This week Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White won Olympic Gold in the Ice Dance competition. Now, I’m Canadian, so I would have loved to see Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win, but I didn’t feel quite so bad about our Canadian Silver to their U.S. Gold because of an exchange Charlie White had with the coach as he left the ice after the short program. The coach said, “Was that fun?” Charlie White said, “Yes. That was fun.”
Imagine. Olympic athletes having fun.
When I thought about it, in other sports, the athletes who performed best in their Olympic events were those who allowed themselves to have fun. I’m not discounting their competitive spirit, or the hours, and hours, and hours of practice and training and work that went into just getting them to the Olympics, but once that groundwork was in place, once they were in the spotlight and had to perform, they leveraged all that practice, training and work and relaxed into living a fun moment.
I watched again the performances of some athletes who, according to expectations, fell short of the mark. Sure enough, they didn’t seem to be having any fun. Their tense bodies failed under pressure. Their limbs couldn’t respond because of nerves. They weren’t submersed in the fun moment, they were distracted into the fear moment.
Two words I say to my son before every sporting event: Have fun.
Four words I say to my son after every sporting event, win or lose: Did you have fun?
I say this to him for house league hockey games, for skating on the outdoor rink with friends, for school volleyball games, for ski races, and, yes, even for his competitive baseball games.
There’s a long list of other things I could say, and that I hear other parents say. Things like, “You went offside twice. Watch the offside.” Or “Spike that volleyball down their throats.” Or “What were you thinking on that last play. Step it up next time.” I don’t think any of those things are helpful, and I think he’s got coaches to tell him that. All I care about is that he has fun doing something he loves.
The Canadian in me wishes Virtue and Moir had prevailed to take the Gold, but when I watched the final Ice Dance event—the free program—it looked like all four skaters were having fun.
There’s that, at least.