Youth Sports: Making or Destroying our Childhoods?

When I first came to Michigan as a freshman and saw that the first theme semester was “Sports and the University“, I thought, “Perfect, I love watching sports”. After attending a few theme semester events, however, I learned that there is way more to sports than amazing catches and nasty spin moves. I learned that sports not only affect us physically, but mentally and socially as well. I had always played sports growing up as a kid, but I never realized what the game was doing to me. It was molding the successful individual I am today, whether I knew it or not.

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Will Heininger, part of the Sugar Bowl winning UM football team, suffered from depression during his time at UM

But after all these success stories, I went to a theme semester event that made me think twice about what sports did to our youth. During “Positive Psychology and Sport: What We Know About Athletes from Research and from Themselves”, I listened to story after story of how sports had caused tailspins in peoples’ lives. For example, Will Heininger, an ex-linebacker at UM was sent into deep depression during his time at school. Kally Fayhee, a UM swimmer, suffered with body image problems because of her swimmers’ body, and had major eating disorders. It struck me that maybe we are taking these things a bit over the edge.

I remembered back to the Dunning reading about “Dynamics of Modern Sport”, and how he elaborated on how the amateur ethos was slowly dwindling away in our society. These athletes may be amateurs, but they are treated much bigger than that. One British athlete at the “Positive Psychology” talk, explained the “Power2Podium” program, which calculates your physical attributes, and tells you which sport you are most likely to medal in in the Olympics. This would then encourage parents to have their children specialize in that sport, in hopes of athletic glory. This is a true stripping of individuality and freedom from the young athlete, one many could say is detrimental to their development. At the theme semester event “Sports and Youth Development”, they discussed the several ways in which childhood sports may affect the brain of a child. It was established that if the child felt pressure from their parents about sports, the child would feel increased pressure in life in general. The way parents treat their kids when it comes to sports may at times become destructive to all involved.

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Contracts We Sign

Long nights in libraries, cafeteria food, and binge drinking constitute the average college experience in most cases. Thousands of students across the globe pack their bags and head to their University without much of a fleeting concern.

Central Campus

Living where you are forced to eat second rate food, walk for miles on end in what could possible be horrid weather, deprived of sleep, and forced to learn seems sadistic at best. Each of us are engaging in a contract with the university, whether we like it or not, essentially controlling how we act, where we sleep, and spend our free time.  But we accept such terms on one condition, we receive a quality education. I believe these conditions of compensation  entail a social contact, not just monetarily, but that of a social context which one can compare and contrast with known contracts to conclude which is suitable to describe what all collegiate student is engaged in.

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Consequences of Actions from Professional Athletes

Where Are the Jocks for Justice” by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier took a look into Adonal Foyle’s battle to change the current political system. When most athletes were spending money to rebuild playgrounds or schools, or visiting sick children in the hospital, Foyle was running a grassroots group called Democracy Matters. Democracy Matters wanted to educate children about politics, push them to vote, and bring pressure to change the current political system. Foyle clearly wanted to make a change in society and earned a lot of praise for his battle against the political system. However, not all professional athletes have been given the same praise. Continue reading

Are Sports Political?

We have all heard someone say it at one point or another. Sometimes, it’s when their kid doesn’t get any playing time, and the parents want something to blame. Sometimes, it’s when a call is made by a referee that is highly challenged and makes half of the gym rage with anger. Sometimes, it’s true. “Sports are political.”

Sports have a history of being linked with politics, and political gestures. Max Weber wrote “Politics as a Vocation” during the after effects of WWI on Germany and the Bymar Republic. At this time, Germany was experimenting with democratic sorts of governments, whether it be living for the government, or living from the government. Merriam-Webster defines “vocation” as a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. Behind all political decisions is the possibility of force. So, we come across a question. What makes a good politician? Well, often three things are looked at:

  1. Judgement – This is not sterile excitement (rather, excited about an issue). It is commitment.
  2. Passion  – This is not sterile excitement (means-ends rationality). It is the ability to be strategic.
  3. Responsibility – This has no good intentions. There is concern for the future and what comes next.

