Thursday, October 25, 2007

underdog anxiety

As a special education teacher you tend to root for the underdog. I think it's almost genetically programed in me. Now that the Red Sox have won the World Series since 1918 I'm finding it oddly difficult to root for them over the Rockies. I'm a Nationals fan. Before that it was the O's. It's always about the underdog. (Then again we're good at that in DC when it comes to sports).

Because of this genetic condition if I was left alone to pick out the jump rope team for next year we'd be in big trouble. None of them would be able to jump over the rope, few would be able to sit still for longer than 5 minutes, but they'd all have great heart and great potential.

Jump rope tryouts is one of my hardest tasks as a teacher. I hate it. I've known some of these kids since kindergarten, and some of them I taught in first grade. I've listened to them for years tell me they dream of being a jumper. I've seen them practice during recess every day for 3 years. I had to look into their hopeful face as they finished their routine today. And I want them to be successful. I want them all on the team, but most of all I want the ones that try and try and might not be perfect.

If we took the ones I am initially drawn to we'd have a pretty terrible team. We wouldn't be very good, moral would eventually be low, and the behavior problems wouldn't be fair to the kids who are trying so hard. As coaches we'd be frustrated. It would be a mess. But it would be my happy underdog mess.

This year we only took 10 new kids. We deliberated so long this afternoon that I was late for my evening grad class. We'll have a great squad, but tomorrow I have to see the crestfallen faces of the kids who tried and didn't make it. For some it is their second or third year they've tried. It's not fair. I want life to be fair. I want it to work out.

I love coaching the team, but I really, really hate the try-out process.


Jenny said...

I've never thought carefully about this process. I don't know how you all do it. I've watched the kids practice and get excited about jumpers for years. I've hated it when students in my class didn't make the cut. But, I've never really pictured the process before now.

I feel awful for you all.

Blink said...

It's difficult because we have such empathy for these young athletes as they cope with this disappointment. We don't want them to experience the tough part of competition. I always tell the kids who don't make it that it is okay to feel disappointment and to hurt about it. That means they really, really wanted it. It's great to see kids who want something so much they put themselves out physically and mentally. I let them know they did a really hard thing and should be proud of stepping out there. Tough as that is they are developing inner strength and instrinsic motivation that almost can't be developed any other way. Jumping rope is so much more than jumping rope, isn't it? Lucky kids to have you as a coach!