Life Lessons from the High Jump Pit

Photo by Morris Watkins, Jr.

This post was originally shared on my personal Facebook page in April, early in the high school track and field season. With track seasons moving into regional and state finals, I wanted to share this as a thank you to my son’s track coaches – and as a reminder of the significance of the PR (personal record). Enjoy! ~Mary Ann

Last night, my junior broke his PR (personal record) in the high jump by several inches for a new PR of 6’2”, placing first in his favorite event! It was pretty amazing to watch considering our memories of his first attempts to clear even the lowest bar just a couple of years ago.

As he was jumping, I heard a stranger further down the fence loudly encouraging him. The man called him “Blue Shoes.” He cheered for him and engaged with him between jumps, as you might expect from a family member or friend. As a result, I met Mr. Watkins and his wife, who have a granddaughter on the team, and who shared their photographs of my son’s jump with me today.

It turns out a track meet is a great way to make some new friends.

Last night, the blue sky, the warm sun, the “catching up” conversations among the parents, the encouraging cheers for every single participant, the new friends, the diversity of student athletes… it was like track and field was wrapped up like a gift and tied with a bow.

It was perfect.

Photo from Canva.com

My boys have played a lot of sports, but the atmosphere of a track meet is different, and I could not love it more:

In track, you can participate in several different events. So you can come in first 🏆 and last 😢 on the very same day.

In track, you can decide to try something completely new in the middle of the season – even though you may not be any “good” at it. You are encouraged to try everything – to voluntarily experience the discomfort of something new, to embrace the inevitability of occasional failure when you are adventurous.

In track, people cheer just as loudly for the last person to cross the finish line as they do for the first.

In track, a PR is celebrated. A PR may be only two seconds faster or an inch higher, and even with the PR, you may have come in last. But you beat your own self, kid! So throw some confetti! 🎉

In track, the kids from the other schools congratulate you. They become your friends. You inspire one another. It’s both competitive and friendly.

In track, the athletes are tall or short or thin or muscular or anything else you can imagine. In track and field, there is a place for you. For every “you” who wants to try.

In track, you didn’t have to start expensive training when you were three-years-old to be successful.

In track, you don’t have to conquer someone else to secure a spot for yourself. That fact alone transforms a group dynamic significantly.

Basically, track and field is kind of like the world I want to live in.

The kind of world where personal growth is celebrated and failure is safe and competition is friendly, and everyone experiences some success and everyone is humbled on a regular basis.

The kind of world where a guy who doesn’t know your name calls you “Blue Shoes” to encourage you and then kindly friends your mom on Facebook to send photos and share in your joy.

The kind of world where everyone is aiming for a new personal record.

So, please, please, PLEASE – try to PR in something tomorrow.

Set your own personal record in anything.

Actually, try to PR tomorrow in EVERYTHING you do.

Be just a little nicer. Help just a little more. Listen just a little better. Learn just a little something new. Waste just a little less time doing something that isn’t good for you.

Because small, consistent improvement creates a significant positive change over time. Each little PR matters.

I learned that from track. Just by standing on the outside of the fence, looking in. 😉

To those who spent many beautiful (and some not-so-beautiful) spring evenings at the track coaching teenagers in running, jumping, vaulting, throwing, and LIFE – THANK YOU!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Confucius

2 thoughts on “Life Lessons from the High Jump Pit

  1. Mary Ann, This post is the best piece of meaningful writing I have seen in a very long time! Could I please post it on Facebook for those of us who’ve survived the Corona terror, are now out the other side and are looking for things that could help others learn to find positive things to encourage each other to make a change for a better world. Your words can do that! You are so inspiring to me and always find a lesson in life experiences that can help others make a personal change and help our friends do the same. Thank you so very much for sharing your life with me. I am honored to know you.
    I love you sweet lady!
    Kay

    Like

  2. Thank you, Kay! Please feel free to share anything from the blog! I actually added this to the blog for that reason. 💗 And thanks for your kind words; they mean so much after a difficult year. You have lived a life full of adventure that inspires me!

    Like

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