new school records this year. We had a team member sign a college scholarship for her field events. We have earned medals of every color for a variety of events.  Our team just finished our Sectional Championships and walked away with a girls 1st place trophy and the boys finished 4th.  Two weeks ago, we were proudly awarded the County Championship trophies for both boys and girls.
We just had 20+ kids earn spots into the elite group of State Track and Field qualifiers.
For a track team from a school with a very high rate of poverty with absolutely no track to practice on, I would say that we have performed quite well.

I have been at every single event cheering them on and snapping photos of their many moments of glory.

But, all of that success is not the real success story.

The trophies, the medals, the championships, the accolades.....
that isn't the biggest success.

The best stories of our team is not about all the kids who will compete in State.
The best part of our track season is not the medals our kids earned.
The most successful part of our track season is not the Championship trophies.
All of those things are amazing and deserve applause, and
I have pointed my camera lens toward many of those moments this track season.

But, the real success this track season doesn't lie in the spot light.

The success lies in the blurry edges of the photographs.
The best stories happened along the edges of the track and in the stands.
The success was in the infield, not in lanes 1-8.

I have been a part of athletic teams all my life.
Softball, basketball, baseball, football, cheering, band, one time or another, I have been involved in all of those.  But, I have never been a part of a team that is as "team" oriented as this track team.  This track team truly roots for each other.  With all of their heart, they hope for success for their team mates.  This group of kids has a selfless love for each other that is beyond honorable.

I have witnessed it in person all season, but as I scrolled back through the photographs I have taken, I saw it there, too. 

The success of this track season is in the edges of the photos. 
The success of this season lies in the kids who are out of focus.

In this photo, the kid competing is running for a spot in the State Track Meet.  It's the coveted spot that he missed by hundredths of a second the day before.  It's a spot he was given by a team member who wanted him to have the opportunity to qualify for State.  The red headed dude in the infield had been running alongside him cheering him he did with almost every single race that day.  He looks nervous because he is worried that the kid competing will not make the top 5 and will not get to compete.  The red headed kid had already been eliminated.  He had not made the qualifying mark himself, but wanted it for his team mate.  That is success.

The kid running hurdles earned a spot in Sectionals in only one event to try to compete at the State Level.  (He happens to be my kid.) He was running as just a 7th grader, so his chances were small, but he wanted to go to State badly.  He had been beyond nervous all day.  His hands were visibly shaking when he was lifting up his water cup during the day.  The rest of the team (all older kids), took him under his wing and were the epitome of encouragement.  When I looked back at the photographs, I noticed that our team members stopped their events and cheered him on when it was his turn on the track. They truly wanted the little 7th grader to do well. That is a success story.

The cup of water in his hand was brought to him by another team member seconds after he crossed the finish line.  And the kid with the black leggings was his team mate, but also his competitor.  Just before they raced each other, he said this...
"I have already qualified for State.  I would rather you qualify for State in this event than me qualify twice.  I hope you get to go, man. You deserve it."
That is a success story.

These kids out of focus in the infield are cheering for their team mates instead of preparing for their own race. This happened over and over this season with every kid and every race. That is a success story.

On this race day, the infield of the track had been a place for hundreds and hundreds of athletes to warm up and prepare to race.  Those hundreds of athletes left hundreds of pieces of trash behind.  The infield was littered with bottles of water, cups, and snack wrappers.  At the end of the day, I watched a single child, a member of  our track team, quietly walk the infield and pick up every piece of trash that was left behind by the other teams and take it to the trash can.  He never said a word about it and thought no one noticed.  That is a success story.

I have listened to them encourage each other with kind words all season.  It has been all around me.  I have listened and it has done my soul good.    There ARE still older kids who offer encouragement to younger kids.  Not ALL girls are mean girls.  Not EVERY guy tries to win at the cost of other guys. We ARE still raising some children with compassion.  There is still goodness in our kids.
There is still love.

I have seen the selflessness all year.  It was just beyond the focus of the camera.  Behind the scenes. It was in the stands.  The success was in the encouraging social media posts. It was in the seat on the bus ride with the star senior track member sitting with the little boy team manager.  The success was in the wordless high fives in the hallways. It was on the edge of the sidelines.  The success was cheering at the start line.  It was waiting with water at the finish line. 
The success was the way our kids treated each other.

The success of our team was great this year, and I am blessed to have been a part of it.

"Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."
     ~1 Thessalonians 5:11


Jackie said...

Thank you for sharing this story. What a blessing to know that our track members are so loving and compassionate. I know they work very hard with so little. Thank you for working with the young people and being a great role model.

Layla Foshee said...

Someone sent me your link, and it truly touched my heart to read your blog post about these kids. I am so thankful for the great sponsors and wonderful kids of the track team. I love this blog post!