Some random thoughts on teen sports

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Something random came to my mind the other day. I think overall our middle schools, high schools and some colleges *may* have emphasized too much on sports, especially team sports. I can see that from the NCAA Division I sports, basketball and football, etc. The reason I am saying that is twofold. We have limited resources, and I think compared to making sure every kid has some sports he/she likes/plays, team sports only draw a certain number of students (because it’s a selected team). And I think “make sure every kid has some sports he/she likes/plays” is more important, although it’s obviously less glamorous. Another phenomenon I saw is some kids started to specialize in some team groups fairly early (let’s say middle school, grade 6, or 7), at the same time they may not pay enough attention to academics and other things such as knowledge on “personal finance”. This obviously does not make much sense. But in this FB/Instagram/Reel/TikTok/YouTubeShorts world, I can certainly understand. Again no judgment here. This reminds me of a friend/neighbor who joked with me once: he volunteers at Human Society. He said, someone, paid $100 to adopt a dog, feels good, put it on FB, and never thinks about the long-term cost/commitment of taking care of the dog.

I said what I said, and I understand sports has its meaning and importance too. For that matter, academic as well. It’s hard to be the best nowadays, on one thing. I learned sports is hard when I was young, in my 1st year of high school. In China middle school was 3 years, and high school was 3 years too. We have the annual sports festival which is basically a track and field meet for the whole school. Because our school then is a combined middle and high school, and each grade has about 4 grades. It’s a big deal for the whole school, I vaguely recall probably when I was in the 1st grade at middle school, our class even has a mercenary of sorts, because technically a girl who specialized in sports (yes, in China there was sports school for kids talented in sports even when they were 12, or 13, they go to this sports boarding school, with everything covered by the government). So basically this girl got all the gold medals she can get, in our grade’s competition. Now you decide whether it’s fair or not. This girl probably spent 4 or 5 hours training, and I think she is in Heptathlon (…/athletics-heptathlon.htm), so basically she can earn us quite a few gold medals (things such as long jump, high jump, 100 meters, 200-meter dash, etc.) for our class.

Note I don’t have that kind of talent. But I found a quick trick to earn some points for my class. I was doing okay for 200 meters sprints during middle school, likely because I got to adolescence a bit earlier than some other kids. During my freshman year in high school, that edge was going away. So I did the 400 meters. It was a tough race. Eventually, I got the No. 4 spot among 8 classes of my grade (yes 8 classes, with 50+ students each; assuming boy/girl 1 to 1 ratio, I was competing against probably 8 fastest boys out of 200). I was almost dying, as I hear my classmates cheer for me at the last 100 meters. Later on one of my friend told me I was really close to the bronze medal winner and I did give him some scare. He said: when you push hard, the other guy was scared of you as well. That’s something I learned out of that race. Psychology is definitely interesting topic including in the sports/competition. 

Other benefits I can see from doing sports (or any other activities that we can see quick progress) are the feel of accomplishment and self-esteem. Please note this does not have to come with “beating the opponent” or “winning”. In a sense, as long as we did better today than yesterday, or we learned something today, that’s a win. Self-esteem or pride should not come at the cost of “beating down others or opponents”, again this is something the recreational or competitive sports/athletes need to keep in mind. In that sense, we all can learn a good lesson in terms of how to be a good teammate from the Cincinnati Bengals’ loss of game last Sunday.

(Update 09-14-2023) Came across this post “Elite Club Sports Teams and the Dramatic Shift in High School Athletics” via FB. I agree. Quote the article: “Youth sports, now a $17 billion dollar a year industry in this country, has skyrocketed into a galaxy that is close to being insanely unrecognizable. ” (my comment: are NCAA sports similar?) || Personally I hope something like our 8th grader cross-country running for fun/exercises can continue. For team sports, I am aware of something like this – (I heard from Dr. Wipke our Superintendent, and some other parents about this). || Last but not least, it seems that in the 10th or 11th grade, they would have a really heavy course load, prep for college, etc., so finding time for team sports may not be trivial. That being said, a habit of exercise is beneficial both in the short term and in the long term.

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