Is a little effort too much to ask?

Over one hundred fourth grade girls stood impatiently at the starting line. It was the first cross country meet of the season. POW! When the starter’s pistol went off, it looked like the opening of the gates to a Taylor Swift concert. Off they went, sprinting, some as fast as they could, others trotting along at a moderate pace that would allow them to compete the course in a reasonable amount of time, and a couple of stragglers, clearly there to chat and spend some time with friends.

If you haven’t already guessed, First Born, my fourth grade girl, was one of the Chatty Cathy’s in the back, gabbing on like she was a guest panelist on The View. Did she realize this was a race, a timed running event, where the entire point was to get from one place to another as fast as possible? It didn’t seem like it. I’d gone on a few runs with her before, I knew she was capable of running much faster than her current pace. As she slowly shuffled along, she gave us a big smile and a wave, then spun in a circle, clearly having fun, but definitely not racing.

She trotted along with her friends in the back of the pack for the first five minutes or so, then, in an instant, she took off…like an Olympic sprinter! Wow! I was shocked. Her long limbs were flailing about in the wind like a doe bounding through the woods.

Had she been saving her energy?

Was she about to make a break for the front of the pack?


She found another friend, this one from a different school, running up ahead. As soon as she caught up to her friend, she slowed back down to a “conversational” pace. This pace continued until the end of the race. She received her ribbon from the race official, and high fives and hugs from her mother and I.

On the car ride home we talked a bit about the race. Her mom and I told her we were proud of her and asked her if she felt like she tried her best. She told us the reason she signed up was to be with her friends, not to race. Interesting. For her, cross country was just going to be another social outlet.

Here’s my question for all of you… Is it too much to ask a little bit of effort from her as well? I’m not asking this hypothetically, I really want to know.

Later that night we talked to her about running with friends at practice, and starting races with friends, then everyone going their own pace, but she didn’t seem to buy it.

Is she being fair to us? We pay for the sport. The whole family’s time is spent driving to and from events, disrupting dinner/homework/bedtimes, all we ask is she try.

What do you think? Are we being jerks as parents? If a kid signs up for school sports or activity shouldn’t we, as parents, expect something out of them that resembles effort?

Thanks for letting me rant and ramble, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this one…


Brian "Pete"
Brian "Pete"
Indianapolis Stay-at-Home Dad to three kids, ages nine, six and four. Blogger and monthly print columnist for Indy’s Child, Cincinnati Parent and Dayton Parent magazines. Fifth grade class spelling bee runner-up. Gold Award Winner at the Parenting Media Association Editorial and Design Awards for Best Blog/Blogger.

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