Opinion: Beck Vass

There’s been outrage recently about schools around New Zealand making cross-country optional to save children the embarrassment of competing.

Isn’t it just a bit of fresh air and sunshine? I thought every kid liked that more than being in a classroom.

Hardly anyone actually sets out to win a cross-country and only one person ever does.

I ran cross-countries. I never ran them to win them. I never tried, nor expected to, and I never did win any. I always felt like I had achieved something by competing though.

Our girl appears to be the same. She’s five and was so excited about her first cross-country earlier this year. She didn’t win, but she loved feeling of her heart beating fast in her chest and being involved.

Surely, for the kids who really have issues with this kind of stuff, there are already options not to participate without any drama.

It’s like we don’t want our kids to feel discomfort anymore.

Of course, no one likes feeling discomfort. We avoid it – sometimes by eating, drinking, or drugs: anything to take the edge off.

Shouldn’t we let kids feel it and do our best to give them coping mechanisms now? Isn’t that better than trying, unrealistically, to prevent it before they’re at an age to find their own, probably more negative, coping mechanisms?

Most people aren’t instantly good at everything. It’s normal not to be that great at something when you first do it. But if you keep going and get better, you might even find you enjoy it.

Overcoming these challenges can be one of the best feelings you can get.

I’ve never felt particularly great achieving something I already knew I could do.

There was talk of some of the slower kids facing ridicule. How about pulling into line the kids causing ridicule and not accepting them behaving like bullies, instead of encouraging the other kids to hide from them? They’re going to face bullies in the workplace or beyond at some stage. Can’t we teach them how to cope with it now?

And how is stopping the slow or non-athletic kids from participating helping anyone?

They’re surely still going to be mocked by the bullies for not participating, so what’s changed?

I do wonder though, why anger is targeted at the schools for these decisions.

I’m not sending my kids to school with the expectation that it’s the school’s responsibility to teach my kids this stuff.

If there are gaps in what my kids are getting out of school, it’s up to parents to fill them.

If we don’t let our kids push themselves beyond their comfort zones, they’re never going to experience that high of getting out the other side.

Another comment on this topic claimed it was about protecting the emotional wellbeing of the kids.

But it’s not protecting anything. It’s preventing and avoiding things, and it’s missing an opportunity to give them the skills and resilience crucial for their emotional wellbeing.

And anyway, what is one of the best things for emotional wellbeing? A little bit of fresh air and exercise.


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