As Greater Boston gets set to host this year’s AYF Olympics over Labor Day, let’s ponder a rather significant question, shall we?
What would you consider the most popular event on the track? The mile, perhaps? A pulsating dash? The relays?
Certainly, all have their share of thrills and emotion, especially if the competition is keen and chapters are fighting for supremacy.
For my money, I’ll go out on a limb and say the kiddies race! Yes, those tiny tots jostling one another at the starting line, looking to get a leg up on their peers.
No doubt, one of them could be a future AYF star some day, maybe a prodigious scorer in high school and college.
Remember, the towering oak was once a small acorn, a rose garden nothing more than a bud. Tell me, is there anything more invigorating than to watch dozens of children galloping across the track, in each other’s way, with that look of pride on a parent or grandparent’s face?
I would say no contest.
Matter of fact, the toddler’s tussle has grown so popular and profound over time that different age categories have been instituted to make it a fair race. Both my 6-year-old and 4-year-old will be competing head-to-head with the rest of the field.
I’ll be the grandpa with the camera in hand, looking for that priceless shot. In all sincerity, I could take any child’s photo that day and it would be a cocker. My best image could very well be the timid one stopping short after 20 yards looking to his dad or mom for reassurance.
It’s okay, folks. Take your child by the hand and finish the remaining distance. That way, you can both enjoy the moment.
I get excited because right there billowing in front of us is the future of this great organization. Today’s kiddie is tomorrow’s AYFer should tradition continue to prevail. There’s no reason to doubt such lineage. It’s been that way for nearly eight decades.
The best thing about the future is that it gets here faster than you might expect it. And it never lasts. Enjoy it while you can because tomorrow might be too late.
For every child on that field, I would expect a parent or two, some grandparents if feasible, and siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. A stadium gallery is all about families, whether you’re directly related or not.
“Hey, bud, are you going to run the kiddo race this year?” I proposed to one of my grandkids. He didn’t make it out to Chicago last year but given the proximity this year from Auburn, I don’t think he’d pull a no-show.
His name is Rocco and he loves sports as much as kindergarten. Okay, maybe a little more. And like most grandparents who grew up inside the AYF, I often wonder how much longer I’ll savor the good life.
Will I live long enough to see them in these Olympics for real another decade from now? That would make me an octogenarian plus. Will I see them graduate high school and college? Will I attend their weddings and enjoy the extreme stage of grand-parenthood like some fortunate friends I know?
I wonder if my parents ever felt the same way about me. My dad passed on at 66 with cancer and never really got to see his grandchildren participate at an Olympics.
Sometimes the names get a bit hazy. After 45 years, that might be a typical reaction. But not the faces. Getting them affixed to one another might be challenging, however. It’s a span that has evolved over three generations.
When my own children were competing, they were up against the offspring of other AYFers who were in my class. Would they be at an Olympics if they didn’t have family entered?
You don’t see them again until one day, year, or decade later when their grandchildren suddenly appear. It shouldn’t matter whether they finish first or last. The fact they’re giving it their utmost breeds the champion spirit in them.
The losers? Those who can participate and don’t—or won’t. The unsung heroes in our midst are those who compete under duress. Finishing a pentathlon with a pulled hamstring takes a lot of guts because that very last event is the mile.
If you should be at the track this Labor Day, let’s hear it for our tiny tots as they get set to strut their stuff. May they wear out their running shoes faster than they wear out their parents.