No, the torches I'm referring to aren't the ones used by mobs with pitchforks, they're the ones that are passed on, instead. This has been a season of glimpsing that passing of the torch. In recent weeks, our son, Nick, has taken his riding to the next level. He has really committed to 'cross, even jumping on the trainer Fridays after school to do his openers for the weekend races. He's only 11 years old! This dedication has been rewarded by a streak of podiums, including 2 wins in snowy, slick conditions in Colorado, and 2nd overall for the weekend in the mud of Jingle Cross. He's going into the weekend of States riding a wave of confidence and eager for hard conditions.
Given Carl's reduced racing this season, this has created an interesting dynamic, and maybe one we should have anticipated. The focus has shifted from Mom & Dad's races, and the kids just being there for fun, to making sure Nick has everything he needs for his race. His level of engagement and responsibility for himself in preparation has caused us to want to help him--to the point where Carl has raced even less in order to not be a distraction.
We remember watching our friend Harold reduce his own racing, even dropping out halfway through races at times to prepare his sons for their race. At the time we didn't understand that. Now, his younger son is the defending National Champion and his older will race his first World Cup race this weekend! They're both great kids, and if ours can develop into half the quality (and ability) of his, we'd be overjoyed.
Its funny--when viewed from outside, it might appear to be a sacrifice, but we just feel proud. We've had conversations with numerous other parents of athletic kids about how hard to push them and the balance of making sure it's still fun. Our personal approach is not to push, but make the kid pull it toward themselves, instead. We refuse to 'force' Nick to go to practice or head out for a ride. We got into a cycle of that for a while this summer, when he was training for the Courage Classic, and we finally just told him that we're done with that. If he wants to train and race, we'll help, but it's on him to make it happen.
He had to earn his way to Nationals again this year by showing commitment to school, training, and general health. His joy when we told him last weekend that he was going was so awesome! Of course, next year he'll be at the low end of his age group again, so his results will suffer, but hopefully the enthusiasm, dedication, and maturity will stick around. Cross is such a great sport and community!