Traditions: One way to work off holiday pie

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2011 - 6:48 AM

Whenever members of the Schmid family gather, a sporting event is destined to break out -- even on holidays -- and woe betide the person who isn't ready.

Editor's note: This article is part of our lighthearted weekly series in which we asked Minnesota families to share their nontraditional holiday traditions.

When the members of the Schmid family arrive for a holiday meal, they're carrying the typical things people bring to such gatherings: a side dish, bottle of wine or pie for dessert.

But they're also toting running shoes, tennis racquets and skis. Whenever the family gathers, a sporting event is destined to break out, and woe betide the person who isn't ready.

"We come prepared," said Shannon Schmid Yocum. "It is rumored that some couples even train before our next family get-together."

Yocum and her three siblings grew up in a physically active family. They all played multiple sports in high school, and after they left home, they used family gatherings as a chance to dust off their sports gear.

"When we all got together for a weekend, it seemed natural for us to go for a run in the morning, play a tennis match in the afternoon and maybe nine holes of golf in the evening," she said.

As in most families, as the kids married and had children with their own busy lives, the opportunities for getting everyone together shifted primarily to holidays. But the competitive spirit of those weekends lived on to the point that shortly after marrying into the group 15 years ago, the new brother-in-law dubbed the holiday gatherings the Schmid Olympics.

The name stuck, but the events change.

"Some of them get pretty silly," Yocum admitted. "We've held a 40-yard dash at midnight; that one might have been after a couple of cocktails. Last Easter we had a plank-off contest. And we've had golf tournaments where you had to putt with a tennis racquet on one hole and a hockey stick on the next one. The only thing we tend to do every holiday is play ping-pong."

As for who determines what the events will be, "it's very spontaneous," she said. "You come prepared for everything."

The one thing that didn't work was when her mother, who has a yoga studio in Sleepy Eye, Minn., talked everyone into trying yoga and then announced, "Yoga is not about winning." But the Schmid Olympics are about winning, and soon everyone's competitive urges got the better of them.

"We started having a contest about who was the most flexible," Yocum said. "Competing in yoga is very anti-yoga-ish."

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-739

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