Truly successful athletes have a winning combination of ability, drive and opportunity. That particular
trifecta is what propels the best of them to the big time—be that college-level play, the Olympics or the dance floor of pro athletics. The possession of all three of those oft illusive components are what separates Michael Phelps from the kids at the other end of the pool.
I get that.
I also admire it.
And will likely be watching as top athletes from 204 countries step to center stage at the 2012 Olympics. I’ll marvel at their ability, revel in their accomplishments, get caught up in the pomp and circumstance. I’ll still get choked up when they raise our flag to the rafters, understanding not only the pride in a final full-win, but also all that must have come long before it. The work, the sweat, the dedication.
Whatever the games’ outcomes, the ripple effects across the pond will surely yield an uptick of participation among young, would-be athletes. For the love of a sport, in the thrill of competitive play, kids will take to fields, gyms and arenas. There’ll be new swimmers and gymnasts; new interest in soccer, volleyball and fencing.
All good. All fun.
But as millions of baby runners and divers and fencers and kickers and players jump into pools, and onto fields and into arenas, it’s important to note that the vast majority of them won’t make much of a splash. Eureka results from the gold rush of competitive athletics are discovered for precious few. Tenacity can’t replace talent and even the most gifted of athletes often fall short of their own goals.
That’s not to say the bar shouldn’t be high and that those with a passion shouldn’t pursue it. They should. And I’m certain that most every Olympic athlete competing in London will avow that their sacrifice was worth it.
Passion and sacrifice are a good combo toward success, but not when the passion belongs to the parent instead of the kid and when the sacrifice is a childhood.
Modeling itself upon the adult version of the event, there’s a new kid sport in town: triathlons. Its proponents tout it as a low-key version of the anything-but real-deal events. They say it’s good
exercise, that it’s a swim-bike-run for fun.
But by its very definition, a triathlon isn’t for the uninvested. It’s intense. As it’s supposed to be. But do our kids really have to be? Already?
When I read of a six-year-old training at a local Y, I couldn’t help but think: kids shouldn’t be training; they should be playing.
And when a trainer said, “just to finish a triathlon, for a 6-year-old, is a big deal,” I thought duh.
So is skimming a stone, or mastering the splash of a cannonball or spinning around in circles without toppling over.
Or laying in a summer’s grassy field and imagining dragons in the clouds.