I had a solid case of karmic whiplash yesterday. I was finishing up my Friday afternoon run, and I heard someone call to me from a car at the curb. It was the former manager of the rec center from up the street shouting out to me much the same way that he used to all those afternoons when I used to run through the park while he tended his flock of T-Ball players and Junior Soccer stars. It was odd to see him behind the wheel, without his regular t-shirt and whistle around his neck. This was the guy who gave my son his first taste of physical education.
He patiently led him through the vagaries of youth soccer, and understood that when my son's first header was also his first full-on bloody nose that he was discouraged from making a career of it. He listened with interest as my son stopped in the middle of his backward somersault to explain just exactly why he didn't feel comfortable with that experience. He was constantly encouraging all the kids to have fun, and to do their best. He was the antithesis of everything I had experienced growing up with my antipathy for all manner of physical education.
Now, once a week, I am the guy with the whistle around his neck. Every Tuesday I become Coach Caven, and I try not to let on how much I enjoy that. My challenge is to focus the interest and energies of kids from Kindergarten to fifth grade for fifty minutes at a stretch. It's easiest with the little ones, since every game is new to them, and the biggest challenge is just getting them to pay attention long enough to figure out where to stand or which direction to run. The fifth graders are preparing for their PE test that includes a mile run, and they take a little more convincing. The other coach and I make a point of running with them, if only to shake off the ghosts of PE teachers past. After years of being tired of being kept down by the man, I discover that I am the man.
And my son? He just brought home his first semester report card from middle school. He has an A in PE again. He's not the fastest, strongest, best. He's a good sport and he tries hard, and he's having fun.