The Rolling Stones sang “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”
Fact is, Santa (or Mom and Dad) always seemed to know what we needed, even if we didn’t at the time. Looking back fondly, these local athletes, coaches, and fit-folk remember how the most meaningful gift they ever received wasn’t always the biggest or shiniest gift or even the one they thought they wanted most at the time.
▪ Jon Beyle, in his 25th year as physical education instructor at Phillips Middle School:
“The first thing that comes to mind is when I was 7 or 8 and got a Dallas Cowboys blue wool jacket with silver sleeves. I used to come home from school and stare at it in the Sears catalog. I was a huge fan, and I was so excited when I finally got it Christmas morning. I wore that jacket out.
▪ Catherine Lazorko, marathon runner and Town of Chapel Hill communications manager:
“The best gift for a runner is a pair of socks. The pair of socks is like, “I love you,” because I blow out socks. You have to know who you’re gifting though. Like for me, I don’t like an ultra-thick sock. It sounds boring, but I love socks. I still put on my Cardinal Track Club “Paris of the Piedmont” socks. Get a runner on your list one pair of socks, but get the right sock. Santa should know which one that is.
▪ Alan Rader, manager, Chapel Hill Tennis Club:
“I had been going to some tennis clinics and had been taking some private lessons for about a year. I showed that I had ability and picked up the game fairly easy at that level. My mom and dad gave me for Christmas my first real tennis racket: a Dunlop Maxply Fort, at the time a very popular racket of which my dad had two. I was excited to get my first real racket, but more excited it was the same as my dad’s. Through my travels in life I have managed to hold onto that very racket – it hangs in my office today.”
▪ Joan Nesbit Mabe, 1996 Olympian, track and cross-country Coach, Chapel Hill High School:
“The most important track-related Christmas present I received was a Casio running watch. It was my freshman year at Carolina and I felt like a “real runner” after that. I have never gone without a running watch since, and it's been 36 years.”
▪ Becky Binney Woodruff, UNC Faculty Staff Recreation Association (FSRA) diving instructor:
“We got something that has made going to sporting events so much more fun. One Christmas, we got these black Luxury Stadium Seats with 2-inch padding that you can carry like backpacks. Wherever we go now, people ask us where we got these seats. They fold out and they’re adjustable, with arms.”
▪ Kristin Allyne, Clinical UNC Healthcare PACU nurse; world-class triathlete:
“The best gift ever was a second-hand, 1960s boy’s three-speed Schwinn Stingray with a banana-seat. I was in middle school, and we lived on a big hill about four miles from school. I rode that green bike everywhere, including to school. I finally got a 10-speed which took me 20 miles to high school and allowed me to commute the 12 miles between class and a town pool in college, I didn’t think about bike racing until decades later. Now I ride several thousands of miles a year; I race. Riding is a big part of who I am all because of that used Stingray.
▪ Josh Mayo, Chapel Hill High graduate, UNC senior and Tar Heel “super fan” (self-titled: “That blue guy with the afro”):
▪ Paint: body paint. My best present ever, though, was Duke-Carolina tickets. I’d just gotten accepted into UNC, and it was a birthday gift, but it was a great way to get started as a Tar Heel fan. But for Christmas? Definitely blue body paint.
▪ Maria Finnegan, owner, Maria Finnegan Fitness, Hillsborough, NC:
The best fitness-related Christmas gift I received was my first stand-up paddleboard. That was in 2013, and that was the beginning of not only my love for stand-up paddleboarding but also the start of my stand-up paddleboard yoga and fitness business. Those two boards are still my favorite and the ones I always use when I teach.
Randy Young writes weekly about recreation in Orange County. You can reach him in c/o firstname.lastname@example.org