All the tell tale signs were there. Intent etched all over the face, pacing up and down, the clenched fists and white knuckles and the jutting out jaw. One word could describe this individual - tension. Meanwhile on the track, the relaxed 8 year old standing alongside seven other competitors at the start line for his heat, looked over at this spectacle and gave me a look which said 'Dad, get a grip!
This was the boy's first competitive experience outside of school sports day and here he was at Gateshead Stadium, his very own 'theatre of dreams' if you will. For my part, I'd been telling him in the car all the way down to 'enjoy the day, however you get on'. I threw in a bit of 'just try your best, thats all you can do' and realized at that point that I sounded like my Dad! BUT..........beneath it all, I secretly wanted him to run blinder and cross the line first! I am competitive. Not ultra competitive like a very good friend who will remain nameless, but competitive nonetheless. For this reason, I have to be careful about the expectations I put on either of my children. Winning and losing are put of growing up and I'm pleased they go to a school where they can compete. I'm afraid I simply do not agree with the philosophy of 'everyone comes first and no-one comes last' approach. If that attitude prevailed then we would kiss goodbye to any budding Andy Murray's, Chris Froome's or Jessica Ennis's. Three times last night I lost the ball playing 5 a side - I hate losing the ball! Hence why I returned home with a sharp pain in my right knee and a dodgy left hip as a result of chasing down my error and then ending up flat on the floor as I lunged in to, at best, get the ball or, at worst, take one for the team as due penance for my stupid error. That kind of attitude does not come from 'its time to let the other team score now so that everyone is happy and nobody cries!' - give me strength! ..........Please allow me a moment while I get down off my favourite horse!
Having said all that, this was Billy Whizz's first meet. He didnt have spikes and he'd never experienced a race with a starters gun before and I very much wanted him to come away having both learned from and enjoyed the experience. He'd started well enough getting second place in the standing long jump, then had a bit of a mare in the 400 metres (the gun went and he hesitated a couple of seconds, found himself at the back of the pack and then set off like a cheetah making up 7 places before realizing at 200 metres that he had nothing left in the tank!) but to his credit after initial disappointment picked himself up and moved on to the next event. He did ok with his howler throw which only left the 50 metre sprint. This was good. When he wants to, he can run and run fast - hence my obvious if somewhat pathetic agitation at the start line. Having been a little too vocal the first time he played football and being told 'dad, you're putting me off!' I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and made my way to the finish line. 'Keep looking straight ahead' was all I whispered to him.
BANG! Off they set, I got my Itouch ready to take a photo and focused on him. He's doing OK I thought (even though he was giving his best impression of the Churchill dog and doing anything but looking straight ahead) but actually he was doing better than OK and I realised just in time to take a photo of number 1 child crossing the line in first place! He had a smile like a cheshire cat which was worth the trip alone. For sure this was just his heat and the final would be tougher but he was driven by a desire to run well and use his God given talent to the best of his ability.
Talent and drive were on show in a big way at Chester-le-Street on Monday. Mrs F had bought me a ticket to the fourth day of the Ashes Test. My good friend, aka Chandler Bing (Mr Ultra Competitive) joined us for what would be an incredible day's cricket. The day ebbed and flowed with England seizing the initiative and then Australia seizing it back before at 5.05pm....... step forward Stuart Broad. I have no idea what he had for tea but he came out with a focus and a drive that appeared to be lacking from England in the afternoon. Bowling at 92mph, he set about the Australian batting line up with an intensity they simple couldnt handle - the wicket of Michael Clarke was worth the entrance fee alone. From 169-1 the Aussies in fading light were bowled out at 7.40pm for 220 and England had won by 75 runs. It was one of those moments when you can say 'I was there' that will live long in the memory. Chandler and I were off our seats along with the Honey Monster, Kermit the Frog and all sorts of crazy Englishmen. I'm not sure how much Mrs F enjoyed it but that wasnt my over riding thought! We'd just WON the Ashes.
There was once this guy called Saul who was a gamechanger and a winner. To say he was driven would be something of an understatement. He'd been brought up to be the best at everything. He was well educated and had friends in high places. If you gave him a job, you could guarantee that he would do it to the best of his ability. He was a great leader and single minded. So when a new group of people calling themselves Christians started rocking the boat called 'status quo', Saul was over it like a rash killing and using whatever means possible to snuff out this new phenomenen. But it didnt go quite as planned. An unplanned meeting with the CEO of christianity on the way to Damascus would change everything. Saul changed. A new man emerged called Paul still with drive and passion and incite and intelliegence but now God was channelling it for good.
Later in Paul's life as he reflected on his journey to that point, he says 'Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.
What or for that matter who drives the drive in you?