Relays were one of my favorite events as a track and field athlete. As a member of the highly proficient team, I would be in position, hand strained back, watching until my teammate, thundering down on me would yell. Once I snapped into a sprint, we had a very narrow window of opportunity for the handoff. If I travelled too far before our exchange, we were disqualified. If one of us wasn’t paying attention and stepped outside our lane into someone else’s, we were disqualified. If we dropped the baton and lost precious time, there was no hope of winning.
A common observer would not guess at the grueling hours we had spent getting ready for that 3 second exchange (not to mention all the other conditioning, wind training, weights, etc.).
Just the exchange occupied huge amounts of my summer.
Each person in the relay was placed very specifically based on her strengths. I was usually third leg (which tells you I was not the quickest out of the blocks or the fastest sprinter). I was the workhorse, a strong runner who was keenly competitive. It was my job to increase our lead or make up for lost time so that the final sprinter could deadhead it for the finish line on winged feet.
Once positions were determined, we each had to learn the other’s rhythm, the speed of their approach, where we needed to stand to stay within the delivery range, exactly where our hand needed to be for them to easily pass the baton on. Our coach would drill us over and over again in the 100 degree Oklahoma sun until we heaved up breakfast on the sidelines.
Watching a video of good relay teams was not enough. In fact, I have no memory of ever doing anything like that. Sitting in the locker room listening to our coach’s lectures would have done very little to help in any phase of our training. It was live and on the field, often in spite of horrid conditions.
People without knowledge of the process can easily buy into the warm and fuzzy concept of passing the baton on to their children. Parents truly desire to hand off their values and their faith, yet have not a clue as to what that entails.
What they miss is all the training involved.
You see, passing the baton is not a one-time event. The best athletes spend years honing the skill. Yet, somehow people think that their kids will absorb values just by hearing lectures or going to church or hanging out with nice kids.
If you are truly interested in passing the baton to your children, here are my questions for you today:
- Have you run in the rain when everyone is cold, wet, and irritable?
- Have you practiced during a heat wave when continuing to put one foot in front of the other seems to be impossible?
- Have you worked out in blizzard conditions when the track is sloppy and sometimes dangerous?
- Have your kids lived in the real world enough that they know their weak points that need drilling?
- Can they ignore the roar of the crowd competing for their attention?
- Have they failed and rebounded?
- Have they lived real enough to be scared spitless and come through it?
- Have they let the team down and come to understand they are loved anyway?
- Have they won and not let it go to their heads?
Passing the baton is not for cowards. And it certainly isn’t for those who don’t understand the grueling preparation. I encourage you to fully live life with your kids and train hard. You will be passing the baton before you know it.
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