Creig P. Sherburne/Atascadero News • Linda, Isaiah, Gavin and Antonio Gayfield celebrate the boys’ excellent performances after the 100-meter dash at the All-Comers Meet on Wednesday, Aug. 1.
In a world where such a thing as “Toddlers and Tiaras” can exist, the Gayfields’ approach to excellence is refreshing.
Isaiah and Gavin Gayfield, 11 and 9, of Santa Maria, went to Atascadero High School to compete in the 100- and 200-meter races plus the long jump. Both did exceptionally well, thanks in no small part to their father, Antonio.
Antonio guided the boys through their warmup, giving them gentle tips and encouragement before their races.
But the most important word here is “gentle.” Antonio is a sprinter from way back. His wife, Linda, is more of a distance runner, and both have run competitively. And Antonio is still recovering from a knee injury — it would be easy for a lesser dad to pour his frustration into his boys, but after meeting Antonio and seeing him with his boys, the very idea is ludicrous.
Besides, the boys are hugely self-motivated.
“I’ll come home sometimes and the kids will be out working on the speed ladder,” Antonio said with a laugh.
Linda told a story about a time she complained about heading out one evening to train. Antonio, she said, reminded her that that if you only trained when you wanted to, you’d only go out once a week. If that.
“But Isaiah said, ‘why wouldn’t you want to go for a run?’” Linda said. “So I don’t worry about having to push them.”
An excellent example of the boys self-motivation is the long jump. Gavin was done with the long jump for the night, having leapt 10 feet 5 inches. But when asked to do one more jump for a photo for the newspaper, he was told he didn’t need to give it his all. It was just a jump for the camera. On a throwaway jump, he did give it his all and achieved his personal best with an 11-foot jump.
Gavin, who is heading into fourth grade at Pine Grove Elementary School, said that his reason for running is pretty simple: he’s good at it and he likes it.
“They have a track team at school, but I wasn’t able to do that because I was too young,” Gavin said. “I would love to be on it, though.”
Because of his age, Antonio said, Gavin had to enroll as an individual, rather than on the team. It meant he got to compete in a limited form, but more importantly, it meant he got to train with the team.
Isaiah spoke for both boys when he explained his philosophy for racing in Atascadero.
“I want to do better than everyone in my age group, but that’s not the most important thing,” Isaiah said. “The most important thing is doing my best, trying to break my personal record.”
In addition to running track, both boys play flag football. Tackle football is available for their age groups, but their parents are adamant about keeping them out of it until later in their physical development. Linda said the family’s experienced some pressure to get them into “real” football, since they’re such good players in skilled positions, but they resist it.
“I don’t want them getting hit yet,” Antonio said. “They’re not fully developed.”
Besides, he added, they’re young and active boys. It’s hard enough keeping them from getting concussed without throwing tackle football into the mix.
The boys have also played soccer and basketball — and likely will again, Antonio said. He said he believes that at their age, it’s important to introduce them to a lot of different types of sports. Each sport uses a different muscle group, and he wants them to use as many muscles as possible at this early stage of their lives. Specialization will come later. In the meantime, the Gayfields will continue training with a focus on technique.
Antonio said that winning’s well and good, but building good technique means fewer injuries and more winning later on. Besides, Antonio said, “they’re kids. They’re going to make mistakes. Let’s just have fun.”
If Isaiah and Gavin’s technique approaches their enthusiasm, they’ll be successful in whatever sport they end up specializing in. And they know it.
“Yeah, I always do great,” Gavin said. “I always beat them in the 100.”
And he’s got the blue ribbon to prove it.