Too Young

The 2012 Olympic Games kicked off last Friday and not a day has gone by that I did not here the phrase “15 year old athlete”. When did this happen? When did kids stop being kids?

I can’t say that I didn’t see this coming, I mean for years now there have been child prodigies who would enter this ‘adult world’ before they were legally adults. And it’s obvious that our world is growing at a much faster rate than it use to and therefore the very concept of ‘coming of age’ should evolve with it, however isn’t there some merit in the concept of adulthood? Doesn’t it require some level of experience and a little less emotional confusion?

Don’t get me wrong: I completely believe that a 6year old is way more dedicated than a 23 year old and that one can start reaching ones physical peak at the age of 16 but is that worth the sacrifice?

One of my worst fears as a future mother is that my children will excel in sport… I know, it sounds sort of ridiculous but I remember watching Aaron Spelling’s Beverly Hills 90210 when I was little and in one episode the topic of child athletes came up. Brandon asked his dad why they didn’t push him harder to be a pro hockey player and his dad replied that it was because of this question posed by the coach: “Do you want a star or a son?”

Maybe my judgement is clouded by personal experience… I was good in sports – not excelled, just good – and I do understand the drive and achievement and the freedom that comes from mastering the workings of your body and pushing yourself further than you or anyone else thought you could go but I have also seen what it does to someone. What it does to a father when his wife would rather spend time driving across country so that their son can practice hurdles than spend time with him; I have seen what happens to that boy when he starts believing that the only time his parents love him is when he has a trophy in his hand and I’ve seen what happens to that mother when her son finally gets tired of this one thing he didn’t really have a say in when he was 12 and walks away from it all. I have seen my friends not being able to dance at their leavers parties because they had to wear ankle braces, neck braces, knee braces and even back braces because their bodies have been pushed too hard too soon. I have seen my uncle pretty much tell my 13 year old cousin that his whole life was over because he broke his wrist and wouldn’t get enough practice before the cricket season started. I have seen too many of my friends hate the sport they once loved because it became their job… I have seen so many of these moments playing out over and over again, and never a medal worth the pain. I know there are some great stories too and some really happy kids doing some spectacular things at these Games but what about the hundreds of others who have pushed just as hard but did not make it? What about next year or even next month when the games are over and they did not get the medals they were expected too? What happens to these 15 year old athletes? Do they go back to being kids or do they get branded as failed athletes?

Undeniably athletes work really hard, the keyword there being ‘work’. School; growing up and learning about life is enough hard work, why through them into a world where one injury could end it; where your worth is determined by someone else’s standard? Why can’t we just be patient and wait until they have had a chance to discover every part of who they want to be? Personally I think school (in particular High School) is a place for exploring options and figuring out what you like. If you spend this time doing only one thing, you are robbing yourself of that amazing journey of self discovery.

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