Competing and Participating

Blog_CompetitionParticpateI was thinking about sports over the weekend and reflected on the difference between “competing” and “participating.”  When it comes to high-level athletics, to be among the best, athletes really have to be competitors. This requires extraordinary commitment in terms of time, skill development and physical training, and this is usually at the expense of social time or doing other sports or activities. To truly be among the best requires significant sacrifice.

Many of our senior level teams are comprised of athletes who have had to sacrifice to attain excellence. However, we also seek a balance at LCC where students can play different sports – and mix athletics with art, drama, music, service, debating, robotics, international exchange opportunities or some of our many other activities.

If students choose to move to a higher level of play after LCC, they should expect the sacrifice to be greater. This is evident in the commitment required of junior and college-level athletics, which ask more from even the best athletes.

I thought about this last weekend when all of our media outlets inundated us with the stories of two competitors who suffered horrible accidents while playing their sport. Sidney Crosby took a deflected slap shot to the face – lost several teeth and suffered a broken jaw and underwent surgery on Saturday night – just as he was leading all scorers in the NHL by a significant margin. Meanwhile, on the basketball court in the “March Madness” NCAA tournament, Kevin Ware, one of the stars for #1 ranked Louisville, jumped to block a pass and landed awkwardly, suffering a freak broken leg: a gruesome compound fracture that shocked the players, fans and viewers who witnessed it. Both of these injuries stopped viewers in their tracks. They remind us that debilitating injuries are part of sport at the highest level. Ultimately, it’s part of the risk of being a competitor.

But how about simply being a participant? What is the value of simply being active? We all benefit from organized sport – developing skills, the camaraderie of being on a team and enhanced fitness.  Students all across this country play team sports that most will never play beyond high school. There are also a host of life sports that are usually less competitive, but are also popular. These are the sports that students can participate in for the rest of their lives for the sheer pleasure of it or the extended health benefits –sports like yoga, golf, swimming, dance, tennis.

My hope is that all of our students try both competitive team and “life sports” by the time they graduate. There are enormous benefits from involvement in both.

So when I consider the mix of competition and participation, I believe the two are well combined in the following video that embodies the sheer joy of sport. Check out these gentlemen competing this year in Spain at the world Master’s Games. It is the 100 Metre men’s final in the 90+ age category. Only two competitors on the starting line – one from Finland, one from Belgium.  Before you watch, remember the story of the hare and the tortoise… –Chris Shannon, Headmaster

Two Guys in their 90s Racing

Preoccupied Montreal

IPhoneI spoke to students recently about a phenomenon I call “Preoccupied Montreal.” Exactly what is ”Preoccupied Montreal”? It is my way to describe our collective obsession with cell phones, smart phones,  BlackBerries—or “CrackBerries” as the slang goes. Cell phone/smart phone use can actually be addictive and I have some concerns; in my view too many teenagers and adults are suffering and need to change their habits.

This generation of teenagers has a timeless desire to do what every teenager has ever wanted: to be closely connected to friends. It’s cool and feels good to be “in the know.” So carrying a cell phone makes sense; they quite simply help to make our lives a little easier.  However, the temptation to carry the phone wherever you go and check it incessantly rules way too many lives in ways that have become unhealthy.

With the capacity to contact anyone, anywhere anytime comes the odd compulsion among many teens to text, tweet or post statements, opinions, observations, photos or videos on social media, just because they can. The feedback is instant, so clearly someone is listening: someone cares.

Recent studies show that teenagers across North America send on average 100 texts/day, more than double just a few years ago. Most teens surveyed say that the cell phone is now the key to their social lives.  In fact, data shows that on average, when out of school, teens spend just as much time texting as they do talking with friends.  In fact, texting has become so second nature, about 60% of teens surveyed claim to be able to text blindfolded.

However, the 24/7 compulsion to connect without boundaries is unhealthy and can steal balance from young lives.  Some of these digital addicts are even losing sleep, even though sleep is one of the most important elements of their lives they can control. Notably, sleep has a direct correlation with better performance in school.  Eight or more hours of sleep per night can translate into a 10% improvement in achievement simply because sleep stabilizes and protects memory and other brain functions.

There are now a lot of studies that show that a lack of “down time” is detrimental to us—teens and adults alike.  We all need to be out of reach sometimes and avoid being interrupted. This shield of protection should also extend to family meals, quiet discussions with friends, outdoor activities.

I don’t suggest we throw away the technology.  We need it. I think it can really help out lives.  But who’s “driving the bus“ here, you or the cell phone?  We’ve allowed it to seep into every corner of our lives.  It’s time to create some no-go cell use zones and times in our lives beyond school.  Limit its use and call back later.  By then you’ll have something more interesting to say anyway.

Seize the now.  Be in the moment. This applies to adults as well. We adults are often the worst offenders. Blurring borders between work and family/personal time generally means more stress and more unwanted cranky moments.  So take steps to define better  boundaries.  Make this the topic of discussion at tonight’s family dinner table.  But first, turn off the “CrackBerry” more often in 2012 and enjoy not being interrupted! —Chris Shannon, Headmaster