With a good politician comes political ethics. First of all, the ethics of conviction (what Weber does not want in a politician). These are absolute and act-oriented (ex. “under no circumstances will I do…”). On the other hand, however, are the ethics of responsibility (what Weber wants  in a politician). This focuses on being flexible and future-oriented.

Many athletes have learned to us their athletic platform to take political stances. For example, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow uses his platform to express his faith and love for God. While he was a collegiate football quarterback, he would paint bible verses on his face. When he reached the NFL, however, they did not give him this freedom.

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In an article called All Sports Is Political:The Dave Zirin Interview, Dave Zirin (one of the most famous sports writers in the world of sports) spoke on sports and politics. His views on the mix of the two are very different than most sportswriters. “I think there are many cases where owners and head coaches make it clear that politics are divisive in the locker room, it undermines the idea of team, and that sports and politics should not mix. Also, in much of the mainstream sports media, the message is often contradictory. [The media] tend to decry the modern athlete who just says “We play one game at a time,” because that athlete doesn’t give them good copy, but they’re also the first to jump on an athlete if they dare say anything political or out of the mainstream. Now not every sportswriter does this by any stretch, but that is the general overriding ethos.”

Sports are more often than not related to politics, whether it is something Weber would agree with or not.

School Uniforms and The “Experiment of Living”

A Group of Students Wearing Uniforms.

A Group of Students Wearing Uniforms.

School uniforms are one of the topics that has been widely debated for as long as I can remember. Growing up and going to a public school on Long Island in New York, I was not forced into conforming and wearing these uniforms on a daily basis. On the flip side, I had a great number of friends who attended private school for high school and were required to abide by a strict uniform policy on a daily basis. Upon talking to many of these friends, the results were interesting to me as there was a split between the amount of people who didn’t mind wearing the uniforms and the people who totally disliked wearing them. I began to wonder what life would be like going to school and having to abide by guidelines set by an institution, enforced no differently than the policy on cheating in class.

A USAToday Study on Uniforms.

A USAToday Study on Uniforms.

In order to take a closer look at the issue of school uniforms, I began to research the legality of

uniforms and noticed that more than twenty different states have legalized and authorize schools to implement uniform policies. In addition, accoring to a study completed by USAToday, the percentage

of public schools that are using dress codes has spiked almost 10% in the last 10 years from 47% to over 57%. After further consideration and thought, I wondered, “What effect are these uniforms having on the children of America?”

A possible result of uniforms stems from the philosophy of John Stuart Mill as he discusses the idea of individuality in his piece titled On Liberty and more specifically in chapter three titled “Of Individuality, as one of the Elements of Well-being“. In this text, Mill touches on the idea that humans require trial and error to succeed and individuality provides “experiments of living”. In addition, Mill explains that in order for a person to live and have a sense of self, individuality is of the upmost importance. While people should be educated and everybody have to opportunity to accumulate similar knowledge of human experience, it is extremely important that humans have the ability to take the experience and knowledge they have acculated and do what they choose with it. People should never be forced into making certain choices and have to follow a pre-determined path because it would destroy their individuality and contribute to the destruction of human progress. This is extremely important and can be directly related to the concept of school uniforms.

In an effort to help rid schools of distractions and provide a better learning environment, schools have instituted dress-codes and uniforms that every student must abide by. It is very easy to argue

People Dressed As Inmates.

People Dressed As Inmates and Conforming.

that by telling students what to wear, schools are effectively removing a students sense of individuality and hurting human progress. No longer are students able to express how they feel though their clothes and are almost placed into a jail-like state of conformity with the other students. Clothing is used by people to express how they feel, their sense of style and in many cases their social status. By ridding these people of self-expression, they are no longer receiving the experience that comes with dressing the way they feel expresses themselves and removes an avenue of individuality.

The problem with school uniforms lays in the concept of controlling a person’s individuality as a whole. While the control of clothing does not totally remove a student’s ability to express how they feel and differentiate themselves in a school setting, it does open the avenue of further limiting the way in which a student can stand out in the crowd of hundreds of other students. If it is forcing people to wear a certain code of dress today, could limiting speech in the classroom be next? It is hard to predict the extent of which schools will attempt to rid students of their individuality in the future, but according to Mill, nothing good will come out of sucking individuality out of the American youth.