Olympian ideals in daily life

Saturday August 11, 2012


Admit it; you’ve tried the pose. Maybe you were walking down a deserted hallway, and you suddenly planted your feet and raised your arms in a victory salute. We’ve all done it. We want to feel what the Olympic athletes feel when they win their events before cheering crowds. Kids are the best at it. The edge of the sandbox becomes a balance beam or the back of the sofa is a pommel horse. They concentrate, ape the moves, and -- eureka -- they are the champions! We have all been inspired by champions, heroes, and role models of some kind. For many of us, that is how we chose a career or an avocation.

Growing up, our next-door neighbor was a teacher. I spent hours on the front porch in the summer playing school -- and I was always the teacher.

Guess what career I chose? I spent an equal number of hours as a junior grease monkey at Horrigan Brothers Garage, but auto mechanic was not a choice for girls when I was growing up. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had that choice. Would I be in Danica Patrick’s pit crew? Would I be the service manager at a local car dealership? We’ll never know, but I’m certainly glad that females of the current generation have a broader choice of role models and careers.

Spending a couple of hours a day over the past two weeks watching the televised Olympic coverage, I am blown away by the abilities and achievements of the world’s athletes. I love to watch the synchronized divers. It’s hard enough to complete one of those complicated maneuvers; but to do it in parallel with another human being is Herculean. I can’t imagine how many months and years of practice it takes to do that. The equestrian events pose an even greater challenge. The rider has to work in unison with a huge animal, completing a crazy obstacle course in a stingy time limit. I can’t get my cat to sit in my lap.

Since we are privileged to see the fruits of the athletes’ labors, we sometimes forget how strenuous their training regimens are. We’d want the glory without the sweat and the pain; but patience and perseverance are probably the foremost qualities athletes possess. These are important characteristics we should all emulate, whatever our endeavors.

I guess my only gripe with the Olympics is the unrelieved focus on sports. We get enough of that every week on television, in newspapers, and online. If we devoted as much time, money, and attention to reading and writing as we do to sports, we truly would have a nation where no child is left behind.

Few athletes and fewer Olympians actually carve a career out of their sport. Even the Bruins’ great, Bobby Orr, wound up working for a bank. Every child, teen and adult must possess strong communication skills.

There’s an old adage in education circles that from grades one to three you learn to read, and from then on you read to learn. The axiom is too simplistic and generalized. All the way through college, students need to improve their reading skills to master more difficult reading material and more complex comprehension tasks. There is not a multiple-choice test for life. You are constantly evaluated on your reading (and listening) comprehension, nowhere more completely than in your ability to process political information for elections or directions on medical or insurance forms.

I hope, in future generations, many children are inspired by athletes to achieve mastery in their chosen sport; but I hope equally as many are inspired by their parents and teachers to excel at educational pursuits which are cornerstones of their entire lives.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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