Teammates and Sportsmanship

Judith carried Cara across the Finish

Judith carried Cara across the Finish

I have been coaching since 2001 when as a senior at Houghton College I was injured and missed my entire senior year,  the Head Coach Bob Smalley offered me a position as an assistant coach and allowed to me coach the entire distance team with his guidance.   I was in way over my head but I loved it and I learned one important lesson that has guided my coaching ever since.   The result is secondary to the experience the relationships,  work ethic, self confidence, and character built those things are what matter most.

This years cross country season ended at our National Championships and as is often the case the actions of the team I coach not only humbled me but reminded me of what matters most in sport.  Our season for both men and women had been an up down year with good results and then not so great results.   The National Championship was that final chance for the team to show how good they really were,  but we needed all 7 runners to  have their best meet of the season.  The crazy thing is that they did just that our women were knocking it out of the park (to borrow a cliche from another sport) ,  with less than one kilometer to go they were easily running as a top 10 team and possibly as high as 7th and they were getting stronger as the race went on.  Thats until 50 meters to go.

I left my spot with about 400 meters to go feeling confident about the result, it looked as if everyone had their best race of the season.   Looking through the masses of runners in the finish coral proved difficult I couldn’t find our team, anywhere.  Then I saw them all huddled together right at the finish, someone was lying on the ground.   Cara’s eyes were open but she was clearly not ok, my assistant coach Andrew looked at me and I knew what had happened.   Cara had physically pushed herself to the  limits and collapsed a mere 50 meters from the finish, she attempted to finish but couldn’t.  Her teammate Judith stopped , helped Cara to her feet and carried her across the line.  It was the most selfless act of sportsmanship I could ever hope my team to exemplify.

The officials immediately choose to disqualify them and if your a rules person they should’ve been.  Myself I choose to look at everything in regards to that exact instance and while I could get pretty hot under the collar it just doesn’t matter.  These young lady’s did what was right and maybe we didn’t hit our goal of a top 10 finish and all that … but was that race a success yeah the best result I could ever want.

Cross country is  a pretty simple sport at least on the surface ;it is be the fastest from the start to the finish and have a bunch of fast teammates too.   Really though its about family, about community and learning to love ourselves and others too.




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