That is the question. And a recurring one, it is.
After college I moved to a boarding school as the athletic trainer. More than once I scuffled with coaches. At times they viewed me as the young woman who didn’t know anything about __________ (soccer, lacrosse, hockey, etc.). I often viewed them as the over zealous (usually) men who were fulfilling some long lost dream of their own. When they were “play at any cost” I was concerned with long term injuries and early disability. I saw exposed knee caps at dinner (“coach told me not to come to the training room”) and got calls from kids on spring training trips (“I hit my head and coach wants me to take these pills”). I just figured that world was not for me.
I moved to Florida in October of 1991. Driving around during my first week here I spotted a well lit ball field full of little weanies. Couldn’t tell the exact age because they were in helmets and pads, but they were little boys, indeed. It was 8:30 night; my mind screamed “bed time”.
In the mid-90’s a parent brought her daughter to see me. The kid had to go to practice that day, but she was pretty sore. She was the star pitcher of her softball team. In the name of perfecting her pitch she had spent an hour with the coach the day prior. Fast pitch softball vs. 12 year old girl. I laughed a little, cried a little, and put a call in to a friend at an Olympic training center. He laughed at me for thinking I needed a “more professional opinion” on the flaws in that sport system. “Just tell them why it’s bad; it’s so basic that you don’t need back up from us”, he said. The kid went back to pitching practice that day.
The other day a parent brought their 12 year old girl in. I’ve seen every member of this family for years. “You have a tough decision”, I said. “Do you play during this ‘championship season’ at a sub-par and painful level, or do you miss this in order to be in shape for the next tryouts?”. They wanted to do both. Of course they do. We want it all. But at 12 years old, you need to start making the tough decisions. Or have them made for you. Do we teach kids that they are living with an NSAIDS deficiency or that inflammation is sign of trouble? Do we teach them to suck it up or how to read the signs of nature.
I know what I think. But they aren’t my kids, either.
And all this comes on the heels of the fact that childhood obesity is a huge (yeah, pun intended) problem. In Florida, 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese. Lack of movement and poor food choices are the culprits. Maybe those kids should get involved in a good sports teams. Yeah, there are plenty of willing adult coaches there to add a little activity to their day.
Or maybe a lot of activity. Or maybe too much.
To be or not to be a child involved in sports. To be or not to be a parent who pushes for a championship season (or two or three). To be or not to be involved in the quandry…that is my question.