Sunday, February 28, 2010


When Lucas and Phoebe fenced, they both were chosen to compete in the Canada Games, an athletic event for youth and all manner of sports. Kids from 13 to 18 (give or take depending on birth dates) gathered in small communities and competed in a Winter or a Summer Games.

Lucas competed in Dalhousie, New Brunswick 2003 and Phoebe in Whitehorse, Yukon 2007. Lucas went on a luxury bus, Phoebe flew economy air in a blizzard. Both kids fenced in the sabre event, meaning that they had big swords that they used to clobber the other guy over the head with. Luckily the original use of horses has been removed. Lucas had his parents and sister (who out-screamed everyone) and his grandparents watching at his games, Phoebe had her dad and no one screaming. Each of my children were able to represent Nova Scotia in a not very popular sport and we had to do our mental preparation differently than other sports.

The fencing coach had a different attitude to competing than we (I) did and we (I) did our (my) best to not undermine him. My life lessons had me ready to knock other kids down so my son could win. This is bad form but I had bad training and I spent the games suppressing killer urges. The coach left each athlete to his or her own devices most of the time, and was preoccupied by I'm not sure what. The kids had to fend for themselves, from getting their own equipment into working order to remembering their jock straps.

Jock straps turned out to be a big issue for Lucas' team. You have to have one on to compete and most of Nova Scotia boys hadn't clued into this. Sure enough, a judge knocked on the groin of one boy, he didn't have any protection and there was a mad scramble to find a “spare”. The parents passed the hat and one mom went out and bought him his own jock strap. I'm still laughing.

In Whitehorse, Steve brought in (sneaked in) a hump of Caribou meat prepared Philipino style with red peppers by his hosts for all the kids. The kids had been moaning about the food, so they ate every scrap.

We were pretty sure that Lucas and Phoebe would be nearly trounced. Both kids fenced very well and had good skills and good competitive attitudes. They also exhibited great sportsman like behaviour and did not ever lose their cool and scream in a competitor's face, the ultimate bad manners. They were both excellent at figuring out what lessons were to be learned from losing a bout and they were delightful when they won. Lucas experienced a nasty thumb/wrist accident yet he managed to keep competing, despite a lot of pain. I have been proud of that boy many times, but the bout he fought just minutes after getting bandaged was a very fine moment. He showed great courage and determination. Phoebe went into the games with a collar-bone/shoulder joint inflammation and the area was very vulnerable to dislocation.

Lucas's goals were hard to pin down. I think he wanted to not throw up. I also think he really wanted to win, but had no idea how he ranked relative to the other athletes. We were pretty sure he wouldn't finish in the top 10, so how do you support a kid in the face of knowing that? We set a goal of finishing in the top 50 percentile and in the top 3 for the Atlantic region. And he did it. I remember going to the announcement boards and looking up the details and there he was. Around 30th, if my memory isn't completely wrong. I recall he was top male Sabreur in Atlantic Canada. In other words, he exceeded his goals.

Phoebe is the one with the helmet off, facing the camera.

Phoebe had more opportunity to be realistic because she had competed against the team from Quebec and knew she would have a tough time. Her goal was to finish the top Atlantic female in Sabre and she did. She didn't worry about how she placed over all. Her other goal was to trade her Nova Scotia hoody for one from the Northwest Territories, and at that, she was very successful. Just to carry on, she also won best Karaoke performer and best stand up comedy act back at the athlete's village.

This is Lucas seeing Phoebe off at the airport. The young lady with dark hair was on Lucas' team in 2003, and she is seeing her brother off as well.

So here I am with my little knitting project, competing against 3926 other knitters and I think I'm skunked. The lessons I learned here is an interesting one or two. One, my kids are better sportsmen than I, and two, by setting the challenge low enough that I was reasonably sure to succeed, I have actually let myself down. In the past few years, I have been trying to get expectations in line with reality to get rid of dissatisfaction and consumer lusts. As someone put it somewhere, "Learn to love what you have". But it is clear that a little gritting of the teeth to get a thing done adds some “shiny” to the practice. It's great when things come easily, like getting the tax form right the first time, or not having to paint a wall three times instead of two. Yet, every so often, a bit of competing with one's self is a good thing, a bit of “won't this be cool if I actually succeed” tension is good for the heart and soul.

That said, in the next post, I will tell you about my great sister Rachia, and her competitive spirit. She is using her biking skills for a great cause and I am going to meet her challenge in my own spinning style.

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