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long jump

Today I helped out with the track tryouts for 4th and 5th graders at Evergreen.  The P.E. teacher, who happens to also run Lap Club, asked if I could be available.  He was going to run multiple events at once – 50 and 100-yard dashes, 400 meter run, softball throw, and long jump.  I got to help with the long jump.

“Now, I told all the kids they had to enter at least one running event and any field events they wanted to,” he warned.  “So you have 800 kids signed up for long jump.”  Which, by my estimation, is every kid in the school plus the Shelton metropolitan area.  Another gal worked with us as we set up the pads to run on, jump off of, and land on.  There was even a pad to exit on so the kids’ shoes didn’t get dirty.  Because they care about that.

The other gal, K., had the clipboard with names and classes.  I was in charge of standing by the end of the jump, measuring (roughly) and watching to see the kids didn’t “scratch”, i.e., step over the line when they jumped and have to do it over.  K. organized them down by the outbuilding and let them go, one at a time.  We did boys only today.

Each boy had a different approach.  Some were all flailing arms and legs, churning the air as they launched themselves onto the clown-colored pad, then the blue runway, then the white jump zone.  Some were all cautious concentration, running pretty slowly towards the jump area.  Those didn’t go as far.  They didn’t want to get hurt or were unsure how to proceed.  They were gangly, uneasy in their skins.

But some knew what it was all about.  And they were hungry to get it done.  They prowled around the mats, looking to see how far 8′ was, the current best jump.  They had  a loose-limbed grace, honed by seasons of soccer or running or basketball.  They had that hustle and confidence.  They burst off the side of the building like a bullet, whether they were 50 lbs. or a cool 100 lbs., running for all they were worth.  They propelled themselves off the blue mat and soared over the white mat like eagles in an updraft.

Glorious.

As the morning wore on, bathed in alternate warm sunshine and cold shadow,  and a chilly wind threatening rain that never came, a boy I’ll call Carlos stepped to the front.  Carlos was one such tiger.  He was easily one of the taller boys, with legs for days.  He had loped the mats, measured it, and talked himself up.  When his turn came, he screeched off the wall like a scalded cat and thundered down the ramp.  He lifted both legs up and cleared 10 feet.

Wow.

Then that was the distance to beat.  A roar went up by the wall. All the boys wanted to do that.  It was a universal push to excellence.  A few more were able to achieve it, hungry, stalking types like Carlos.  One boy in a soccer-type uniform made the distance.  Another teeny little  boy, not much bigger than Ruby, did, too.  These boys left *nothing* on the mat.  They gave it all.  They were totally committed in the moment.  They didn’t care what their friends said.  They weren’t distracted by the other events going on.  They counted the cost and some fell hard.  They were 100% mentally focused on the long jump.

It was beautiful.  That total dedication to achieve a goal reminded me of the glory of sport.  Sport for sport’s sake alone is nothing.  It’s all about what it teaches us – teamwork, being a gracious winner or loser, giving all you have and improving your skills.  Self-doubt will cripple you.  You need to be “all in” and you need to know what to do and be fearless.  . It’s the only way to improve and to be able to look yourself in the eye at the end of the day.

And so it is with life.  We need to be “all in” with whatever we’re doing at the moment.  We need to be present.  As Christians, we need to be seeking God and His kingdom and serving wherever we can.  We need to count the cost and be prepared to pay it.  It’s the only way to grow.  Then, at the end of our life, we can look our Maker in the eye.

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