Team sports are regaled by educators as the facilitators of practice, patience and persistence. (See earlier article.)
But individual sports provide the same backdrop with added bonuses: the development of motivation and taking responsibility for an athlete’s own results.
It’s the common theme covering the playing fields of St. Clement’s School’s Alex McCartney, Havergal College’s Haley Walker and Jack Day of Royal St. George’s College.
The trio credit their hard work and efforts to the motivation they developed while participating in individual sports.
Cross country is one such sport that has offered McCartney a chance to hone her skill of perseverance. The Grade 12 St. Clement’s student has been racing since she was in Grade 3, and attributed her interest in physical activity from her parents.
“My mom has imparted on me eating healthy and keeping yourself just as healthy as you can,” she said, during a late September a phone call. “They were both athletes in high school.”
Which means dad is a great a running partner whenever McCartney is training for all the big meets: CISAA, Citys and OFSAA.
Still, the Penguin is modest in her approach to the sport. She loves to improve on her previous scores, but admits she finishes in the middle of the pack. At CISAA last year, she finished 18 with a time of 24:04.73. McCartney had St. Clement’s best time in the five-kilometre senior girls run.
“I’m pretty competitive. So just getting out there and finishing the race, getting out there and pushing myself as hard as I can and seeing where that gets,” she said. “I like to see how well I can do, compared to what I’ve done in the past.”
The thrill of finishing
Though McCartney is skiing at a more competitive level, she said she’s motivated to improve on her previous times. St. Clement’s coaches Laura Sardone and Peter McGrath provide her with the support system she needs to do so.
Sardone has a history of competitive running, and coaching, and she’s the first person McCartney will turn to for sage advice.
Though the best part of running for and representing St. Clement’s is the thrill of finishing a course, through all kinds of weather and over all kinds of terrin.
“The thing cross country has taught me is you don’t have to be first to get satisfaction from doing physical activity,” she said. “Honestly, the most satisfied I am in a cross country race is when I finish, I’ve worked as hard as I could, and the pain is over.”
Pain comes with any sport, whether it’s emotional or physical.
Havergal College’s Haley Walker, who competes in skiing, cross country and track, shows none given her success in her chosen sports.
The Grade 11 Gator finished second in the 800- and 1500-metre finals; third at the Citys and a bronze medal at OFSAA in the 800-metre race (2:13.04).
A reason for her success, she said, was the development of perseverance and dedication when she began running at her elementary school, John Wanless Junior Public.
“In running there are a lot of things that can set you back,” Walker said. “You might not always get the results you want, but you just have to keep persevering and it will eventually come.”
Once she started at Havergal, it was kicked up a notch, thanks to her work with cross country coaches Tamara Curtis and Laura Sanchez, as well as track coaches Hilary Adamson and Melanie Belore.
Now, with the taste of medalling at OFSAA in her mouth, Walker is focused on returning to the podium, and is splitting her training between Havergal and the University of Toronto’s track team.
“Another top-ten finish (in cross country) would be amazing,” she said. “Track, I definitely want to improve my time and get back on the podium at OFSAA.”
Golf at Royal St. George’s
When it comes to comparing team sports and individual sports, Royal St. George’s College’s Jack Day knows what both can provide in regards to personal development.
Day is involved in both golf and hockey at the school. Hockey may be Canada’s most popular sport, but golf has been his true love.
His passion for the links started through mini-putt, and once he saw some of his hockey teammates at the driving range he decided to pick up the clubs, along with his putter.
Golf has taught Day the art of focus, and keeping cool under pressure. He admitted he doesn’t go Happy Gilmore on the links.
“No, of course not, (but) I’ve wanted to,” he said, with a laugh.
The thrill of being on a green, and being in that “zone” gives him the feeling of invulnerability. But, you always have to be “the bigger man when you lose or win”.
“For hockey, because it’s a team sport, and you can put off mistakes in you head as it wasn’t your fault,” he said. “You kind You have to put whatever happened behind you.”
He credits his coaches Phil Spacie, Paul O’Leary and Justin Brigginshaw for being the Mr. Miyagis to his Karate Kid.
In the end, all the responsibility of how an athlete finishes is placed on them. There is no one to blame but themselves when the ball is knocked into the rough, or chipped into a bunker.
That’s why motivation and perseverance are the two bonuses that are born from individual sports.
McCartney, Walker and Day can all attest to that.