The youth organization with which I volunteer, The Boys and Girls Brigade, has always struggled with shrinking enrollment as each group progresses through the years. Each year, a significant number of six graders enroll in the program for their first year. By eighth grade, several groups have been combined, and each group has usually lost several members. By the junior and senior years, only a handful of young leaders will remain.
The most common excuse given for "dropping out" of the program is excessive demands on time. Homework, extracurricular activities, other organizations, etc will be cited as the reason for leaving the Brigade. But a quick review of the remaining youth almost always identifies at least one valedictorian, many straight A students, student body leaders, and sports stars. Many of those completing all six years hold down jobs along with the extracurricular activities in which they participate. These young leaders have figured out how to balance a great many things in their lives.
This is a skill that will serve them well in the future. As adults, there is always one more demand on available time. I am constantly amazed at two things. First, just how many new demands can be made on our time. Even more amazing is the way in which many people manage to take on those demands.
Years ago, when a certain pulmonary doctor asked that I run a few miles each week, I seriously questioned how that could be squeezed into an already tight schedule. After all, work and school took up most of my time. It was a health issue, though, so I found time to run a mile or two each week. Eventually, that turned into 6.5 miles three times a week.
Over the years, the schedule that was "stretched to the max" by school, work, and running has managed to fit into the mix two children, increased demands at work, leadership within the church (including occassional preaching), Sunday school teacher, Brigade leader, and triathlon training. Hmmmmm. Since time is constant, something else must have given.
And now, as I move from short course triathlons to half Ironman and, soon enough, full Ironman distance, new opportunities are appearing. The youth endurance team we are putting together will require both administrative time and training time (with the kids). Getting to the various races the kids enter will be vital to show support. The co-worker who will be doing the half IM race with me has been busy putting together a team plan for both co-workers and outside friends. Oddly enough, he "nominated" (drafted, blindsided, saddled, stuck) me to be the "president" of the little group.
Somehow, all these additional tasks don't come as a burden. They are welcomed because they are all aimed at improving myself, my friends and soon-to-be-friends, and the community.
Anyone who believes Ironman is only about health and physical activity misses the bigger picture. I know I did. There is so much more to be given and gained on the journey than 140.6 miles on race day.