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Clevenger Blog: The importance of meal time

Monday, March 25, 2013
by John Clevenger

This weekend, the Lipscomb Bisons Track & Field team fought hard at the Vanderbilt Invite, a two-day track meet. The first night featured pole vault, triple jump, the hammer throw, the shot put, the 1500m run, and the 3000m run. The Bisons had a good showing the first night, and we sought to use that momentum going into the events on Saturday.

The week before this meet was spring break at Lipscomb University. The track & field team members were among the multitudes of students serving on mission trips, vacationing on sandy beaches, and relaxing at home with family. While the student in every undergrad needed the break, the athlete in us was called upon to still train all week.

Our coaches asked us to lift at least two times over the break and practice however we could manage. This was a reasonable and intelligent request.  If we were to take a week off at this point in our competitive season, then we would eliminate and nullify so much training and practice that had come before. So we worked hard all week on top of our vacations, because we wanted to do so.

Friday night, many of our team members were still traveling, but we all tried our hardest to be there. We want to cheer for each other. We love being one of the last teams to leave because it usually means that we have a thrower who has made finals in an event or the 4x4 is gearing up and trying to take down their personal best.

Unfortunately, when we end up staying so late through a meet, we tend to miss regular meal times. Generally our coaches will take us out to eat.

Friday, after the meet, we could choose from Noodles and Company or Chipotle. These meals are always a great time because the team gets to sit together and just be friends. We always work so hard at practice and in competition that sometimes we seem to forget that we are just normal college kids too. When we sit down and eat together, we start to open up genuine conversations with each other that are not always geared towards track and field.

Eating a meal with your friends can be so relaxing. I know that personally I needed to just hang out with my team members as friends rather than just as my teammates. I always look forward to our friendly jokes and conversations so much because we are in a casual environment and setting. At a track meet, we can get so overwhelmed with the nature of competition that cheering and shouting can take over the majority of our time together, but at these meals…we are nothing but friends.

This meal was special because everyone got to relay the adventures and stories, the tales and memories that they had made over the break. People who went home were telling their friends about the shenanigans that occurred when they were with their family. The beach-going crowd were proudly displaying sunburns and laughing at the pain because it brought back the joys from the previous week. The mission trippers were sharing their direct encounters from the week as they were touched by God and saw His work in the lives of people all over the world.

I love my team because we are a combination of so many members. We are a team composed of sprinters, jumpers, long-distance runners, throwers, pole-vaulters, and hurdlers. We are a team that fields both a full men’s team and an entire women’s team, but we live, train, and practice as single indivisible units.

I have friends that are girls who can run for miles without getting tired, and I am a boy only throwing a sharp stick as far as I can.

I love that our coaches realize how important these meals are to us, because they know that this is something that no amount of icebreaker games or team bonding can do. Those games are more than necessary for teams, but they only introduce us to one another. We get to know each other and love one another as we break ourselves in the everyday grind of training and practice. Our teammates build us back up with encouragement and kindness.

But these meals that we share together are indescribably crucial to our success as a cohesive unit. We begin to love each other because we start to see one another as more than a teammate that is necessary to have in order to win and succeed.

We love one another and we become friends at these meals. I will compete well because I want my team to win, but I will compete better than I ever have before because I want my friends to win with me.