Last week I spent over 37 hours at a table in the corner of the registration room at the 2014 Virginia Senior Games. Outside, and all around Newport News, people were enjoying glorious sunny weather (except for a half-day washout on Friday). They were experiencing the adrenalin rush of great competition, and by great I mean inspiring - people who have learned to enjoy the journey of training, culminating in a physical test of their hard work.
So, while I saw little of the actual athletic prowess (I was able to peek at table tennis and swimming) and the biggest workout of my week were my fingertips on my keyboard - managing registration, communication, results, and other facets of VSG administration - my table duty was one of the most rewarding experiences I can recall.
Why you might ask? There are two reasons, the first of which is the athletes. They come through door, and I can see in their frames and in their faces the effort that they have invested in order to arrive. A 95-year-old archer was accompanied by his daughter and her husband, who are seniors themselves. The athlete was prepared to compete in the Friday washout - and he did - with a trooper attitude that resulted in a gold medal. Another athlete (track and field - discus) was back after a bout of prostrate cancer - proud and grateful to just be a part of the Games again. A 101-year-old swimmer accompanied her swimmer son; a VSG swimmer alumni herself, she broke world records as recently as 2013.
The second reason for my wonderful week was the very special company in the registration room. Rather than being a cumbersome necessity, this spirited group has turned registration into a wonderful, favorably anticipated part of the Virginia Senior Games experience. Amidst the grins, playful banter, cheers, singing, games of hangman, impromptu karaoke, and spontaneous dancing - I felt like I was in a sorority of sorts. These folks reminded me of what matters - the little things like a smile and camaraderie. I can't recall an athlete who was not greeted with a round of applause, followed by endless shouts of encouragement as they departed. Many often returned to show-off their wares - gold, silver, and bronze medals - resulting in more clapping and cheering. My favorite quote of the week:
"Nothing but winners come out of here."