Choose Your Game

Yao Ming

On the wrong side of the rail­way tracks in Zhengzhou city, cen­tral China, you can find some ugly old con­crete class­rooms built around a small paved sports ground. It is a rail­way tech­ni­cal col­lege to train nurses and logis­tics stu­dents, 19 year old kids mostly from the coun­try. Last term they kept telling me that Yao Ming was the most famous per­son they could think of.

Now it is vaca­tion time. The place is deserted. On the long evenings when I go down to run in the half light of dusk I’m alone, almost. There’s this boy, maybe 12, who knows. He’s short, very short, but there he is every evening patiently lob­bing a ball at one of the hoops. Nobody is there to applaud him. Maybe he’s never going to be Yao Ming, but he loves the game. That’s what counts. I wish we could talk, but my Chi­nese is too prim­i­tive. The Bei­jing Olympics? I can live with­out it, but boy, that would be the biggest deal in HIS life.

About forty-seven years ago in a down-at-heel inner city high school not so dif­fer­ent from this one I learned to run. It was Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. Yeah, I did bas­ket­ball too, but run­ning was the thing. For most peo­ple sport is a team thing, but I’ll be a lone ranger until my last breath. Any­way, we had a physics teacher who coached the dis­tance run­ning. He mea­sured every­thing that had a name – blood pres­sure, heart rate, body fat, height, weight .. you name it. He was a nice man. One day he took me aside and kindly said, “Thor, you are wast­ing your time. You are not made to be a run­ner. You are never going to win a race.”

Well, I have never won a foot race. He was right, in a silly way. At the time I thought “damn you!”, and kept on run­ning. There’s a lesson in that. At just on 63 I am still run­ning, and doing stair climbs, and 300 body presses a day. None of that is for van­ity, or win­ning races. It is for the joy of life, and with that energy and good health there is so much more to give back to my stu­dents. For thirty-two years in seven coun­tries I’ve taught count­less stu­dents as a pro­fes­sional teacher. They have come all shapes and sizes, the fit­ness freaks and the slobs, the lon­ers and the social but­ter­flies. My trade is lan­guage teach­ing, not Phys Ed, but the best help I can ever give them comes by exam­ple : you choose your game, you do it for the love of excel­lence, you keep run­ning, and by the mea­sure that counts most, you will win.

One Response to Choose Your Game

  1. Pingback: Thor’s New China Diary » Choose Your Game

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