Check out this Ted Talk By Derek Silvers:
I am an unapologetic weirdo. Call it behavioral or neurological diversity in order to make it sound nice and and comfy to those of you freaks out there uncomfortable with your own special kind of stupid. I’m that guy, dancing by himself. I’m the dude Derek Silvers calls the innovator. The first few to join are the early adopters. For many people who aren’t trying to change either themselves or the the culture, I’m difficult to be around. People find me uncomfortable. I speak things that go against the grain of popular sentiment. In fact, I speak these things loudly, often in public places hoping to find an early adopter, hoping to find someone to dance with. One of those things I’ve been saying a lot lately stems from the fact that I spend most of my free time carting my son around to one sports thing or another.
Focusing on developing high level athletes is the wrong way approach youth sports
I love saying this. I love saying this loudly in front of the offices of Soccer Nova Scotia. I love saying this around a lot of people who really care about sports and don’t think critically about the dominant neo-iberal paradigm. Competition and survival of the fittest as the basis for the distribution of wealth are ideas that have completely infected the culture of sports. One of the concepts that I found to be most bastardized by the world of sports is the notion that the competitive sports are the best way to prepare people for ‘the real world’. I’ll go into the absurdity of the notion of ‘real world’ vs some other place that people who don’t agree with neo-liberals live later. I’ll also go deeper on ‘what’ values they teach and ‘how’ they are taught. The essential thesis will be that sports teach us to fight over the scraps handed to us by the monopolistic plutocracy that has essentially destroyed democracy beyond the municipal level.
Sports are for fun
They are not important. For many however, they are a clear indicator of how wealth and resources are distributed. People are operating with a scarcity model – that unless we compete and get status from our children in sports, we’ll be left behind. Those who run sports are most frequently those who have excelled at sport, as such, they see this distributive system as fair.
Play is better without consequences
As I said yesterday, people tend to learn better when their lives are filled with pleasure and their actions are without consequences. This is an essential function of play in all mammals. The fun and lack of consequences allow people to explore, take risks and develop emotional and social resilience. That play lacks consequences frees people from shame, guilt and feeling not enough. It allows people to be I can hear the neo-liberal snowflakes getting emotional already! What about competition? If we don’t prepare children for the harsh realities of competition, they won’t survive! WAAAAAAAHHHHHH participation ribbons WWWAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!
Reality is that sometimes we don’t win. Reality is that collective action brings us further than individual effort. Reality that being a parent, going to work everyday, being a member of a community isn’t all competition. Sales? Sure. Law – totally adversarial and totally broken as well. So, what’s behind this drive for dominance?Likely a fantasy that perhaps my kid will be picked. I wasn’t exceptional and maybe my child will be. Reality is that it’s highly likely that neither you, me and your precious little children are actually exceptional. Exceptional people are very few and far between. That’s what makes them exceptional.
Creating highly competitive athletes at a young age is a sign of adult neurosis
Youth sports are not only used as a sorting hat of status in our society, they reinforce a cult of youth and an inability to embrace loss in adults. The loss I’m talking about isn’t the loss of a game or a championship, but the loss of ability. Typically athletes peak between the ages of 18 and 25 with a slow decline to 35 to 40 for the most elite. As parents, our glory days are long behind us. Reliving our glory through the victories of our children can be seen as a neurotic maladaptation to the realities of loss of ability and the corresponding grief.
We’re being led by sociopaths
One percent of the general population are sociopaths. Twenty one percent of C.E.O’s are sociopaths. For some of you? I’m guessing your thinking: “Geeze, I hope my kid becomes a sociopath” with the belief that I’d rather be a hammer than a nail. Not so fast. Twenty five percent of male inmates are also sociopaths. It’s said that youth sports are great for keeping kids out of jail, the question remains: Where do they go? My guess – one in five leaders in youth sport reflect not the general population, but that of the C.E.O. demographic. I’m likely wrong. And, sometimes when I hear people talking about elite athletes, I’m not entirely sure. And given what has transpired lately in the NHL, there may be some truth to this fantasy.
Be careful, of you’ll get in trouble!
At the soccer complex as I ranted about the troubles of youth sports, one parent warned me: Be careful, if you say that too loud, you might get in trouble. He, though his intentions were caring, clearly wasn’t an early adopter. I asked, How as and adult in this world might I get in trouble? His response? I might ruin soccer for my son. He would likely get blacklisted. This unfortunately is a likely scenario. The tall nails get hammered down. Military tradition. Order. Obey. Command and control. All reasons why I’ll continue to speak out against the bullies and the ridiculous nature of youth sports. People who are different get excluded. New ideas or divergent opinions are not welcome. Which is why they are so important.
So, who wants to dance? Come and meet me at the hockey rink.