Last night for Neighborhood Fitness Group, we dance our normal dances and crawl around like wild animals. But then, the children beg for "The Jump Rope Challenge." Turning jump rope in a basement is a challenge in itself, but we figure out a way to make it work.
"The Jump Rope Challenge" isn't a normal competition. It's a battle against your own best record. Before each child begins jumping, he or she announces a personal goal. Sometimes, this number is 10 jumps. Sometimes, it's 110 jumps . There's a scorekeeper, cheerleaders, and rope turners, so everybody has a role to play.
A little girl jumps. We cheer when she surpasses 10 jumps and reaches 39. The next one exceeds 100 and achieves 102 jumps. The next one beats his record of 18 and goes for 21 jumps. High-fives! Loud cheering!
The fun of the challenge is that you beat yourself.
I'm amazed because the children don't compare their record to other records. The moment jumping rope is about their personal best--unique to them, in their stage of life, set right at their fitness level. My sister has told me for years about the running world and "personal records." It's not important who finishes ahead of or behind you. You have your own time to beat.
I keep turning the jump rope, and my arm feels like it's going to give out. I tell myself to keep turning so that a little boy can reach his personal best. Somewhere deep inside of him, he musters up the strength. I see his face, and I try to imagine what's going on inside of his head. He wants to quit; I see that. But he doesn't.
The scorekeeper records the personal win. We tape the evidence to the wall. Maybe I'll keep these charts in my basement for 20 more years. Maybe I'll show them at their high school graduation and remind them of these nights in my basement when they accomplished a personal best and the neighborhood cheered.
They wanted to quit, but they didn't.