Every four years — well, every two years, now — most of us are glued to our television sets for two weeks as we watch the Olympics.
Whether you prefer the winter or summer venue, both provide visuals that stick with us over time. Some of our memories center around victories: competitors overcoming great odds, partners who have worked together for decades, crowd favorites, coaches with huge personalities, judges/scores we don’t quite understand. And always, grace under pressure.
This year I have been especially impressed by the sportsmanship of the snowboarders. So often, too often, we are witness to gigantic egos (and accompanying salaries) that dominate professional sports.
We observe arguments with officials, fights on the fields and courts, and endless excuses as to why something did/didn’t happen.
Yes, we see class acts, such as Peyton Manning following the recent disappointment of a Super Bowl, but they are too rare.
Which is why watching both the women and the men in the slopestyle and half pipe competitions has been so memorable.
Every athlete at the Olympics has earned his or her spot through years of relentless practice and hard work. Every one has sacrificed much along the way to represent his or her country.
Accompanying them to the Games is usually of retinue of supporters who have participated significantly in the process. Everyone has something to lose, should they not podium.
I watch as dreams are shattered in the last couple of seconds of a run. I watch as one athlete edges out another in terms of hundredths of a second or a quarter of a point.
And I watch, somewhat in awe, as, time after time, these exceptional young people manage to shrug off their defeat (at least publicly), embrace their competitors, and demonstrate their grace and integrity to the world. They do not quit. They move forward.
Educators constantly scour the news for examples of courage, humility and good sportsmanship, elements not frequently featured in the evening news.
For two weeks every four years in the winter and summer, we teachers can actually point to the best of the best and talk to our students about what their aspirations should be.
The questions are: Why are such examples not readily evident the rest of the time, and what role models do we provide for the children in our lives?
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at www.laketahoeschool.org.