The Way Sports Should Be

Camden

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that I’m not a big fan of the intense specialization increasingly going on today in the world of youth sports.  (See “Long Live the 3-Sport Athlete” at  //www.hyde.edu/2014/04/18/malcolms-blog/long-live-the-3-sport-athlete/ )

Here’s three reasons (and I have more) I’m uncomfortable with this trend:
1. It results in the law of diminishing returns;
2. It kills the fun in the given sport, often resulting in burn-out;
3. It can fuel a “center-of-the-universe” attitude among young athletes. (And speaking of “and I have more”… Don’t even get me started on the parents.)

During the past couple of weeks I had two experiences that left me thinking, “Man, this is the way sports should be.”

9/19/15 – The Ragged Mountain Scuttle in Camden, Maine
This is a unique 5K obstacle course at the Camden Snow Bowl. Running along the mountain trails, one is challenged by 20 obstacles ranging from climbing over walls to crawling under barriers to hoisting weighted pulls. (A particularly tough one requires participants to carry a tire up and down a very steep 150+- foot grade.)

Anyway, I can’t say for sure what possessed me, but I agreed to join Hyde-Bath cross-country coach McKayla Nuffer and the JV boys cross-country team in tackling this course.  At first, I was thinking that it was just a rigorous 5K jog through the woods… Uh-uh… It quickly became clear that it was going to be lot tougher than that. (And added to the challenge was the fact that it was an unseasonably hot and humid day.)

At the beginning, the students seemed less than excited to be spending their Saturday morning doing “The Scuttle.” However at the end of it all, it was obvious that they were proud of the fact that each one of them had completed the course. (Hey, some of them were even willing to admit it!)

9/28/15 – JV Football vs. Lincoln County Club
Back in the late 90s, Bath faculty members Bud Cox, Bob Felt ’90, and Mike Dawes used to talk enthusiastically about this phenomenon they called “The Zen of JV Football.”  They carried the tradition to Woodstock a decade or so ago. On face value, the whole thing amounted to little more than an intense esprit de corps with some great humor (e.g., the hilarious JV nicknaming ceremony where each player received the nickname that would be his for life!) mixed in. On a deeper level, the approach fostered both a love and knowledge of a game that most of the participants would never be playing in any other school setting.

I’m positive that all three of those guys would love to have watched the recent game I saw versus the Lincoln County Club JV team on the Bath turf.  It was two evenly matched teams, neither with any stars, going at it hard and clean. Everybody got lots of playing time and the score was close.  In fact, the game wasn’t decided until the last play of the game when Lincoln connected on a “Hail Mary” end zone bomb. I dropped by in the first quarter intending to watch a few plays and wound up watching the whole thing. It was a bunch of teenagers of varying abilities having a lot of fun playing a challenging sport. Hmmm… What a concept!

Sep-Oct-NovOnward,  Malcolm Gauld