Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I attended many swim team banquets as a child. Last weekend, I attended my first as a parent. I'm happy to say that my favorite part remains the same--the Most Improved Award.
While I firmly believe that outstanding achievement should be honored, the Most Valuable Award typically is predictable. The best performers already have proven themselves and been recognized. They've won the races, posted the times, and taken home the ribbons. On most teams, the MVP is a shoo-in by the time the banquet rolls around.
Not so for the Most Improved. Until a name is called, the Most Improved Award could go to anyone. It rewards the trajectory. It rewards hard work and personal achievement, even for someone who is not among the best. It rewards a kid who tried hard but may not have succeeded in an obvious way.
There is some suspense to the Most Improved, which adds to the fun. You wonder, "Could it be me?" Unless you have been breaking records and besting your teammates, you know you have no chance at MVP, but you're always a contender for Most Improved.
I never was among the best swimmers when I was a kid, and I vividly recall wondering if the coach might just toss a Most Improved in my direction (he didn't). I watched my son's face as the coach began to give the Most Improved 8 and Under Boy Award, and could see my boy wondering if maybe--just maybe--he might be the winner (he wasn't).
Even without an award in hand, my son was inspired to try harder, practice more often, and do a better job next season. Who knows? Someday we might take home the one award we hardworking but modestly achieving athletes are likely to win--Most Improved. I know that I'd be proud.
The photo at the top of this post is of my 1985 Coach's Award, which is an even more amorphous all-around great-to-have-you-on-the-team kind of award. I wasn't the best, but I was appreciated. It's a nice feeling we all should have more often.
Yes, I save everything.