Like most of you, I enjoy taking a break and watching the Olympics. Over the Winter Break, I began to pay attention to those “Thanks Mom” commercials.
It started me thinking about what makes a champion. The commercial at first made me notice how young the Olympians were when they started learning their sport. To me it appeared the children were maybe 4 or 5, much like our kindergarten and pre-school kids.
As I watched more and more of the commercials, I noticed how supportive the parents were of their children. They actively participated by making sure their child consistently arrived at the practice sessions and encouraged them even when they seemed to fail that day.
Isn’t that the beginning of all endeavors? We start young, learning what is appropriate for our age, encouraged and supported by our parents. This is the bones of the body, keeping you upright, yet not enough to make you reach your goal.
This is only part of the story. We need to look at what is in the heart of these young Olympians. Strip away the body and you will find a common set of inner qualities. There is perseverance. On how many of those commercials did you see a young child fall and get right back up and try?
Maybe you remember the one where the little boy is crying because he had been temporarily stopped from accomplishing what he wanted to do. This speaks to his desire. What about the overall courage that is manifested by the Olympians going beyond what they thought they could do? I look at what some of them do and marvel knowing I would never have the courage to do what I just witnessed them do.
To be the best of the best, you certainly have to have perseverance, desire and courage. But are these two components, the bones and the heart, enough to create the Olympians we watch in awe?
One more element is needed. It is the muscle that moves their bodies in such precision, beauty, and yes, automaticity. It comes from practice. Not the practice of, “I feel like doing this,” but the practice that you do even when you are tired and frustrated. It is the repeated practice to perfection so that no matter when they are asked to perform they are confident that it will be done successfully.
We may never have a student ever rise up to become an Olympian, but we are using these same qualities within our schools and home to create our own Olympians. Our Olympics are of the mind, not the body.
We start young, teaching what is appropriate, we support their efforts and encourage them along the way. We work with them to help them reach their goals and develop the heart of a learner, which requires the same characteristics of an Olympian, perseverance, desire, and courage. Finally, we provide practice so that the skills they learn become automatic, done with precision and yes, even beauty, for others to marvel at.
Just like the Olympian it takes all components to ensure success. It is the parents, staff, students and community members of Portage that make our children champions, able to do and become what their heart desires as they reach adulthood. It is marvelous and awe-inspiring to watch and be a part.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.