I coach Cross Country at the Charles Tindley Accelerated School. We don’t have the most naturally gifted runners and the neighborhood around the school isn’t conducive to long runs. Nonetheless we practice and train to compete. Our first meet of the year is usually against similarly situated schools so my runners can see how they compare to their peers. Then I take them to the Westlane Roundup where they face some of the best middle school runners around. Yesterday there were six boys who finished in less than 11 minutes!
My kids finished very near the back of the pack. I had the last 3 runners in both the boys and girls races. I also was one of the only coaches who had nearly every one of his runners turn in a personal best time. On the ride home I have to point out how well they did compared to themselves because they are usually a bit down about how they did positionally.
It’s also a reminder to me that so often, we choose the wrong yardstick to measure our progress and that leads us to the wrong conclusions. If we only ran against poorly performing schools, my kids would think they’re better than they really are. If we didn’t look at race times they would think they are not capable of getting better.
I can’t articulate the big life lesson here, but you can see it. Can’t you?