I’m sure most of you have seen this video by now, but I have to share it because every time I think about it I smile and every time I watch it I get tears in my eyes. Coach Dave Belisle gives perhaps the best speech ever to a group of athletes after a tough loss. The reason I think it is so touching is because in the midst of heartbreak and among young boys filled with tears he doesn’t let them sit and wallow in the sadness. Instead he pulls them in and asks them to remember just how great it is to be where they are, how well they just played, and that there is still a lot to celebrate.
As adults we fill the shoes of role models a lot. We aren’t always asked to and at times we have to do it whether we choose this or not. We teach children and young adults good manners, fair play, integrity and hundreds of other things. They learn by our example. Those boys will be better sportsmen because coach Dave Belisle showed them the importance of losing like a champ and remembering to keep the experience in perspective.
When I see parents pushing their children along in running strollers or see a father and young child jogging together it makes me grin from ear to ear. A runner I am working with for an upcoming marathon was recently telling me that she loves taking her son to a particular park because there is a track there. She likes to do a few miles while her son plays and he often runs a few laps as she does hers. All of these to me are great ways that we can lead by example. When kids see us getting our run in, or ride along at a young age, running doesn’t seem to them like something that is a formidable punishment. Instead running is just a part of our daily lives.
When a parent regularly goes to a gym or plays soccer on a league, kids see this as a regular part of an adult’s activity. This is why I love when road races have an accompanying 1 mile race for younger runners. There is something so special about seeing an entire family participate in the morning races. Kids are growing up seeing running as a fun activity and something they can enjoy and be good at.
A friend on Facebook posted the other day that when she got off of the treadmill one of her little one’s commented that she looked like a waterfall. It was a hilarious comparison, and I am sure we have all felt that way before. But how cool is it that the kids could see that and laugh about it with her?
Healthy examples go beyond just exercise. When we make healthy choices and others see this it becomes normal. When we eat healthy foods as a part of our daily routine it gets picked up on. On the other hand, when mom eats a salad because she is on a diet, salads become a diet food. I once asked a little girl what her favorite thing to eat was and she said a spinach salad. I was floored! It shows that spinach and salads don’t have to be something that just adults enjoy.
Sometimes when I listen to the radio in the car I get so annoyed by the ridiculous commercials for weight loss miracles that I have to change the channel. The fads, the diets, the pills; none of these are examples of a healthy lifestyle. Most of them are nonsense and none of them are long lasting answers to living a healthy life.
I’m not a parent yet but I have worked with children for decades. I’ve watched so many families instill healthy habits within their family through the way they remain active, do things together, and the way they eat.
This past summer I was dining with a group of children ages 4-7 and I couldn’t believe some of the things that were being said. One kid pulled something out of a lunch box and suddenly the conversation changed to “sugar is calories and bread is calories.” Soon there were a dozen kids arguing about calories and how they make you fat. I of course had to put a stop to it and we simply changed the subject.
While it is important for children to understand to a certain extent what foods are good choices, it is scary for them to be so concerned at such a young age with fat and calorie content. I’m not sure 6 year olds need to be reading the food labels of their neighbor at lunch or analyzing the contents of their sandwich.
Everything is about balance. Obsession with exercise and food can be a slippery slope and when we head down that road children see that and can be strongly influenced. Showing youth that exercise can be a fun part of our lives is a great example. And while it is great to teach them that having some broccoli or asparagus with our dinner is a wise choice and French fries aren’t a dinner staple, it is just as important to share with them that a cupcake can be a delicious and occasional treat for us all to enjoy.
There is a lot we can share by our examples in life. I personally loved a few things that Coach Dave Belisle said: people like fighters, sportsmen, people that don’t quit, and people that play the game the right way. Then he added that he needed one big hug from the group and then it was time to celebrate. “Try to suck it up,” he said. All wise words to live by.
Keep setting great examples and happy running!