Friday, May 24, 2013

Put Away the X-Box, Kids, Running is Fun Too

Sometimes minutes-per-mile just aren't important.
Now that summer's coming, my event schedule is thinning out quite a bit.  I was going to add "just like my hair," but let's face it, that ship sailed a long time ago.  I have the Ontario Mills 10K for the Christian Okoye Foundation coming up in a couple weeks, but after that there's nothing on my calendar until the fall.  Then it gets crazy.

The point, in case you were wondering, is that ever since I started running last September, I've only been focused on preparing for specific events and following somewhat rigid training schedules.  But now I don't "have to" run sixteen miles on Sunday mornings, and I don't "have to" log 35-40 miles a week to get ready for a half-marathon or a marathon.  Now I'm just running to keep fit, and to make sure I don't have to start from scratch when next fall's "Half Marathon Mania" comes around.

While I'm not following a specific program for the summer, I do have a general idea of what I want to accomplish.  My goal is to run at least four nights (yes, nights . . . it gets really hot here in the SoCal High Desert) a week with a total mileage of about twenty.  If the mood strikes, I might do longer runs, but probably not more than the half marathon distance.  So far, I'm really enjoying this plan.  I'm not really worried about my pace, my finishing time, or all the "pressure" that goes with getting ready for an event.  Now it's more about running comfortably and enjoying the experience.  Running around the lake as the sun goes down is a very peaceful and relaxing way to end my day.  To make a long story short (if it's possible at this point), I'm loving every mile of it.

Probably not how Derek Jeter or Peyton Manning spent their childhood.
Now we're going to shift gears and talk about something unrelated to running, but it keeps with the overall theme of health and fitness.

Just the other day, we had our school's annual Staff vs. Sixth Graders Softball Game, or as we like to call it, "Teaching our students how to lose gracefully."  As expected, the staff won by a score of 29-18 even without the assistance of softball legends like Jim "Suldog" Sullivan, Ron Johnson, or anyone by the name of Atton.

Most of you won't understand that last part, but it's okay.  I'm confident it will reach the intended targets.

The reason I bring up our softball game is that every year, I'm more and more alarmed by the overwhelming lack of athletic ability in our sixth grade students.  We have about 150 sixth graders at our school, and I'm not exaggerating in the least when I tell you that only about 10-15 of them had the first clue about how to play softball.  They were holding the bat with their hands reversed or separated, standing directly on home plate while batting, and were missing slow-pitch style pitches by several feet.  Not to mention having no idea how to run the bases, particularly evident in the number of double plays the staff was able to turn on simple pop ups.

Nowadays, this kid is the exception not the rule.
This is not meant to put down our students.  They're doing the best they can, and it was a really fun morning all around.  But when I was a kid (yes, I'm sounding more and more like my father with each passing year), it seemed like three out of four guys in my sixth grade class were involved in Little League or other organized sports.  The kids that COULDN'T hit or throw (or make a lay-up, or run a button-hook-and-roll) were the exceptions.  Somewhere along the line, it seems to have flipped around, and now it's only a handful of kids who you'd consider to be good athletes.

The knee-jerk answer would be to blame it on video games, and assume that fewer kids are signing up for Little League, and more kids are planting themselves in front of the television with a PlayStation and a bag of Cheetos.  But it has to be more than that, doesn't it?  Back in my day (hello again, Dad), we'd always be talking sports in the junior high cafeteria.  How the Jets were doing, whether or not Reggie Jackson was really as big a douche as he seemed to be, or whatever was current in the pre-ESPN era.  Not so common anymore, and I can't really put my finger on why.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

On the bright side, though, we're implementing a running program at our school next year called The 100-Mile Club.  Kids earn prizes for completing 25, 50, 75, and 100 miles over the course of the school year by running at recess, before school, and as part of an after-school club.  It looks like a ton of fun, and the kids are already excited about it.

It might not help them become better hitters, but it will get them in shape.  And you have to start somewhere.


  1. First, sorry for taking so long to come here and find my name mentioned in such a nice way. That's always a pleasant surprise. And I'll be sure the other guys get the same thrill.

    Why are things as they are? I think (just off the top of my head, same as my hair - Ha!) some of it has to do with such things as Little League. Back in my day, we played more games just as pickup games than we ever did in any sort of organized way. I'm not sure most kids these days even understand the concept of a "pickup game". I think many feel it has to be organized by adults or not happen at all. The other reason for things being that way is that most parents don't let their kids just go outside and play with other kids unless there IS some sort of supervision.

    (I'm fairly certain it's way deeper than that, but that's where I'd start if I were really searching for a way to understand the why of it.)

  2. We used to have group of kids maybe 5 to 7 kids challenge other kids all the time. If it was nice out street hockey or baseball if it was cold and rainy some good ole tackle football.........but dam if I had a xbox360 when I was a kid my only friend would have been tom from myspace............instead I have sport stoories to last a life time......or until sullys next homerun....................44 or just some Atton

  3. It is a safety factor. Can't let the kids hang outside til night time anymore. That's when all that street playing taught them a lot. So sad. However, my 9 year old LOVED Little League. My allergies? Not so much. I was bathed in pollen. Just bathed.

    heh heh