Editorial: The Magic of Encouragement

by Laura Keil, Interim Editor


There’s a quote attributed to Dorothy Parker that I like: “I hate writing; I love having written.” We all love to achieve. But getting there? That’s not always enjoyable.

There’s a backlash to what some perceive as a warm and fuzzy movement that involves giving kids “participation ribbons.” The assumption is that kids will lose their motivation if we only praise effort and not results.

I am from a generation that was given participation ribbons and I can tell you this: it was obvious to me that getting a participation ribbon was not the same as placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Kids aren’t duped that easily. They know that winning is better than participating.

So why hand out participation ribbons? Why encourage the ranks of non-winners?

Last Saturday I interviewed Michelle Katchur Roberts, the female winner of the Mt. Robson 50km Ultra Marathon. Anyone who’s hiked to Berg Lake has some idea of how difficult this is, since it involves running from the Visitor Centre to the far end of Berg Lake and back as fast as possible. Katchur Roberts’ average speed was 11.1 km/hr.

Katchur Roberts told me the hardest part was overcoming the negative self-talk in the first half of the race. She felt slow. She berated herself for not running faster. She didn’t fully overcome this until she was close to Berg Lake and she started passing backpackers en route to their campsites.

They cheered her on.

“You can do it!”

“You’re doing awesome!”

“You’re my hero!”

Suddenly Katchur Roberts realized that if she was going to be a winner, she needed to start thinking like one.

On the way down, her GPS cut out. She was sure she had taken too long and wouldn’t win. But the encouragement from those backpackers rang in her head.

At the finish line, the weather was glorious and the Old Timers band vamped in the background. Every time a racer came into the home stretch the crowd would break off their conversation and cheer.

The crowd didn’t save their praise for just the top three winners. They cheered because each runner had made a goal, had overcome hurdles and had finished the race.

And that is something worth celebrating, always.

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