The 2018-19 school year marks my 7th year serving as Athletic Director at BFA Fairfax. Simply stated, sports is in my blood. Growing up, my mother was the varsity cheerleading coach at my high school, and my older siblings and I were three-sport athletes.
My father is a Hall of Fame athlete and official at both Castleton University and the Vermont Principals Association. I was a Division 1 college athlete, and have been coaching at BFA Fairfax for close to fifteen years. This Sunday will be the first anniversary of my marriage to a two-sport Varsity coach, and with our first child, a son, arriving in December, I look forward to many new sports experiences in the role of parent.
Needless to say, I’ve observed, played, and coached hundreds, if not thousands, of athletic events. Those collective experiences, although differing in their nature, all hold one thing in common – competition. Competition can foster and strengthen important life skills such as teamwork, perseverance, communication, and overcoming adversity. However, in today’s sports culture we also frequently witness the darker side of competition. Whether it’s yelling at athletes or officials, spectators engaging with opposing fans or questioning coaches, or most importantly, each of us losing perspective that sports are a game and meant to be fun, I’ve experienced it all.
Last week, on a rare day when there were no home athletic events, I had the pleasure of attending the BFA Fairfax cross country meet at Arrowhead Golf Club in Milton. This event and the culture around it was a reminder of all that is great about youth sports participation. Don’t get me wrong, the spirit of competition was alive and well.
Athletes, teams and coaches were pushing their limits, striving for both team and individual victory. But there was something noticeably absent as well. The roar of the crowd was deafening at times, but there was not a negative comment to be heard. There were winning teams and individuals, as well as teams and individuals who came in last in their respective races, but not an angry face or example of negative body language to be seen. I observed athletes finishing the race significantly behind the winning runners, but still thrilled about the fact that they beat their personal best time. I heard parents cheering not only for their own children but for the last minute kick of athletes from opposing teams, even if it meant that runner passed their own child. I observed a community of runners, coaches, parents, and spectators, regardless of team, waiting to support the final athletes crossing the finish line. Students with unique challenges incorporating a variety of special needs were all welcome and cheered on as though they were the next Olympic hopeful.
I walked away from this fantastic day thinking “why can’t ALL sports be this way?” Emotions are certain to run high as we approach the second half of our fall athletic season at BFA Fairfax. Homecoming games and state championships are on the line, and no one would like to see our athletes and this community take home a title more than this athletic director. But in the process, I challenge us all to step back, take a deep breath, and reflect on what’s truly important. Being a teenager, let alone a teenage athlete is a tough job these days. The challenging balancing act of friends, school, jobs, family life, and sports is at times a herculean task to maintain.
With this in mind as we round out the fall season, I will be applauding the efforts of all athletes, win or lose, first or last, whether on our team, or that of our opponent. Although I hope the last minute touchdown, goal, or sprint to the finish belongs to a BFA Fairfax athlete, if it does not, my wish is that we can all appreciate the efforts of those involved, be proud of all competitors, and remember to take a play out of the cross country playbook by staying positive, and simply having fun.