The poet TS Elliot once said, "Nothing pleases people more than continuing to think what they have always thought while imagining themselves to be thinking something new and daring: it combines the benefit of security with the delight of adventure." I love that sentiment. As a result of reading that quote, I began to consider many aspects of sports that we often take for granted. For example, for a long time, I took the following idea for granted:
This seems like a no-brainer at first glance. Indeed, as parents, we actively encourage our children to join sports teams to reap the physical benefits of regular physical activity while also developing their personalities and interacting with others through sport. More training, "elite" clubs, and coaching are sought, and young athletes are treated. The fact that our children are doing things that we didn't do as children excite us, and we are reassured by the notion that sports are inherently beneficial. If this is the case, then having more sports to choose from must be even better.
I've thought about this statement a lot over the years, and I'm not sure I agree. It doesn't appear to be supported by research. And after hearing from those who have been harmed by the youth sports system's failures as well as those who have survived it, I've come to strongly disagree with the statement.
We discussed this topic recently on our podcast with Jay Coakley, the world's leading sports sociologist, because he had written the following in a recent paper:
"Sport promotes development.' Few people disagree with or qualify this statement, whether applied to individual, community, or societal development. The rarely questioned link between sport and development is based on the dual assumption that, unlike other activities, the sport has a fundamentally positive and pure essence that transcends time and place, resulting in positive changes for individuals and groups that participate in or consume sport... sport-related decisions and policies continue to be shaped primarily by unquestioned beliefs grounded in wishful thinking.