Have you ever had the chance to stop and watch the world through a child’s eyes? Especially your own child’s eyes. It is something magical. I had that chance recently when Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU) had the chance to host the 2020 Southland Conference Cross-Country Championships (actually held February 2021 due to a delay thanks to COVID-19). Coach Corey Mistretta, head coach of the Southeastern Track and Field and Cross-Country teams, had put out a request to our Kinesiology and Health Studies (KHS) Department to see if there were any volunteers to help clerk the starting line of the races. Having been around plenty of races in previous years (both as a participant and as a race administrator) I knew I was up for the task.
So I also asked both Andrew and Emma if they wanted to get up with me on that Sunday morning to check bib numbers for the teams. Andrew bit at the opportunity. I also promised him we would stop for breakfast on the way to campus if we got up early enough. 7:30am came with no trouble for him.
We got to campus, checked in with Coach Mistretta, were given our marching orders along with Mr. Hugh (our co-clerk at the start), did our bib checking, and then got to reap the benefits of having “tickets to the World Series and sitting in the dugout”. We mingled with the teams, maybe snacked on a donut or two generously donated by Coach, and visited with our athletic training team members (my students) as they prepped for the chaos also known as the finish line.
We watched both the women’s and men’s races. Andrew’s interest got greater and greater with each passing runner. By the time the men’s race took off and made it’s laps, Andrew was locked in. First runner came through, Shea Foster of Southeastern, and he was at least 20 seconds ahead of the second place runner. Coach Mistretta turned to Andrew and I and said about Shea, “Don’t die! Don’t die”. Andrew and I both laughed as we were all in a bit of disbelief of the lead that Shea had built. By the time that Shea was finishing the race, he had built about a 1/4 mile lead (he finished 22:41 – 4:34/mile pace!!!) and the Lions had captured five of the top 11 spots and won the men’s conference title – the first in school history!! Andrew was so excited and cheered so loud that I thought his hands were going to break and his voice was going to give out. It was awesome!
We could pass up, with our “dugout tickets”, the chance to get a picture with the winners’ trophies.
On the way home, Andrew said to me, “Dad, that was a pretty cool event”. Yes Andrew, it was a pretty cool event.
Giving Andrew that experience was way better than any experience I could have had by myself. Those are the types of opportunities that we should strive to provide for our children. Those are the experiences that will stick with him. Those are the ones that really matter.