Monday, February 11, 2008

Elite Performance Training for Kids

Is it wise?

I don't know about your community, but I'm surrounded by all sorts of elite leagues, travel leagues and the like, and this stuff starts in the second grade. What ends up happening is that these teams cannibalize the local "rec" or intramural leagues and leave fewer kids for those leagues. I'm also not certain whether the travel leagues for kids this young select kids on the basis of their ability to play or the parents' willingness to drive the kids to the travel games. At any rate, deep down I think that the kids would be better off if we found them field or gym space, give them the equipment and then let them choose sides and play without the influence of parents or referees. The talent really doesn't separate until later, and why risk burning the kids out by overcoaching or overtraining them?

Because, I suppose, some parents just cannot help themselves. And that leads me to the next question I have -- is it wise to send kids to elite performance training? In my neck of the woods, some kids go three times a week to an elite performance gym to enhance their ability to play travel soccer. I don't know who arranged it, but clearly some parents came up with the idea, and then everyone else had to follow suit. I don't know how much it costs, but if you're a travel parent and other kids are going, how can you not send your kid? Of course you don't have to, and perhaps you should take a stand, for your family's sake and for fiscal prudence.

A former professional athlete runs the place, is very good at what he does, and works mostly with high school kids. And that's one thing, but with fourth and fifth graders? It's an interesting concept, but one more reminiscent of East Germany (for those of us who remember that country), the former Soviet Union and the current People's Republic of China.

Is it wise? Is it over the top? I suppose it depends on where you sit. The parents of these travel players probably would argue that those who question their decisions are the parents of kids who don't have the athletic ability their kids do. Sure, there's probably some of that, but other parents might be grateful that they aren't tempted to tear their family lives asunder because of tournaments that cause you to travel through four states on a weekend or ruin their weeknights because their playing tipless taxi drivers for budding middle schoolers in their quest to dominate the regional soccer scene.

Does it have to be like this? Can't kids be kids? Aren't they playing kids' games? Can't it be pure fun for a while longer?

1 comment:

Mick said...

It's the curse of the Baby Boomers - they suck the fun out of everything. Sex, Drugs, Music, Books, Movies, Sports, TV all used to be fun little diversions from real life - Then pow! we have to be serious, we have to be darker.

Look at the Harry Potter books, should have been a kids book but the adults took it over.