Submitted by David Anderson.
I am awed by my brother.
Yesterday, as we do once a year at a picnic table somewhere with a view of the water, we three siblings ate baloney sandwiches.
And my brother once again chewed a face into a slice of baloney.
Some years it’s the bad-for-you-but-cheap-white-bread that’s the victim. It’s what we used to do as kids around our parent’s table, baloney sandwiches our poor-man’s staple because that’s how we grew up.
But what we really look forward to is hearing his color commentary of the prestigious National Championships.
For two hours he had crunched the numbers on paper. There are computer programs that do such things but a paper with scribbles, only to discover that the numbers, literally, didn’t pencil out, was something cheap – like baloney sandwiches – that he could crumple and toss in the waste basket in frustration, and begin again.
Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team (GHCKRT) had won five national championships in a row. They finished second to powerhouse Georgia, way, way behind, by a whopping 400 points the year before.
This year, Alan, my brother and head coach, got alone, by himself, with pencil and paper and began placing the names of his athletes and their expected finishes – based on their home-water time trials – using simple addition, only to discover Gig Harbor would finish second again.
It was the evening before the weekend of races would begin.
He called the team together, parents, fellow-coaches, athletes.
“Tomorrow,” he began before the gathered assemblage, “we have a chance to do something special. I ran the numbers. We have a shot.
“However, your performances in practice won’t be good enough.
“Across the board, all Gig Harbor athletes considered, all of you here tonight, your averages won’t cut it.
“You know that when we began this season, some of you got out of school and arrived for workouts much earlier than others. You wanted to put in, get your drills over with, and get on with the rest of your life.
“You remember I wouldn’t have it.
“You get here early? Fine. You wait for the others.
“Because this isn’t about you. It’s about your fellow teammates. We are a family. A family of athletes. We do not bicker in the boats. We do not paddle alone. We do this together.
“So, when you go to sleep tonight; and as you put your boat in the water in the morning; and as you paddle out to the starting line, remember two things.
“One, we’re family. We win as a team. We lose as a team. We do not have individual stars and standouts.
“Two, average won’t get it done. Your time-trials are good. They’re what got us here. But ‘average’ tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that until the national champion is announced at the banquet, frankly ‘average’ won’t be enough.
“We are Gig Harbor. We are a family. We are not average. We have a chance to do something special.
“Let’s do this.”
And they did, this family of athletes, coming from behind, on the last day, and won it all.
Linell Jones says
I LOVE it when you write of family and little but powerful life lessons. No paragraph after paragraph of quotes, no convoluted lecture to the masses about our evil habits. Just simple, wonderful, little examples of a good, maybe even better, way to live. Thank you for this gem.