A few weeks ago I let you know that little Alfie won the 100mtr sprint at his school’s Athletics Carnival.
This meant that he and the second-place-getter qualified to compete at the Zone Carnival where 14 schools from around the area get together for a day of intense competition (think Olympic trials).
Alfie has not had any previous experience or training and on the weekend, (with the big day looming) he asked, ‘Shouldn’t I be doing some training?’ Good point. So we walked up to the local oval with me in the important position of head coach.
When we arrived at the 100mtr track there was a father training his daughter. ‘Hello’, I said, all smiles.
‘Hi’, he replied looking down at his shoes.
‘Is your daughter training for the Zone Carnival?’ I asked in a most friendly tone.
‘Oh, so is my son. What event is your daughter running in?’
‘Oh, what a coincidence. So is my boy. What age group?’
‘Oh, Alfie’s in the Under 8′s. Would you like to train together?’
And he looked at his daughter and he looked back at me and said, ‘Not really’, and off they walked.
Never mind. The father and daughter removed themselves to the other side of the oval where there wasn’t even a 100mtr track to practise on but this left us with the exact part of the oval we needed. Drawing on all my knowledge of sprinting (from about three decades ago) I started Alfie off with a warm-up. Then I took out my i-phone and turned on the stop-watch and had him do some sprints. 22 Seconds. Not very good. We worked on starts and I noticed he would begin with his eyes to the ground rather than looking at the finish line so we fixed that, then I told him he needed to keep his arms closer to his sides and, ‘the faster you swing your arms, the faster your legs will move’ (I remember being taught that – hope it’s still relevant), then we worked on sprinting out of the blocks. Final sprint: 18 seconds. Not a bad effort to reduce your 100mtr time by four seconds in one training session!
So we went home feeling like he just might be able to keep up with the pack.
Earlier in the week I had received a phone call from the school’s sports master saying I had put my name down as a helper.
‘No I didn’t', I replied.
‘Are you sure? Because we’ve got Alfie’s form and you’ve ticked the box saying you would like to help’. I really must slow down and read the fine print. But this is a public school and it needs its helpers.
‘How long would I be helping for?’
‘You’d need to be there at 8.30 and we’ll probably finish around two’.
‘Oh’. I was hoping to be home by around ten.
‘But you won’t be doing it on your own; there are lots of other parent helpers’.
‘Well I do want to watch my son’s race; you wouldn’t be locking me in a cupboard under the stairs for the day would you?’
‘No, no; you’ll be outside and you can definitely watch his race’.
‘Oh, okay. I’d love to’, I said, wincing. And I know it sounds like I have a very bad attitude towards helping but it’s just I wore myself out helping at Archie and Arabella’s schools. Third child syndrome.
So on Monday morning after I fed Alfie a winner’s breakfast of raisin toast and a banana (that Arabella then screamed was the wrong thing to do because it was full of short-release sugars), we set off to the carnival.
The traffic was appalling and so we arrived at the far-flung venue about 10 minutes late. When we found our school’s section of the grandstand I saw a mother waving frantically at me. I waved back mistakenly thinking she was being friendly. Then the yelling started. I climbed the stairs to where she was standing with a cap on her head and paperwork in her hands looking very official. ‘You’re the parent co-ordinator’.
‘You’re the parent co-ordinator and we’ve been doing your job without you.’
‘I said I’d be a parent helper.’ Then she waved the paperwork at me and I noticed that my name was on the front of it written in bold letters with the title ‘Parent Co-ordinator’ beneath it and someone had helpfully run a highlighter over this information for great emphasis.
‘You need to ask the competitors their size then give them one of these shirts to wear, then mark off their names then make sure they return them at the end of the day. Here’s the list of competitors and here’s a pen’. And then she sat down, pulled out a trashy magazine and stuck her head in it, only lifting it to watch her son’s race.
Right then. So I busied myself in my solo role as somehow there weren’t any other helpers, however, I was hardly run off my feet. The weather was too good to be true and on this winter’s day I was plastering myself in sunscreen (and Alfie!) concerned I was going to be burnt to a cinder. The setting of the carnival was in a very beautiful rural area and so I found the day quite relaxing.
But back to Alfie. He did his best. He got off to a great start. He kept his head up and looked to the finish line. He didn’t trip or fall or veer from his lane. He kept his arms to his sides and he worked them vigorously. He came 5th in his heat and there were six heats. Not a good enough result for the finals and although he was disappointed he knew he had run his best race and that was what I’d been telling him is the most important thing. The thing is, to be in contention he needed to be running the race at around 15 or 16 seconds, not the 18 seconds I think is his pace.
As for the ‘Parent Co-ordinator’, I was there for the long haul and almost the last to leave.
It was a good day out; Alfie enjoyed his day outside of the classroom and I felt blessed to be able to be there to support him.
And we took him out to dinner to celebrate – at the Buena Vista where Arabella was our waitress!
He’s my Usain Bolt in the making.
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