Tell me I’m not the only one who has let their kid beat them at Candy Land from time to time in order to avoid a tantrum.
Yes, it started early on. Josiah had a strong comptetitive edge even in those Candy Land playing days. He couldn’t wait to compete in a sport, but first he needed to learn how to lose preschool board games without throwing the game pieces across the room.
So, while I did take the easy way out and let him win once in a while, I knew I had to help him learn how to lose well and be a good sport.
Important Lessons to Learn
That lesson was a hard one, but there were plenty of opportunites. We had a lot of lost games or events that didn’t go our way that brought tears, fits and pouting. These were followed by many talks and discussions about winning and losing.
It is important for us to teach our kids that their identity does not come from their athletic ability. Their identity is found in Christ. For them to know they are loved and accepted by our merciful, loving Savior- no matter how they perform – is our number one goal and prayer for them.
While winning is more fun, there are often more important lessons that come from losing. Anyone can be a good sport when you win; it’s harder when you lose.
I would get calls and notes from time to time from teachers letting me know that Josiah got a bit comptetive in PE or a classroom game. We had more talks…
A New Sport
In 2016, this competitive kid who was involved in basketball, baseball, and football was introduced to a different sport, Cross Country. He watched his older friend compete at the State Cross Country meet in Huron, SD. He became an instant fan. He could not wait to partake in this sport.
The following year, he joined this sport whose motto found on many t-shirts says, “Our sport is your sport’s punishment.” A sport of all running. He loved it.
He made it to state in 8th grade, and placed 54th. At that age, you are just excited to get there, but he began forming high hopes for his future.
He was one motivated, self-disciplined kid. He worked hard in the off-season. He would run 4-5 miles before basketball games. A lot of lonely, dirt road runs became a norm for him.
The next 3 years he got closer to his goal. His freshman year he placed 16th. As a sophomore he landed in 8th place. That was a race to remember as it was snowing that year. He loved running in the cold!
Not Satisfied with Second Place
His junior year he placed second. We were ecstatic. He had made a move to get himself in that position late in the race. We were so proud.
He got to work right away, however. He knew he would see that number one runner in the spring track season. He was focused on beating him in those long distant track races. When he once again placed 2nd to the same runner at the state track meet, he was devastated.
He had a personal record on that 2 mile run in the state track meet. We were so happy for him, but losing was still not something he accepted well.
His senior season began. He lost a few early meets to a suprising competitor who had put a lot of work in that summer. Josiah’s physically demanding summer job and other activities had made it more challenging to fit in all the hours he needed to train.
A couple of defeats early in the cross country season put the fire back in him. He was going to get it done this year.
He turned it on and began getting stronger physically and mentally through the season. The region meet came along on an extrememly windy, blustery day. He often got mentally beat with extreme wind or hot days. That day, he proved his mental toughness. He came out on top beating his number one competitor.
On to the state meet. It was quite fitting that his last high school cross country meet would take place on the course where he first witnessed the sport.
The night before the race I prayed for him to get good sleep. I know in the past, he could get so anxious he would have a hard time sleeping. Running well on little sleep is difficult. He slept great, he reported the next morning. He looked at his sleep-recording watch and saw that he had gotten 9 1/2 hours in fact!
I should have prayed for me to sleep as I found myself tossing and turning through the night. I knew how badly he wanted this. I knew how hard he had been working towards the goal of finishing on top. The newspapers were predicting Josiah to win the class B title. No pressure.
He ate breakfast and said he wasn’t that nervous. I was thankful for that. Nerves can mess with your mind. I wish I could have said the same about me.
Class B boys was the last race of the day for the state meet this year. We enjoyed cheering on the other classes, seeing friends and runners we knew.
It was finally time. As I made my way to the start line, the nerves made my whole body ache. I told my friend how nervous I was and she grabbed my hand and prayed for Josiah right there. She prayed for him to run well, to run smart, and to be able to persevere through the nerves.
The gun went off and so did I. As soon as the herd of runners ran past me, I sprinted towards the back side of the course. I had to follow him and keep tabs on how he was doing. Breathless, I reached the backside to see him hanging out with a few boys in the front as he often did. There was one boy that looked particularly strong that I did not recognize and wondered if he could be an up and coming runner that was going to have his best race today.
This boy in the green jersey got a pretty good lead in front of Josiah. I cheered Josiah on, stating how strong he looked to give him confidence he could overtake this kid. Josiah just ran his race. He was not concerned.
I knew I couldn’t remain in the back of the race if I also wanted to see the finish. So I left him while he was in that second place spot and waited not so patiently at the very crowded finish line. The clock was at 15:30, so I knew there was about a minute before we would see anyone.
That minute ticked away as I waited holding my phone to capture the first sign of him. I began preparing another speech on how getting second place is still really good. I would soon learn that I could save that speech for another day.
I heard people cheering before I saw him. I screamed and jumped up and down as I saw it was him in the lead. I could have just left my phone in my pocket since the jumping up and down caused a video malfuntion and I had nothing recorded of that amazing, strong finish. A personal best time. First place.
Not waiting to see who was in second place or how far back, I had to get to Josiah. He stumbled across the finish and collapsed. I was so proud of him for putting it all out there. He was almost 30 seconds ahead of second place.
There was a crowd of people waiting to congratulate him. But he was still in the caged off area for the runners and workers. After he recovered a bit, and staggered back to his feet, he began to congratulate the other runners.
He finally made it out to his cheering section and we celebrated. I had tears of joy, pride and grief welling up in my eyes as I hugged him. So, so happy for this moment. Yet also thinking about this being his last high school meet as well as wishing my dad could have been there. I can only imagine the beaming smile he must have had while watching from above.
As I talked to Josiah he told me how bad he had felt in part of that race. He felt like he was going to pass out. To see he was able to push through that, I thought about those pre-race prayers. They had been answered. Thank you, Lord! He ran so smart, so strong, and persevered to that finish line. To God be the glory!
May this be how we live out our christian walk. Persevere. Get up again. Work out our salvation with fear and trembling, while at the same time resting in His grace.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV