A few weeks ago, in PE class, my younger son did his first ever long jump. After he’d jumped, the teacher stopped the class and asked them what mark they would give my son out of 10.
A few of them said 10. Then the teacher said he agreed – citing my son’s perfect run-up, his precisely timed take-off, the way he landed with both feet together and his weight forward. It was a perfect long jump and a not-at-all shoddy distance of 4 metres 18.
I suspect there was a hefty dose of beginner’s luck involved, but after that my son was determined to do well at long jump. He took everything the teacher said on board – he knew how to do a good long jump in theory, now he just needed to get it right every time. He started practising long jump at lunchtimes. He knew he needed exactly 13 strides, and the precise length of those strides, to get it right.
All credit to the school – they let kids practise athletics at lunchtime without having to ask for permission or supervision. He was able to help himself to the rake and make sure the pit was properly raked before and after his jumps.
His distances didn’t improve with all the practise, but his jumps were no longer beginner’s luck, he was getting them right every time.
After all his practise, he was very pleased to represent the school in a district athletics tournament for years 7 and 8. The school had won the tournament for the last 15 years, so he really hoped they would hold onto the trophy.
Parents weren’t able to go along to the tournament, but when I picked him up afterwards (in some of the worst rain I’d ever seen), he was buzzing. He’d come second out of about 20 kids, with a jump of 4 metres 20, just 1cm short of his personal best. So that’s second out of the best kids in the area.
He wasn’t sure if the school had actually won the tournament at that stage – the biblical rain had meant it had to be stopped early and the last few events would have to be completed on a later date – but he knew that they had won or come second in a lot of the events and it looked very likely they would be holding onto that trophy.
At his old school, sport had been pretty much about ‘don’t lose too badly’, so this was a really pleasant change for him.
‘It’s great not being the underdog, it’s great being the top dog!’