Yesterday as I am finishing a class and about to head out for my lunch period duty, the headmaster, Enrique, comes in the room and asks me if I would accompany a group of students on a trip. How could I say no! Really though, I don't know enough Spanish that I could be certain if "no" was actually an option!
As he continued to describe what I was "agreeing" to I realized that I was accompanying a group of cross-country athletes. I also figured out that I would be outside all day, which I was not too excited about. I've been sick recently and the thought of being outside in drizzly, near freezing temperatures was not very exciting! It turned out to be a great day and a wonderful experience.
We took a bus to a park and there were probably 10 other schools there. We got the kids all set up with their race numbers and the times for their races and by the time were were done with that, the first races were starting. I always enjoy seeing students compete in athletic events because it shows a contrasting aspect of their personality from who I see in the classroom. For example, it was great to see the kids prepare before their race.
Some of the kids were nervous and you could see it in their eyes, others were excited and confident. Some would run and stretch to warm up, others didn't even bother to get out of their warm ups instead they just sauntered up to the starting line and waited for the sound of the gun. The races varied in length depending on the age and gender of the racers, the shortest race was 1 km and the longest was 3 km.
On the ride down I asked one of the coaches why I had never seen the kids practice, it was about 70 kids so I thought I would have seen them running at some point. He said that it's because they don't! Most of the kids at this school have to be bused in and therefore leave as soon as school is over leaving no time for practices. So I wondered how they could have an actual "team" in that case. Apparently the announcement for the race was made over the loud speaker in school and kids could just sign up to run. Some kids haven't trained for the race beyond the running they do in PE!
That is pretty much the case for all sports, in so far as that there really aren't any organized sports teams. A few kids are involved in city teams where they live for sports like basketball, football (soccer), or maybe volleyball but there really isn't a sports atmosphere at the school in the way there is at most American high schools. I wonder if you can imagine your high school experience with no pep-rallies, no school rivalry games, no unifying rallying cry of "we are the (insert mascot name)! Gooooo (insert same mascot name)!!!" As someone who grew up in that atmosphere, it feel like an important part of the high school experience is missing.
One of the most impressive results is that in the absence of an organized team, we had one kid place first, another place third and several more who finished in the top 15. All in all, it was a great day! Gooo Knights! That's the mascot I just made up for my school here.